Northampton Saints could not overcome the Ospreys despite a steely performance at a rain-soaked Liberty Stadium, as the Welsh region won 32-8 on Sunday.
The hosts led 11-0 at the interval with Dmitri Arhip scoring the only try of a first half where Saints enjoyed the lion’s share of the territory with little reward.
Harry Mallinder’s try right after the break swiftly followed by a Piers Francis penalty had Saints in the ascendancy, but replacement Rhys Webb crossed twice to keep the visitors at arm’s length.
Ospreys made a fast start as after a couple of early testing kicks out of hand, winger Ben John cut inside and with Tom Habberfield there in support, the hosts could work the ball wide for Arhip to score.
Sam Davies missed the conversion however and at 5-0 down, Saints enjoyed a good period of possession with Piers Francis pinning the Welsh side deep in their own territory with a couple of tricky up-and-unders.
And Saints came so close to levelling the scores with a brilliant set-piece play from a lineout after 15 minutes; Ben Foden cut a superb line but Mallinder’s offload just evaded Ahsee Tuala outside him with the try-line at his mercy.
Davies found his range from the kicking tee with two penalties before the half-hour mark to make it 11-0, with Saints infringing at the breakdown before a scrum penalty also went against them.
Saints came close again to scoring when Jeff Hassler was penalised for a high tackle inside Ospreys’ 22, but the visitors lost possession after kicking for the corner as Davies picked off Francis’ attempted offload.
But Northampton were on the board just after the break, taking advantage of a botched Ospreys lineout and after an excellent chase from Michael Paterson, Francis’ cross-field kick was collected well by Tuala and Mallinder squeezed into the corner.
Francis missed the lineout but nailed a penalty just two minutes later with Ospreys pinged at the breakdown in front of the posts, and Saints were now right back in it at 11-8.
Ospreys rallied however and took advantage of a friendly bounce when the ball came loose in contact; Davies opened the door with a break and replacement scrum-half Webb – on at the interval – sniped over.
The next score was absolutely vital and, with 14 minutes remaining, it went the way of the Ospreys. Dan Evans found room in the midfield and scythed through, offloading to Owen Waktin who in turn found Justin Tipuric to finish off.
Webb again finished from close range shortly after before Saints mounted somewhat of a late comeback, sending Reece Marshall over in the game's dying moments. Mallinder added the extras but it was not enough for the Northampton outfit.
OSPREYS: Evans; John, Fonotia, Watkin, Hassler; S Davies, Habberfield; Smith, Baldwin, Arhip, B Davies, Jones (capt), Lydiate, Cracknell, Tipuric
Replacements: Otten, James, Fia, Beard, McCusker, Webb, Biggar, Beck
SAINTS: Mallinder; Tuala, Horne, Stephenson, Foden (capt); Francis, Groom; van Wyk, Haywood, Ford-Robinson, Ribbans, Paterson, Gibson, Harrison, Ludlam
Replacements: Marshall, Ma’afu, Hill, Ratuniyarawa, Eadie, Reinach, Burrell, Pisi
2’ OSPREYS Try Arhip 5-0
24’ OSPREYS Penalty Davies 8-0
29’ OSPREYS Penalty Davies 11-0
HALF TIME Ospreys 11-0 Saints
46’ SAINTS Try Mallinder 11-5
49’ SAINTS Penalty Francis 11-8
55’ OSPREYS Try Webb, Conversion Davies 18-8
66’ OSPREYS Try Tipuric, Conversion Davies 25-8
68’ OSPREYS Try Webb, Conversion Davies 32-8
80' SAINTS Try Marshall, Conversion Mallinder 32-15
FULL TIME Ospreys 32-15 Saints