Ospreys outclass Blues
January 1, 2010
Man of the Match: Ospreys fly-half Dan Biggar evades the challenge of Blues scrum-half RIchie Rees
© Getty Images
The Ospreys claimed a comprehensive 26-0 victory over Welsh rivals Cardiff Blues in a one-sided clash at the Liberty Stadium.
Winger Nikki Walker touched down twice for the hosts in the first half and captain Ryan Jones added a third after the break to carry the Ospreys to their sixth win of the campaign. Man of the match Dan Biggar weighed in with 11 points with the boot as part of another assured display at fly-half that will surely have caught the eye of Wales coach Warren Gatland. The Blues failed to score for the first time this season but only had themselves to blame with an error-ridden performance in wintry conditions in Swansea.
British & Irish Lions Adam Jones and Lee Byrne made their first starts of the season for the Ospreys but the home side were without lock Alun Wyn Jones and fullback James Hook, who are both nursing shoulder injuries, while winger Shane Williams failed to shake off a hamstring strain. The Blues were also be without some big name Lions with flanker Martyn Williams and centre Jamie Roberts ruled out of the showdown after picking up shoulder and head knocks respectively in the win against the Dragons last weekend.
A bumper crowd of just under 15,000 braved the cold and snow in the hope of witnessing a festive cracker but were instead treated to an error-strewn opening as both sides came to terms with the condition.
The Blues made a lively start with scrum-half Richie Rees instrumental but crucially they did not gain any reward for their endeavours and failed to sustain that effort. After weathering the early storm the Osprey exerted some pressure of their own and when they found their path to the line blocked by some determined Blues defence, Biggar opted for a drop goal and his effort sailed between the posts to give his side the lead. The scrum was a particular point of pain for the neutral spectator and one of many infringements offered the Blues the chance to get back on level terms but Ben Blair saw his effort drift away from the posts.
Biggar pushed a long range effort past the posts soon after but he responded by orchestrating the Ospreys opening try. The 20-year-old chipped through where Blair initially claimed possession only to lose the ball under pressure. Ospreys scrum-half Ricky Januarie recycled the ball and fed Jonathan Thomas who in turn found the on-rushing Walker who raced in to score in the corner.
The Blues' hopes were dealt a further blow when centre Tom Shanklin limped off with an injury after half an hour and the Ospreys immediately capitalised. Biggar ghosted through a gap in the Blues' defence before finding centre Andrew Bishop with a superb pass out of the back of his hand. The ball was then worked through the backs with Sonny Parker and Lee Byrne involved before Walker popped up to claim his second try.
The visitors rallied before the break but some solid defence from the Ospreys kept them at bay with a thumping tackle from Byrne on Blues centre Richard Mustoe bringing a promising move to an abrupt end.
An excellent restart from Biggar ensured there was no let off for the Blues at the beginning of the second half. Skipper Ryan Jones claimed possession and took the attack to the Blues and his strong run was rewarded with a penalty that his fly-half duly slotted. Blair had the chance to cancel that score out moments later but he could only hit the post with his penalty attempt as his off-day with the boot continued.
The task facing the Blues was made even harder when the latest scrum penalty saw tight-head Gary Powell sin-binned and Biggar heaped woe on the visitors by kicking the penalty. The Ospreys stretched their lead just short of the hour mark with a strong run from Bishop taking his side close to the posts before some desperate but illegal defence from Mustoe temporarily halted the hosts' progress. The Ospreys opted for the scrum from the penalty and after the Blues felt the wrath of the referee's whistle again, Ryan Jones forced his way over in the corner. After a brief delay for the television match official to confirm the score, Biggar nailed an excellent conversion from the touchline.
The Blues attempted to conjure an unlikely turnaround but the urgency of the Ospreys' defence was more than a match for their best efforts. And when the Ospreys were not there to deny them, the Blues committed costly errors with a misguided kick to the corner that sailed into touch in goal summing up the Blues' fortunes. There was no respite for Cardiff in the closing stages but they did just enough to deny the Ospreys a bonus point.
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton
Kiwi coaches can be found far and wide across the globe, and Murray Mexted believes the All Blacks benefit every bit as much as their rivals
Clermont, Toulon, player burnout, Sam Burgess and a farewell to Adams Park - Monday Maul looks back at the weekend's action