Worcester Warriors opened their EDF Energy Cup campaign with defeat to star-studded Ospreys in front the television cameras at Sixways Stadium.
Second row Craig Gillies grabbed a first try of the season as the encounter with the reigning Magners League champions was beamed around the globe on BBC.
But powerful Ospreys, packed full of international talent, ran in seven tries – included three in a frantic final ten minutes – as they cruised to victory.
The Welsh giants took complete control in the first half as internationals Lee Byrne, Nikki Walker and Shane Williams all crossed the whitewash as only Shane Drahm’s kicking tried to keep Warriors in touch.
Gillies scored a memorable try after the break after James Brown’s intelligent cross field kick but late tries from Williams, Phillips and Byrne put a heavy score against the Warriors and Mike Ruddock had no complaints.
“We are gutted about that, Ospreys were the far superior team and we have no complaints,” said the Director of Rugby.
“We were outplayed and we have got to take a good hard look at ourselves on the back of that performance.
“We could have scored an early try but went for scrums instead of a lineout, but to be fair to Ospreys every time they had opportunities they took them. You have to respect that.”
A fantastic roar and Sixways atmosphere greeted both sets of teams as they strode out onto the pitch for the televised game that was being beamed around the rugby world.
It was Ospreys who started the better as the first penalty was awarded to them after 18 seconds after Warriors went over the top. Wales international James Hook opted to go for goal and looked confident enough only for his penalty from 45 metres out to fly wide of the uprights.
Visiting skipper Filo Tiatia, a New Zealand international, made some more hard yards from the restart before Warriors finally got some ball with hooker Aleki Lutui borrowing forward in midfield as both teams traded possession in an enthralling opening five minutes.
Both sides were opting to kick for yards but it was Ospreys who were winning the early territorial battle before Craig Gillies stole a lineout and Loki Crichton boomed the ball into touch to ease the growing pressure.
When Ospreys did break from deep, with Tiatia making another crunching run, they looked ominously threatening with Hook more often than not pulling the strings in midfield. Flying full back Lee Byrne looked to make a break before he was hauled back by Dale Rasmussen and his inside pass was knocked forward by Shane Williams as Mark Tucker made another big hit.
The visitors were clicking through the gears and did make a breakthrough on 11 minutes when Byrne was the beneficiary of a miss tackle in midfield and he glided in under the posts. Hook added the extras for an early 7-0 lead to Ospreys.
Minutes later Ospreys again looked set to strike when Hook made another impressive break in the middle of the park before flicking out wide as Rasmussen landed a tackle. The ball was again spun through hands quickly before Warriors just hauled them up in the corner.
The visitors were making breaks all over the field with Byrne making space wide right before Williams was found with yards to burn. The speedy winger pressed the accelerator and looked to go for the corner only to be dragged down by a desperate last ditch tackle from Crichton.
But it was only a short reprieve as the ball was turned over near the Worcester line and Nikki Walker handed off two men to score. Hook drilled the conversion between the posts.
Worcester finally applied some pressure at the mid-point of the first half with several kicks to the corner as the pack looked to power over the line. Opsreys were penalised on three occasions before a quick tap penalty fed Rasmussen who crashed over the line. Referee Nigel Owens went to the television match official for confirmation of the grounding and the try was chalked off.
Warriors were applying huge pressure as the scrum repeatedly went down before Gavin Quinnell peeled off the back and bulldozed close to the line before just coming up short.
The home side were now enjoying more of the ball and territory but a knock on by Tucker after a poor pass to his feet saw momentum lost as the Warriors looked to grab a score and way back into the game.
Warriors were penalised for holding on and Hook stepped up with a penalty attempt five metres inside his own half. The Welsh wonderstar, though, was short with his kick and Drew Hickey returned the ball with real pace before Drahm cleared into touch.
The visiting lineout was occasionally misfiring to hand possession back to Warriors on regular occasions. And with five minutes left to the break the home side again came strong with Lutui running hard and Pat Sanderson just stopped wide right before a penalty was handed to Warriors with Drahm slotting home.
But, just two minutes before the interval, the clinical visitors again struck as a superb cross field kick from Hook found Williams in acres and the diminutive wing pressed the turbos before dancing away from Thinus Delport and Rasmussen and running into the corner. Hook, the architect of the move, added the extras for a convincing 21-3 lead. Drahm cut the lead with a penalty just before the break but it was Ospreys who were in total command.
Warriors replaced Pat Sanderson with Kai Horstmann at the interval and came out with plenty of positive intent and verve in the opening minutes of the second half.
Ospreys were also dealt a blow when back row skipper Tiatia was sinbinned two minutes into the second half when he was penalised for not rolling away. Drahm added a penalty to reduce the deficit.
However, even though the visitors were a man down they still ran from deep with real incision with Gavin Henson and Hook instigating moves and Justin Marshall also in the mix as they rocketed forward only for a knock on to stop them in their menacing tracks.
Warriors were again struggling to contain the Ospreys and their running game with more intelligent running lines rewarded when Sonny Parker dived over from close range. Hook added the conversion to put the visitors in clear control.
Young winger Miles Benjamin was introduced with Drahm taken off and Crichton slotting into full back before Tiatia returned to put Ospreys back at full strength.
Both packs continued to trade blows in the heart of the Sixways pitch but it was Warriors who could find no way past a well drilled Ospreys defence that was repeatedly slamming the door shut.
Delport looked to unlock the defence with a chip over the top collected by Rasmussen before Garvey just failed to reach another searching kick as the ball rolled into touch.
Ospreys were denied another score when Taitia flopped over but his try was chalked off for a forward final pass by Marshall before Warriors changed their halfback pairing with James Brown and Matt Powell brought on for the final 20 minutes of action.
The duo had an immediate impact as Powell’s chip over the top forced Byrne to run the ball into touch as Brown closed in. The Warriors pack again rumbled close to the line before a knock on. Warriors finally had a moment to savour as Brown’s cross field kick caught Ospreys napping and Gillies appeared on the wing to pluck the ball out of the air and touch down to the delight of home fans. Brown added a superb kick from the touchline to give Warriors faint hope of a fight-back.
However, that was short-lived as Williams burnt in for his second try of the afternoon four minutes later before Mike Phillips and Byrne tore in as Ospreys took complete control of the cup clash in the dying minutes to ease clear.
11m Byrne t Hook c 0-7
16m Walker t Hook c 0-14
36m Drahm p 3-14
38m Williams t Hook c 3-21
40m Drahm p 6-21
44m Drahm p 9-21
51m Parker t Hook c 9-28
67m Gillies t Brown c 16-28
71m Williams t 16-33
74m Phillips t Connor c 16-40
75m Byrne t Connor c 16-47
Warriors: 01 Darren Morris (Windo 58), 02 Aleki Lutui (Fortey 58), 03 Tevita Taumoepeau, 04 Phil Murphy, 05 Craig Gillies, 06 Drew Hickey, 07 Pat Sanderson (Horstmann 41), 08 Gavin Quinnell (Bowley 66), 09 Ryan Powell (Matt Powell 62), 10 Loki Crichton (Brown 62), 11 Marcel Garvey, 12 Mark Tucker, 13 Dale Rasmussen, 14 Thinus Delport, 15 Shane Drahm (Benjamin 52)
Replacements: 16 Tony Windo, 17 Chris Fortey, 18 Will Bowley, 19 Kai Horstmann, 20 Matt Powell, 21 James Brown, 22 Miles Benjamin