Last-gasp try against Treviso gives Ospreys a win bonus
Ospreys 38, Treviso 17.
ASHLEY Beck crossed with three seconds left on the clock to secure the Ospreys a bonus point as they opened their Heineken Cup campaign in style last night.
They deserved the full haul of points after dominating Treviso for long periods, with the pack to the fore and Richard Hibbard outstanding.
Hanno Dirksen crossed for two tries and there was also a picture-book touchdown from Eli Walker, while Dan Biggar kicked 18 points.
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It was an impressive performance from the Ospreys, one that will put them in good heart ahead of their visit to Leicester a week tomorrow.
Shane Williams had issued a day-of-game warning to the Ospreys, reminding them that Treviso were a dangerous side.
Bath, Biarritz, Bourgoin, Harlequins, Wasps, Perpignan, Pontypridd and the Scarlets, all among the Italians' scalps in Europe, would surely have agreed with the former Wales wing.
His exit at the end of last season, along with that of Tommy Bowe and Nikki Walker, had invariably left the Welsh region with a firepower deficit. That happens when the scorers of 130 tries for a team ride off into the distance.
How do you even think of replacing such quality? Unashamedly, the Ospreys had opted for youth, with wings Hanno Dirksen and Eli Walker part of a backline that boasted four players who were 22 or under.
If stats are your bag, there was a particularly startling pre-game one when it came to tries. Between them, the young Ospreys' backs had mustered only three for the region in European rugby. You read that correctly: three, one fewer that second row Alun Wyn Jones had managed before last night.
No matter. In Dirksen, Andrew Bishop, Ashley Beck and Eli Walker, the Pro12 champions were confident they had a set of three-quarters that would serve them well for years.
And their faith looked justified after 20 minutes when Walker claimed a marvellous individual try that Williams or Bowe would have been proud to put their names to.
It started after superb work that saw Ryan Bevington and Richard Fussell create space with smart passing, Fussell fixing his marker as he transferred the ball to Walker 35 metres out.
The 20-year-old youngster had a huge amount to do, with a crowd of opponents in front of him.
But he wrong-footed them all by cutting inside on a diagonal run, leaving four would-be tacklers in his slipstream and crossing not far from the posts.
If that's the future for the Ospreys, it works.
Biggar's conversion put the hosts into a 16-3 lead — reward for a dominant opening in which their forwards had gained the upper hand in the scrums and made a telling impact in contact.
The visitors hardly saw the ball in the opening minutes as the Ospreys displayed exceptional handling in conditions that had been made greasy by heavy showers.
Biggar slotted the first of three early penalties, the second from near the halfway line, before Kris Burton replied for the Italians.
Both sides had their numbers reduced shortly after, when a dust-up saw Adam Jones and visiting captain Antonio Pavanello swap punches, other forwards on both sides joining in.
When the dust settled, referee Neil Paterson gave Jones and Pavanello ten minutes to reflect on their actions.
Treviso were down to 13 men within minutes as No. 8 Manoa Vosawai was yellow-carded for joining a ruck from the side.
The Ospreys scented blood, opting to kick for touch after being awarded a penalty 25 metres out, but they messed up the line-out, allowing the visitors to clear.
It is stuff like that the region have to get right if they are to make a serious mark in this competition.
Perennial European forces such as Toulouse, Leinster and Clermont Auvergne have in common a devastating ruthless streak. When sides are at their most vulnerable and opportunities arise, they take them. It is called being clinical.
Evidently such matters were mentioned at half-time, for the Ospreys skewered Treviso with a marvellous try on 45 minutes, the forwards taking play on before the ball was swept wide, where Richard Fussell put Dirksen over with a sublime pass out of the back of a hand.
The game looked won at 23-3, only for Treviso to storm back with two converted tries in three minutes, Vosawai and Luke McLean crossing.
All of a sudden it was 23-17 and winning was the concern, not bonus points.
But another penalty from Biggar and a second try from Dirksen, after a skilful chip over the top by Kahn Fotuali'i removed any doubt about who would emerge victors. They pinned Treviso back and, with time running out, launched one last attack, Bishop charging forward for Beck to finish.