Leicester Tigers claimed a 21-14 victory over the Ospreys at The Brewery Field in Bridgend on Friday evening in the opening fixture of the pre-season programme.
Tigers included five of the summer’s new arrivals in an extended squad at the end of a week’s training camp in Wales with Joe Ford, Jonah Holmes and Nick Malouf in the starting line-up, and forwards Chris Baumann and Dominic Ryan among the replacements.
Led out by Tom Croft, Tigers opened the scoring with a try from Holmes in the first five minutes and led 14-0 when hooker Harry Thacker added a second. But Ospreys fought back with two scores of their own in the last 10 minutes of the half to level the scores.
In a second half played in lashing rain, a try from hooker Jake Kerr, converted by Joe Ford, provided the only points as Tigers got the pre-season campaign off to a winning start.
The opening score came after just five minutes, with Tigers playing smartly along the backline for Holmes to mark his first touch of the ball with a finish on the left. Ford added the extras.
After Harry Wells had wrapped up possession at an Ospreys lineout and allowed Tigers to clear their lines, the visitors made the most of a break on halfway from skipper Croft and two penalties on the right to double the lead with Thacker dotting down from a lineout drive. Ford made no mistake with the kick despite the lashing rain.
The rain briefly cleared before descending even harder in the second quarter and Ospreys claimed their first points with a lightning attack just after the half-hour. Full-back Dan Evans and centre Joe Thomas combined to put wing Jay Baker through to score. Luke Price added the conversion and then kicked a second to level the scores after No8 Dan Baker managed to push his way over the tryline at the posts from a close-range scrum.
Both teams continued to try to play ball in hand despite the testing conditions, while Ford looked to turn to Ospreys defence with his kicking, but the set-piece dominated the opening phases of the second half, with Tigers having to keep out a string of close-range scrums.
Baumann and Luke Hamilton were among the replacements early in the second period and Ospreys emptied their bench just after the 50-minute mark with James Hook among those introduced to the action.
In front of a Bridgend crowd of 3,478 and with the rest of the first-team squad in the stands, Tigers spent much of the third quarter in defence without conceding a point but then claimed a third try to retake the lead.
Loughborough Students hooker Jake Kerr dotted down at the back of a lineout drive after the hosts had been penalised in their own 22 and had prop Rowan Jenkins yellow carded. Ford added his third conversion from wide on the right as Tigers led 21-14.
When replacement Jordan Olowofela was penalised in retrieving a kick on the Tigers 22, Ospreys had one more chance to build an attack but the visitors’ defence stuck to the task and won a penalty close to their own line with their work at the breakdown to bring the game to a close.
Leicester Tigers: 15 George Worth, 14 Nick Malouf, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Charlie Thacker, 11 Jonah Holmes, 10 Joe Ford, 9 Ben White; 1 Kyle Traynor, 2 Harry Thacker, 3 Ben Betts, 4 Joe Maksymiw, 5 Harry Wells, 6 Tom Croft (c), 7 Will Evans, 8 Fred Tuilagi
Replacements: Chris Baumann, Owen Hills, Michele Rizzo, Sam Grahamslaw, Mike Fitzgerald, Luke Hamilton, Sam Lewis, Harry Mahoney, Dominic Ryan, George Catchpole, Tom Hardwick, Jono Kitto, Jordan Olowofela, Harry Simmons, Mathew Tait.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Joe Thomas, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Jay Baker, 10 Luke Price, 9 Tom Habberfield (c); 1 Paul James, 2 Scott Otten, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 5 Bradley Davies, 6 James Ratti, 7 Olly Cracknell, 8 Dan Baker
Replacements: 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Rowan Jenkins, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Josh Cole, 21 Brendon Leonard, 22 Cory Allen, 23 James Hook, - Rob McCusker, - Will Jones, - Matthew Aubrey, - Ben John, - Phil Jones
Tigers return to action with home fixtures against Benetton Treviso (Friday, August 18, 7.45pm) and the Ospreys (Friday, August 25, 7.45pm). Tickets are available from the Tigers ticket office now. Book in person at Welford Road, phone the office on 0116 319 8888 (option 2)(open 9.00am-5.00pm Monday-Saturday) or online.
Both fixtures are included in season tickets for 2017/18.