Derby season is officially upon us, with six historic rivalries set to be played out this weekend and bragging rights very much laid on the line.
And on Saturday night at the Liberty, one of the tastiest of the lot will bring Round 8 to a close, with Cardiff Blues the visitors to Ospreys’ lair.
If recent results are anything to go by, points are a guarantee: the last six meetings between the sides has averaged over 50 per contest, with big wins for each among them.
But there was one match that stood head and shoulders above all others, as just one point separated the sides in what was a true New Year treat back in January of 2018.
THE STAGE IS SET
Conference A was shaping up nicely, but Ospreys had ground to make up ahead of this one.
They trailed their local rivals in the race for the Final Series, knowing that a win could close the gap to under five points.
The domestic form guide gave little away, with each outfit claiming a win and a loss from their opening two derby fixtures of the batch.
But after an indifferent start in domestic action, the Ospreys had lost just once in their last four matches – form that they looked to carry over into this one.
HOSTS SEIZE THE INITIATIVE
A blistering start in Swansea saw Gareth Anscombe slot his Blues ahead with barely a minute on the clock, before Nick Williams made the gap eight when he crashed over from close range.
But the hosts were soon on the board, the effervescent Jeff Hassler reading Matthew Morgan’s outside pass like a book before sprinting the distance to reduce arrears.
Anscombe reasserted Blues’ advantage with another kick, but Ospreys soon had their first lead of the piece.
Dan Biggar – majestic throughout – chipped over the defensive line to gather and move it on, Rhys Webb the beneficiary as Biggar followed up with the extras to make it 14-11.
Anscombe levelled soon after, before Biggar got a shot at goal to hand Ospreys a half-time lead.
A side in the ascendancy, the hosts did not allow the break to interrupt their flow, as another Biggar kick set up an Ospreys chance, Webb stepping his way through the Blues’ defence from distance to grab his second.
And they sealed a bonus point when Biggar looped an exquisite cross-field punt straight into the waiting arms of Justin Tipuric, who scored with ease to give them a 29-14 lead heading into the final quarter.
BLUES SPRING OFFENSIVE
With 10 minutes to play, the game looked dead and buried, the Blues ready to consolidate and move on, but nobody told Owen Lane.
He burrowed up to the line only to be held up by Ospreys’ rear-guard action, but was on hand 30 seconds later to finish what he started, Anscombe’s kick cutting the deficit to eight.
Minutes later, Steve Shingler’s chip carved open the hosts’ defence, setting up Alex Cuthbert to make ground.
He set up Rey Lee-Lo for a run, and though he was stopped, the same could not be said for Garyn Smith, as he cut inside to score.
They trailed by just one after Anscombe’s conversion, and when they got the ball back on halfway with the clock in red, the comeback was on.
But Ospreys were left breathing an almighty sigh of relief when the ball was knocked on in midfield, bringing an end to a classic match-up as the hosts held on for a nervy 29-28 triumph.