Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Looking for their second win out of three festive derbies, the Ospreys travelled to Rodney Parade to face the Dragons on Saturday afternoon. The Dragons had lost narrowly and been well beaten in their last two outings, but they always seem to raise their game when the Ospreys are in town. There was some squad rotation with 5 new players coming into the match day 23 with the most notable absentees being Dan Lydiate, Dan Evans and captain Justin Tipuric but there was a welcome return on the bench for flying winder, Keelan Giles who had been out for over 450 days. Steven Myler took on the captain’s armband.
The Ospreys kicked off the match and looked to start playing immediately when the Dragons kicked the ball back to them, with Mat Protheroe passing to Luke Morgan who got tackled into touch for a Dragons lineout. The Dragons attempted to set up a driving maul, but the Ospreys held it at bay and forced the Dragons to box kick again.
This time the ball fell to Morgan and he made a superb break of over 60 metres but just could not find his supporting player with his offload, but the Ospreys were able to retain the ball and won a penalty when a Dragons player came in from the side. Myler called for the posts and his penalty was straight and true to take the Ospreys into a 0-3 lead after 8 minutes.
After the restart there was the inevitable passage of kick-tennis as both teams attempted to out-kick the other and gain large swathes of territory and it would be the Dragons who scored next after winning a succession of penalties, the last of which was kicked to touch for a Dragons lineout. They set up another maul and were awarded advantage for an Ospreys infringement. Protheroe put in a try saving tackle on the Dragons prop but a knock-on made the ref go back for the penalty. A shot was called, and the penalty split the posts to make the score 3-3 after 13 minutes.
The Dragons were again on the scoresheet in the 24th minute. The Dragons started with a maul and then went wide but the referee halted play for a deliberate knock-on from Ospreys’ winger Morgan. Fortunately for the Ospreys, play was too far out to consider a penalty try, but the referee did show Morgan a yellow card and the penalty was kicked to touch giving the Dragons an attacking lineout. Again, the Ospreys stopped the maul, but the Dragons continued to build through the pressure. Ospreys centre Williams was down injured in the attempt of making a tackle and with the Ospreys now down to 13 players, quickly ran out of defenders when the Dragons went back to the short side. Quick ruck ball was passed to their winger and he managed to dive under the last-ditch tackle from Rhys Webb and scored a try right in the corner. The conversion was successful, and the Dragons now led 10-3. Joe Hawkins came on for Williams who went off for a HIA that he would end up failing, meaning Hawkins would finish the game.
The Ospreys attacked with two strong runs from George North and they won a penalty when the Dragons were caught offside, Myler kicking the ball to touch for a 5m attacking lineout. The Ospreys maul made a metre or two, but the maul collapsed which formed a ruck. The Ospreys went back to the short side with Ifan Phillips calling for the ball and his pass put Protheroe in the corner for the Ospreys first try of the match. Myler kicked a superb touchline conversion to level the scores, 10-10 after 34 minutes.
Hawkins’ first touch in the game was to win the Ospreys a penalty at the breakdown and Myler kicked to touch. From the lineout, his second touch was to burst through a gap in midfield and almost score but a Dragons player tackled him from an offside position to give the Ospreys an advantage. The ball went out to North, but he was tackled, and the referee brought the game back for the penalty that Myler slotted to make it 10-13 in the 32nd minute. That was the final scoring action of the first half.
The second half started with the Dragons on the attack and the Ospreys struggling to get out of their 22. Wave after wave of pressure came but the Ospreys were able to repel each attack with Will Griffiths, North and Protheroe all making try-saving tackles to keep the Dragons at bay. This pattern of play continued until the Dragons won a penalty that was kicked at goal to level up the scores at 13-13 after 59 minutes. Nicky Smith had gone off with an injury and was replaced by Gareth Thomas, and Phillips and Fia were replaced by Scott Otten and Tom Botha.
The Ospreys then began to get into the game with Otten making an immediate impact. He won a penalty after a high tackle that Myler kicked to touch. From the lineout, the ball went to Owen Watkin who surged through the Dragons defence and passed to North who raced away for the Ospreys’ second try of the game that Myler converted to make it 13-20 after 64 minutes.
The Dragons came right back at the Ospreys and after a kick through that went dead. The referee checked with the TMO and saw that the ball had touched Protheroe meaning the game would restart with a 5m scrum to the Dragons and not an Ospreys 22m drop out. This just happened to be the worst Ospreys’ scrum of the match and the Dragons centre burst through from 5 metres to score the Dragons’ second try which was also converted to again level up the scores at 20-20 after 68 minutes. This would be a big last 12 minutes as both teams looked for the win.
The Ospreys kicked off and the Dragons kicked back to them allowing the Ospreys to build some momentum and they won a penalty for a Dragons player not rolling away at the breakdown. Myler stepped up and slotted the kick to make it 20-23 after 71 minutes.
The Ospreys then won a penalty at the next scrum that Myler again kicked to touch and when they set up their driving maul, the Dragons came in at the side to give the Ospreys another penalty that was also kicked to touch for another attacking 5m lineout. This time, with a couple of backs adding their weight to it, the Ospreys maul powered over the line for their third try of the match that Myler was unable to convert to make it 20-28 to the Ospreys after 77 minutes, Otten with the try. The Ospreys had emptied their bench with Lloyd Ashley and Gareth Evans on for Rhys Davies and Morgan Morris; and Ruben Morgan-Williams on for Rhys Webb with the returning Giles on for Morgan.
With the Ospreys two scores ahead, both teams had reasons to score again – the Ospreys were looking for a try bonus point and the Dragons, a losing bonus point. It was the Ospreys who had the first go but a knock on scuppered the chance. The Dragons then had a chance to score but they knocked on and Protheroe went on the counter-attack. He raced back towards the Dragons defence and kicked ahead only to be blocked by a Dragons player. Time had now ticked over the 80 minutes but neither team wanted the game to end. The blocking Dragons player was shown a yellow card and the Ospreys were awarded a penalty that Myler kicked to the corner. The Ospreys set up another driving maul but that was stopped and Otten broke away and dived for the line. Could he score in the 85th minute and give the Ospreys a bonus point? Unfortunately not, as he was deemed to have been held up in the act of crossing the line and the referee blew the final whistle to end the game.
This was a game that the Ospreys deserved to win but they will be slightly disappointed that they did not manage to nick the try bonus point with the last play of the match. It was great to see Giles back in action but there will be concerns over Nicky Smith and Kieran Williams who both left the field injured. The next game for the Ospreys is meant to be the Challenge Cup but that fixture is in doubt.
Final Score – Dragons 20 Ospreys 28