Ospreys slip to fourth in PRO12
It was an afternoon of pain at Principality Stadium for the second time in a fortnight as the Ospreys slumped to another defeat at the home of Welsh rugby, their fourth on the bounce in all.
- Ospreys trailed 35-3 after Blues ran in five tries inside 50 minutes
- Dan Evans and Paul James scored in the final quarter but there was to be no remarkable comeback as Ospreys leave Cardiff empty handed
- Blues in inflict first Championship win over Ospreys since New Year's Eve 2010
- Ulster's defeat away to Munster at the same time means Ospreys remain in top four and play-off spots with two to play, Ulster home and Scarlets away
- On a frustrating day for the region they trailed by 32 points at the hour mark and, although a late rally saw tries from Dan Evans, his 10th of the season, and Paul James, they never looked like clawing back enough points to avoid ending the 80 minutes empty handed despite enjoying plenty of late possession.
The Blues set the tone for the game from the first minute, enjoyed early dominance following Gareth Anscombe’s kick-off, and they duly took the lead with just five minutes played.
It was Kristian Dacey who peeled off a rolling maul to score unchallenged in the corner after the lineout had been taken up to the Ospreys 22 when the ball was put out on the full.
Anscombe’s conversion appeared at first glance to have missed the target, going wide off the right hand post, but the touch judge flags were raised to signal the perfect seven point start.
However, confusion reigned inside the stadium minutes later when big screen replays confirmed that the kick had indeed missed the target.
Nevertheless, the score stood and the Blues maintained the upper hand as they continued to look dangerous with ball in hand. However, they almost paid the price for overdoing it as they pressed the Ospreys line, Anscombe’s telegraphed pass 10m out intercepted by Josh Matavesi. The centre carried over halfway without ever looking like he had the legs to go the distance and, as he looked for support as Willis Halaholo caught him, his eventual attempted offload to Keelan Giles went to ground.
The Ospreys did get the score board moving on their side a few minutes later, Sam Davies with a three pointer after Jarrad Hoeata was pinged for not rolling away.
However, the Ospreys failed to deal with the restart efficiently, knocking the ball on on their 22, allowing the Blues to again pound the line, and it was Lloyd Williams who sniped over from the base of a ruck a metre out. This time there were no questions over the validity of Anscombe’s conversion and the Blues led 14-3.
It was one-way traffic and when Rhys Webb did superbly well to hold Anscombe up as he looked to crash over the line, the respite was only temporary as the Blues grabbed try number three from the resulting scrum. Alex Cuthbert was stopped just short before Nick Williams charged over from close range. The conversion from Anscombe was good and his team lead 21-3 with 27 minutes played.
A minute or so later the Blues were reduced to 14 men when Cuthbert was shown a yellow card for taking out Evans in the air as he fielded a high ball close to halfway.
Despite spending the next 10 minutes camped deep inside opposition territory the Ospreys failed to take advantage of the extra man, Cuthbert returning to the field with no change to the scoreboard, the final play of the first half summing up a frustrating 40 minutes as their attempted line our drive was halted with ease by the Blues defence.
HALF-TIME: CARDIFF BLUES 21 OSPREYS 3
If they were going to get anything out of the contest it was essential that the Ospreys scored first after the restart but they were back behind their own line inside four minutes as the Blues scored their fourth try to claim the bonus point.
Cuthbert carried strongly through the middle, before Dacey was held up as he looked to ground the ball, but the Blues kept the pressure on from the resulting scrum and, eventually, it was Tau Filise who stretched over to score, Anscombe again converting.
It went from bad to worse when try number five followed almost immediately. It was the Ospreys who were in possession on halfway when Dan Baker knocked on in the tackle, allowing their opponents to counter. Halaholo kicked through and the bounce favoured Anscombe as he stole possession from Davies to race through for the score before picking himself up to kick the extras, the scoreboard now showing 35-3 with over 30 minutes still to play.
To their credit the Ospreys kept going and, after their first prolonged spell of possession, going through 21 phases, they eventually managed to find a way through, Evans going over in the 62nd minute. Davies dropped a quick conversion and the Blues were again reduced to 14 men when Anscombe was shown yellow before the game restarted for an offence in the build-up to the try.
It was all Ospreys now and another spell of sustained pressure was rounded off by James, touching down under the posts after a Justin Tipuric tap and go, Davies again wasting no time with the conversion.
As the clock ticked down the Ospreys enjoyed plenty of possession but, as had been the case all afternoon, all too often they made the wrong choice and were unable to narrow the gap further as the Blues held on comfortably for a first PRO12 win over the Ospreys since December 2010.