EDINBURGH brought a miserable series of defeats to an end by squashing the challenge of a spirited but unimaginative Ospreys team.
Six penalties from the boot of home-grown stand off Gregor Hunter and a flashy try from South African tighthead prop Willem Nel combined to send Ospreys south empty-handed and to offer hope that Edinburgh have finally turned the corner and can now begin climbing the league.
“Hopefully this will be a sea change in terms of results,” said Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley “We got something back tonight. We seemed to be sharper tonight. When the ball was on the deck there was an Edinburgh player there and that was good to see. For 80 minutes, the guys toughed it out and earned a well deserved win.”
Edinburgh, making six changes from their last outing, had Scotland hooker Ross Ford in the front row and South African new boy Izak van der Westhuizen and Perry Parker together at lock for the first time behind him. For the Ospreys, Andrew Bishop turned out at centre for a club record 181st time while young tighthead prop Owen Williams made his debut.
It was Edinburgh No 8 Stuart McInally who made the first impression from the kick off, driving over the gain line before the visitors were able to regroup and hold on to possession for the next five minutes as they forced their way up the pitch. When Edinburgh did get hands on ball they ran straight into some strong defence.
It was all pretty uninspiring until the quarter hour when Ospreys stand off Matthew Morgan intercepted a lazy McInally pass inside his own half and would have been away but for a try saving ankle tap by home scrum-half Richie Rees. But it was Rees who conceded the penalty at the lineout inside the Edinburgh 22 that allowed Morgan to kick the first points of the game.
Then Edinburgh managed to go through several phases to take them into the opposition 22 and, when the penalty came, Hunter evened up the scores.
The Ospreys enjoyed a long spell of possession, severely testing an Edinburgh defence that gave nothing away until a ruck offence resulted in Morgan’s second successful penalty. Almost immediately, Edinburgh struck back with some clever and skilful handling down the right wing that kept the ball alive and bamboozled the retreating defenders. First, full back Greig Tonks passed to centre Dougie Fife who passed out of the tackle to Hunter who shipped it onto Rees who gave Nel the rare chance to run in unopposed for his first try for the club.
But Ospreys were unimpressed by this sudden glimmer of creativity in what had been up until that point a pretty dull game. They wouldn’t lie down as half-time approached. The forwards battered their way to the Edinburgh line and the all-action Morgan ghosted through the first hole to appear in the defensive line all evening for a try which he then converted to put his team in for the break with a five-point lead.
Within minutes of the restart, Ospreys prop Williams collapsed a scrum and was shown the yellow card but Hunter missed the penalty from 35 metres out. Another penalty on the other side of the pitch was closer and this time Hunter swept it over with his left boot.
Edinburgh launched an attack off the back of a lineout and Fife came in at an angle to gain a lot of territory before being closed down, but Ospreys were now struggling to hold the line and Edinburgh were in no mood to let up, winning another penalty at a set scrum that Hunter stroked over to regain the lead by a single point as the visitors were restored to full strength.
With Williams back at tighthead, the next scrum also collapsed and the referee spoke to both captains. Ospreys brought on Wales international Duncan Jones at loosehead but Edinburgh still had the upper hand. Hunter rubbed it in with his fourth penalty.
The home side had the bit between their teeth now and Sepp Visser chipped over an advancing defence and almost picked up the bouncing ball, setting up the penalty that Hunter converted.
The game was on a knife-edge and Ospreys didn’t help their cause when openside flanker Sam Lewis was binned for deliberately killing the ball. Newly retired Scotland prop Allan Jacobsen was given a great reception as he came off the bench to bolster the already dominant Edinburgh scrum led by flanker Sean Cox, who was named man of the match.
Tonks ran from his own half, seemed to be tackled but got up and carried on into the 22 as Edinburgh tried to kill of the visitors.
A penalty attempt by Hunter that would have denied Ospreys the bonus point drifted wide but Edinburgh were camped in the Ospreys 22 now and Hunter tried a drop goal. It too drifted side but with the clock running down Hunter had one more chance and he banged it straight and true between the posts.
Edinburgh – Tries: Nel. Pens: Hunter (6). Ospreys – Tries: Morgan. Cons: Morgan. Pens: Morgan (2).
Edinburgh: G Tonks; S Visser, D Fife, J King, T Brown; G Hunter, R Rees; J Yapp, R Ford, W Nel, P Parker, Izak van der Westhuizen, S Cox, R Grant, S McInally. Subs: A Walker (for Ford 50), A Jacobsen (for Yapp 67), L Niven, R McAlpine (for Parker 67), H Watson, C Leck, J Houston for King 25, M Penn.
Ospreys: R Fussell; T Isaacs, A Bishop, J Spratt, E Walker; M Morgan, R Webb; R Bevington, S Baldwin, O Willisams, L Peers, J King, G Stowers, S Lewis, J Bearman. Subs: M Dwyer, D Jones (for Bevington 55), N Thomas, I Gough (for Peers 50), M Allan (for Stowers 60), T Habberfield, S Davies, R Jones (for Isaacs 66).