Ospreys battle past Blues
January 1, 2012
Ospreys winger Tommy Bowe grabbed the only try of the game
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Ospreys kept the pressure on league leaders Leinster with a battling 17-12 victory over Welsh rivals Cardiff Blues in a scrappy RaboDirect PRO12 clash at the Liberty Stadium.
A second-half try from Ireland wing Tommy Bowe was the crucial moment in an error-strewn match and denied former Ospreys star Gavin Henson a happy return on his first appearance in Swansea since January 2009. It was nip and tuck for most of the game, but the home side's scrum took control in the closing exchanges and a pair of penalties from replacement fly-half Dan Biggar gave the Ospreys a welcome start to 2012.
The hosts dominated early on with diminutive 19-year-old fly-half Matthew Morgan, preferred in the starting XV to Wales international Dan Biggar, pulling the strings expertly. Morgan struck two early penalties, sandwiching one blistering break from his own half as the Ospreys moved 6-0 in front.
But the home pressure should have delivered more. Twice the Ospreys were turned over within sight of the line, while Morgan missed with his third penalty attempt at goal. Against the run of play it was the Blues who were next on the scoreboard thanks to a long-range penalty from Wales wing Leigh Halfpenny after 20 minutes. Halfpenny was on target again six minutes later as the visitors started to gain a foothold in the game, but their set-piece - particularly their line-out - was letting them down badly.
There were a couple of eye-catching moments from Henson, making only his second start since injury ended his World Cup dream, but mistakes littered proceedings as the sides went into half-time deadlocked.
The Blues brought on Scotland pivot Dan Parks for fly-half Ceri Sweeney for the start of the second half, but it was Morgan who had another chance to put his side in front, only to push a 40-metre penalty attempt wide. However, it was not long before the Ospreys were back in front with Bowe claiming the game's first try.
Centre Ashley Beck did the initial damage, breaking through from an attacking scrum, replacement Tom Isaacs provided the crucial link and it was left to Bowe to ride the despairing tackle of Henson to touch down on the whitewash.
Morgan missed with the conversion attempt and the Blues response was strong with Halfpenny and World Cup team-mate Lloyd Williams creating half chances from the restart. The deficit was reduced to two points just before the hour mark thanks to another fine strike from Halfpenny and as both sides started to use their bench the outcome of the match remained in the balance.
Biggar, on as a replacement for Morgan, pushed his first attempt wide from the touchline, but found his radar quickly as the Ospreys scrum began to dominate. Twice Adam Jones and co won critical penalties and twice Biggar rewarded that dominance in the final 10 minutes to seal a hard-earned win for the Ospreys.
For the Blues, their losing bonus point saw them leapfrog the Scarlets into fifth.
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