Sharp Spice puts Blues' effort to waste

Cardiff Blues 9 - Neath-Swansea Ospreys 15
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The Independent Online

The Ospreys' New Zealand import, the scrum-half Jason Spice, scored a late try to give the Celtic League leaders a hard-fought victory in bitter conditions.

The Cardiff Blues fell to their seventh consecutive loss, but David Young's men ignored a crippling injury list to produce another brave performance. They played the first 40 minutes into ferocious wind and rain, but limited the damage to a 10-9 deficit at the break to give themselves a chance of upsetting the hot favourites.

The Ospreys dug deep, though, and Spice's 80th-minute try gave them a six-point lead they were never going to give up - despite playing nearly seven minutes of injury time.

With several potential Lions on show the match had all the makings of a fascinating spectacle, but wind, rain and plummeting temperatures turned the Arms Park into a paddy field and both sides' handling suffered as a result.

The Blues fly-half Nick Macleod opened the scoring with a well-struck penalty into the teeth of the wind in the 25th minute, but the home fans' glee lasted barely 30 seconds as their wing Jonny Vaughton sent a pass over the head of Macleod on his own try-line and the Ospreys flanker Richie Pugh dived on the loose ball. Gavin Henson converted.

The Ospreys fly-half Matthew Jones then cynically prevented an almost certain Blues try by walking through a ruck and toeing the ball ahead. Some good work from the home skipper Martyn Williams had set up the position and Macleod converted the penalty as Jones trudged off to the sin-bin.

More blatant offside play from the Ospreys gave Macleod the chance to give his side the lead and he made no mistake, but there was enough time left for Henson to return the favour.

The Blues had their chances in the second spell, but looked tired and disjointed in the terrible conditions. The Ospreys kept the ball close and attacked the home side's line for much of the half. It paid off when Spice squeezed over in the corner and the Blues had to be content with yet another losing bonus point.

Cardiff Blues: R Williams; J Vaughton, T Shanklin, T Davies, C Morgan; N Macleod, R Powell; G Jenkins, R Thomas (G Williams, 79), B Evans (J Yapp, 66), D Jones (C Quinnell, 58-60, 66), R Sidoli (N Budgett, 79), K Schubert, J Malpas (N Thomas 43), M Williams (capt).

Neath-Swansea Ospreys: A Durston; E Seveali'i, S Parker (D Bishop, 59), G Henson, S Williams; M Jones, J Spice; P James (D Jones, 53), B Williams (capt), A Jones (A Millward, 59), B Cockbain (A Newman, 53), J Thomas, A Lloyd (J Bater, 63), R Jones, R Pugh.

Referee: N Owens (Carmarthenshire).