The Ospreys kicked off their pre-season preparations with a thumping 49-24 victory over Hartpury University.
It wasn’t always comfortable for the Welsh side against their English Championship hosts and they trailed at half time before turning things around with an assured display in the second 40.
The inevitable pre-season rust was evident in the early exchanges at the Alpas Arena.
An Ospreys attack just inside their hosts’ half broke down when a pass went to ground and Hartpury poured through. An offload released winer Ben Foley and there was nothing but grass in front of him. Fly-half James Williams added the extras.
Discipline let the Ospreys down a few minutes later when Sam Cross was penalised for sealing off in the shadow of the Hartpury posts but they would soon be back in position after an overthrow from the hosts at the lineout.
An intricate move involving a forward pod and Rhys Webb almost sent Cai Evans over but the referee found himself in the way and took a pretty hefty contact from the winger.
Hartpury coughed up two penalties from the ensuing scrums and Webb went quickly from the second, combining nicely with Dan Evans for the full-back to dive under the sticks. Joe Hawkins converted.
The hosts hit back midway through the half, though, when new Ospreys hooker Elvis Taione – who looks abrasive in the loose – was pinged at a breakdown on his own 22.
They kicked to the corner and Welsh scrum-half JB Bruzulier linked nicely with Sam Smith, sending the winger over unopposed down the short side. Williams converted again.
Minutes later, the hosts were in again. Toby Booth’s side looked a little disconnected defensively in the wide channels and that’s where Hartpury found more joy for their third try.
Some of the offloads were speculative but they all stuck and Foley looked as though he was going over for his second. The cover defence was good but the offload off the deck found Bruzulier, who had a simple run in.
The Welsh side hit back just before the break when Ifan Phillips broke away from a driving maul to power over for his first of the afternoon but they trailed 19-14 at half time.
Wholesale changes were made by both teams at the break and instantly the Ospreys seized the initiative.
Jac Morgan, making his debut after joining from the Scarlets this summer, produced a powerful run from the edge of the 22, barging through a handful of defenders on his way to the line and Hawkins’ conversion put the Ospreys ahead.
In the early part of the second half, it was clear that the Welsh side had grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.- Hartpury were offering little and the Ospreys were threatening.
Replacement scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams spotted a gaping hole in the hosts’ fringe defence and went straight through 15 minutes into the second period. Hooker Phillips, displaying impressive speed, came from nowhere to take the scoring pass and race over the line.
And they were soon in again. Before the 60-minute mark, loose-head Garyn Phillips burrowed his way under the posts and the game was over as a contest.
Ten minutes later, Luke Morgan was displaying his trademark speed, rounding off a blistering counter-attack by running in a score from the halfway line to really put some gloss on the performance.
Matthew Aubrey crossed from a late try and Ethan Hunt got one in the last play of the game for the hosts but the result was done and dusted long before.
Fly-half Gareth Anscombe, who hasn’t played since suffering a serious knee injury in 2019, was in attendance and fully kitted up. He took a full part in the warm-up and emerged from the tunnel wearing full kit before kick off.
It looked as though he might play some part when we took his subs vest off with 15 minutes remaining and sat on a warm-up bike but it was not to be.
He doesn’t look far off a return, though.
Hartpury: George Simpson; Sam Smith, Robbie Smith, Charlie Foley, Ben Foley; James Williams, JB Bruzulier; Conor Maguire, Will Crane, Ciaran Knight; Cameron Jordan, Dale Lemon; Josh Gray, Xavier Hastings, Oli Robinson.
Replacements: Ethan Hunt, Olly Adkins, Shaun Knight, Mitch Walsh, Aristot Salomon, Jonathan Salomon, Alex Groves, Iain Grieve, Joe Howard, Manesa Cakau, Harry Short, Aled Ward, Matty Jones, Oscar Lennon, Tom Price, Sam Goatley, Tommy Matthews, Luke Eves, Alex Forrester.
Ospreys — forwards: Rhodri Jones, Garyn Phillips, Elvis Taione, Ifan Phillips, Sam Parry, Ben Warren, Rhys Henry, Tom Botha, Jack Regan, Rhys Davies, Lloyd Ashley, Will Griffiths, James Fender, Olly Cracknell, Morgan Strong, Sam Cross, Jac Morgan, Morgan Morris, Ethan Roots.
Backs: Max Nagy, Dan Evans, Luke Morgan, Dewi Cross, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Michael Collins, Callum Carson, Keiran Williams, Josh Carrington, Cai Evans, Josh Thomas, Joe Hawkins, Matthew Aubrey, Reuben Morgan-Williams, Rhys Webb.