Scarlets wilt as Ospreys power pack finds form
Scarlets 16, Ospreys 23.
RYAN Jones marked his comeback with a try as the Ospreys transferred the West Wales bragging rights back to the eastern side of the Loughor.
Jones powered over from short range in the 69th minute to crown a dominant forward display by the Pro12 champions.
Few had given Steve Tandy's side a chance after their dismal opening to the season.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
The Scarlets, after all, were league leaders before last night, scoring tries for fun and unbeaten in the opening three rounds of matches.
But all that counted for nothing as the Ospreys rediscovered their fighting spirit. They did a job on the hosts up front, with Duncan Jones leading the way with a strong-scrummaging show.
Hanno Dirksen also crossed before George North replied with a late touchdown. The excellent Dan Biggar finished with 13 points, while Rhys Priestland replied with three penalties and a conversion.
The Scarlets had a bonus point but it will not feel like consolation. They had high hopes of not just beating the Ospreys but routing them. Forty points had been mentioned. But it wasn't to be.
The pre-match talk had been of the Scarlets and the Ospreys resembling a couple of trains passing each other at high speed — one hurtling towards the sunny uplands, the other inexorably bound for nowhere in particular.
Could the Scarlets uphold such thinking? Or would the Ospreys derail it by returning to their best? Rarely can a derby between these two have excited such feverish chit-chat.
Dealers in reality were waiting to be convinced either way. In the space of a summer, the Scarlets hadn't suddenly morphed into All Blacks with red jerseys any more than the Ospreys had declined to the level of the Dog & Duck thirds.
But the colours of sport are black and white. Life is either wonderful or wretched. For many, there is nothing in between.
The challenge for the hosts was to keep the sospan boiling after such a fine opening to the campaign. For the Ospreys, the goal was to achieve a win by any means possible. That's what a barren run does to a team.
The opening stages were predictably messy — and fiery, with the two packs squaring as early as the third minute after Joe Bearman stopped George Earle with a challenge that referee Leighton Hodges deemed high.
Skippers Alun Wyn Jones and Rob McCusker engaged in a shoving match before Priestland kicked the hosts into a 3-0 lead.
Discipline was an issue for both sides, with four penalties awarded in the first nine minutes — one against the Scarlets and three against the Ospreys. Dan Biggar slotted one kick through the posts for the visitors, before Priestland restored the home lead with a well-struck shot.
The two sides were battling to assert themselves at the scrum, leading to frustration and tempers fraying, with Deacon Manu and Duncan Jones involved in a skirmish after the Scarlet had been penalised at a set-piece 35 metres out.
Biggar levelled the scores from the resultant penalty.
Some home supporters had reported beforehand that they hadn't been able to sleep the night before the game, such was their excitement at the prospect of the Scarlets repaying the visitors for past beatings.
And their pulses must have been racing minutes later, when their side were unfortunate not to claim the first try.
It stemmed from a nice turn of pace and a dummy from Scott Williams, splitting the Ospreys' defence. The ball was then shipped left where Tavis Knoyle found Andy Fenby. A try looked certain, only for George Stowers to appear like a missile, a swinging arm connecting with the wing and causing him to spill the ball.
The Ospreys recovered their composure to start dominating territory and possession, with Jones turning the screw on Manu in the scrums.
Several times the home eight were shoved backwards as the champions started to build pressure.
They were unlucky not to claim a try themselves shortly before half-time when a Scarlets counter broke down and the ball was hacked through. Tom Grabham took off in pursuit, only for Liam Williams to hold him back. Fortunately, for the Scarlets the touch-judge missed it.
Williams had seconds earlier been involved in a wrestling match with Hanno Dirksen, the Osprey having taken exception to a challenge and tried to grapple his opponent to the floor. Williams responded by flipping his man with a manoeuvre that would have earned high marks in a martial arts world title bout.
The Scarlets looked dangerous when putting ball through hands; their problem was they didn't have much possession as the Ospreys' pack produced their best half of rugby this season.
There was another penalty to the Ospreys after the Scarlets were penalised 30 metres out. The crowd whistled and booed as Biggar ran up to take the kick, but the fly-half remained ice cool to curl the ball between the posts.
Trailing 9-6, the Scarlets sent on Samson Lee for Manu but their scrum remained under pressure early on, with another penalty going the Ospreys' way at a set-piece, their fourth of the night, against one awarded to the hosts.
But the Scarlets were stubbornly holding their ground, if a little groggily in Fenby's case, the wing needing treatment after being smashed to the ground by a fearsome fend from Andrew Bishop.
They drew level through a Priestland penalty, but both sides were giving little away. Every inch of territory was being fought over. This was a red raw derby in every sense.
The Scarlets had Lee sin-binned after yet more problems at the scrum, but they had enough about them to level through a Priestland penalty.
Parity didn't last long.
Ryan Jones scored after a line-out win by Ian Evans, then Dirksen crossed. North replied, but the Ospreys were deserved winners.
They did the basics well and took their chances.