PLUS: FRUSTRATING DAY FOR SWANS
Ospreys take the bragging rights:
THE loss of Jake Ball to injury turned the tables as the Ospreys ended the Scarlets’ 10-match winning streak against Welsh opposition in the Guinness PRO14.
The Scarlets had been dominant, with their scrum on top, during the first half of an absorbing encounter in front of a crowd of 13,251 at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium.
That superiority enabled them to build a 9-6 lead, but powerful lock and renowned scrummager Ball failed to appear for the second half because of damage to a shoulder.
That weakened – prop Samson Lee departed later – their scrum and ena- bled the Ospreys to take the initiative and extend an unbeaten home record stretching back to the match with Glasgow Warriors in November last year.
The victory resulted in the Ospreys climbing to third in Conference A, while the Scarlets remain fourth in Conference B.
Winger Luke Morgan got the sole try for the Ospreys with a conversion, two sweet drop-goals and two penalties from impressive outside-half Sam Davies being crucial.
Scarlets’ points came from two penalties from full-back Rhys Patchell and a late strike from substitute Dan Jones.
It was 6-6 after the opening quarterof-an-hour, with Patchell twice putting the Scarlets in front only for Davies to cancel them out.
The weakness of the Ospreys scrum surfaced as their South African tighthead Tom Botha went down illegally for Patchell to step up to give the Scarlets the lead for a third time.
The Scarlets had a three-point lead at the conclusion of the first half but, based on territory and possession, should have been further ahead.
Both teams had conceded some needless penalties, but the Ospreys had a major problem in they were in danger of infringing every time they packed down at a scrum.
Botha had been warned by referee Ben Whitehouse, but reacted by asking: “What am I doing wrong?”
His scrummaging and that of the Ospreys improved in the second half following the failure of Ball to reappear.
The Wales lock suffered a serious shoulder injury on international duty against New Zealand in November last year and it had kept him out for months.
The Scarlets and Wales will hope he hasn’t suffered anything major – coach Wayne Pivac wasn’t sure if it was the same shoulder but said Ball would be having a scan on Monday – but his loss eased the pressure on the Ospreys scrum.
The Ospreys then won a penalty following a chase of a kick, but Davies’ shot went wide off an upright.
However, they remained in the ascendancy with North being held up just short of the try-line by Scarlets scrum-half Gareth Davies and substitute wing Steff Evans.
But it wasn’t long before the breakthrough came, with captain Justin Tipuric, scrum-half Aled Davies and Sam Davies combining.
Sam Davies’ pass went to ground off the back of Scarlets’ Jonathan Davies. Former Wales Sevens star Morgan was on to the loose ball in a flash and hacked on before winning the sprint for the try.
Sam Davies converted and the Ospreys were in front for the first time. The pendulum had swung with a fumble from Evans as he attempted to field an up-and-under from Aled Davies allowing the Ospreys to claim possession.
And it led to a composed Sam Davies calmly landing crucial back-to-back drop-goals to give them a 10-point buffer.
A penalty from Dan Jones gave the Scarlets a chance of pulling off at least a draw in the final few minutes.
But their hopes ended despite getting a line-out after Whitehouse controversially decreed the stadium clock, which was showing time was up, was wrong and there were five seconds remaining when Sam Davies belted the ball out of play.
However, when Ryan Elias claimed possession he was bundled into touch to bring a halt to a potential ‘clock-gate’ scandal and spark an end-of-match dust-up on the touchline as tempers flared.
Luke Morgan dives over for the only try of the game at the Liberty Stadium PICTURE: Huw Evans Agency
Olly Cracknell is halted by a combination of James Davies and Hadleigh Parkes
New Scarlets coach Brad Mooar was in the crowd at the Liberty yesterday
There was a shortage of Christmas spirit at the end of yesterday’s game after Ospreys bundled Scarlets’ Ryan Elias into touch to herald the final whIstle at the Liberty PICTURES: Huw Evans Agency
Justin Tipuric, top, and George North, right, lead the celebrations of Luke Morgan’s winning try