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Ospreys' URC playoff hopes dented by heavy defeat in South Africa

By PA
(Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty images)

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Ospreys’ United Rugby Championship play-off hopes suffered a severe dent as they lost 45-15 to the Lions in Johannesburg. It also continued the Welsh regions’ dismal run of results in South Africa this season, having now suffered five successive defeats.

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The Lions, bottom of the South African Shield, scored tries through a double from scrum-half Morne van den Berg, while wings Rabz Maxwane and Edwill van der Merwe, flanker Francke Horn, plus substitutes Manuel Rass and Andre Warner also touched down, with Jordan Hendrikse adding five conversions.

Minus their Wales Six Nations players, the Ospreys could only muster tries by Rhys Webb and Michael Collins in reply, while fly-half Josh Thomas kicked a conversion and penalty. The Lions, seeking a third URC win in a row, took an eleventh-minute lead when Maxwane finished impressively following a sustained spell of pressure.

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Ospreys coach Toby Booth talks about the challenge of playing the Lions at Ellis Park
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Ospreys coach Toby Booth talks about the challenge of playing the Lions at Ellis Park

Hendrikse converted – he missed a straightforward penalty chance just two minutes earlier – as the Ospreys’ bright start was dimmed under the floodlights. The Lions’ chief ball-carriers, back-row brothers Vincent and Emmanuel Tshituka, looked to make ground at every opportunity, but the Ospreys also had their fair share of territory, with Webb probing for space amid a fast and furious pace.

Thomas opened their account through an angled penalty ten minutes before half-time, yet both sides continued to make handling errors and it looked as though the Ospreys would reach the break just four points adrift.

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But the Lions had other ideas, and centre Burger Odendaal’s incisive midfield work wreaked havoc in the Ospreys’ defence, and van den Berg collected his pass to claim an impressive try, with Hendrikse’s conversion opening up a 14-3 interval advantage. Matters deteriorated within three minutes of the restart as a third Lions try arrived when Horn crashed over from close range and Hendrikse’s conversion meant the Ospreys had a mountain to climb. 

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The Lions were almost out of sight, but the Ospreys hauled themselves back into contention following a try for livewire Webb that Thomas converted. It was only a glimmer of hope, though, and the Lions secured a bonus point through a superb fourth try started by Odendaal, taken on by prop Ruan Dreyer, then centre Wandisile Simelane cut a devastating angle and van den berg touched down.

The Ospreys could predictably find no way back despite Collins’ breakaway score, as Rass, van der Merwe and Warner completed an emphatic win with late tries.

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