The tone of what was to come was set in the first few minutes. Eli Walker’s chip and chase put Lee Dickson under considerable pressure, while Saints looked to spread the play with their opening few phases of possession, only to have Sam Dickinson be penalised for holding onto the ball after being isolated.
But there was no such isolation when Justin Tipuric made a burst through the middle of the Saints’ defence after seven minutes, forcing an infringement from the visitors and giving Dan Biggar the chance to open the scoring, which he duly did.
If they were rocked, Saints did not show it, and when given the chance to counter-attack they duly did, Ken Pisi making a 50-metre break from his own line, spotting a mismatch with several home forwards. George Pisi was in support, but while his offload was intercepted by an Osprey the subsequent pass went forward for the first scrum.
Saints’ power was promising, less so was the sight of Ben Foden coming off the field, and after the pack won a penalty the visitors had a chance to attack. George Pisi broke superbly, Samu Manoa sold a nice dummy, but the ball went forward for an Ospreys scrum.
However the power came on again, and when Tom Wood charged down an attempted clearance his flanker partner Calum Clark was on hand to dot down for the try.
Myler was on target with the conversion, as was Biggar with a subsequent penalty, and then Myler with a penalty after 25 minutes. It was another superb break that created the position, and Ospreys’ coaches would not have been happy with the way that their players fell off first Lee Dickson and then Sam Dickinson.
Saints, on the other hand, were not complaining with their four-point lead, although the way Aisea Natoga got up after being tackled without having released the ball was something to grumble about. Still, decisions are decisions, and it set up a position from which Ospreys had their first genuine sight of the whitewash.
One lineout brought a penalty, which Alun Wyn Jones had no hesitation in sending to the corner. Saints defended this one superbly, and as the home backs’ move broke down it looked as if another spectacular counter-attack was on.
Unfortunately play was pulled back for another call to the TMO, after which George Pisi was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle on Biggar. The fly half dusted himself off to land the penalty, and his team looked to spread the action to make the most of the man advantage. But while the tactic was understandable it backfired two minutes from half-time, Luther Burrell forcing the ball loose on halfway into George North’s grateful hands.
No one was going to stop the speedster from there, and with Myler taking his time to add the extras Saints took a 17-9 lead into the break.
Ospreys needed a score quickly after play resumed, and they did have the better of possession and position in the opening 10 minutes of the second half. But Josh Matavesi fumbled in their best attack, Saints’ pack held their opponents up in a maul soon after, and with the visitors dominant in the scrum it was not long before they were in the hosts’ half.
A couple of penalties were sent into the corner, and this time it was the Ospreys’ defence that held, bringing down Alex Waller inches short and forcing James Wilson out half-a-metre from the try line on the far side.
This was a massive fillip for the hosts, as was Ken Pisi being pulled back after an accidental offside bumping into Tom Wood. There was more stout defence in midfield, too, and a turnover won against Wood as Saints tried to up the power deep in the home 22.
There was also the sight of Myler hitting the upright with a 40-metre attempt at goal, but as the ball rebounded an Ospreys forward came offside to concede a soft penalty in front of the sticks. This time Myler made no mistake to take the lead out to 11 points, which game Saints a nice cushion during Ospreys’ last forays for the whitewash.
Hanno Dirksen and Tyler Ardron were both pulled down just short, and Dmitri Arhip must have been a couple of blades of grass shy of the whitewash while driving close to the sticks. The region had a five-metre lineout drive, too, but Saints’ defence held strong to ensure Ospreys’ efforts were fruitless.
8mins OSPREYS Pen Biggar 3-0
15mins SAINTS Try Clark Con Myler 3-7
19mins OSPREYS Pen Biggar 6-7
25mins SAINTS Pen Myler 6-10
32mins SAINTS Yellow card G Pisi
33mins OSPREYS Pen Biggar 9-10
38mins SAINTS Try North Con Myler 9-17
HALF-TIME OSPREYS 9 SAINTS 17
66mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler
67mins SAINTS Pen Myler 9-20
FULL-TIME OSPREYS 9 SAINTS 20
OSPREYS Evans; Natoga, Beck, Matavesi, Walker; Biggar, Webb; M Thomas, Baldwin, Jarvis, Bernardo, Wyn Jones (capt), King, Tipuric, Ardron
Replacements: Parry, G Thomas, Arhip, Allen, Lewis, Roberts, Davies, Dirksen
SAINTS Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Dickson; A Waller, Hartley (capt), Denman, Dickinson, C Day, Wood, Clark, Manoa
Replacements: Haywood, E Waller, Corbisiero, Dowson, Harrison, Hodgson, Wilson, Elliott
HEINEKEN MAN OF THE MATCH Sam Dickinson
REFEREE Jerome Garces (FFR)