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Monday Morning Quarterback View - How to slay a Dragon

On a sunny but breezy Saturday afternoon, the Ospreys welcomed Welsh rivals, the Dragons to the stadium for the final home game of the regular URC season. Would this turn out to be the final home game ever for some of the Ospreys?

With an eye on the big game next week, Ospreys coach Booth rested some of his returning Welsh internationals but still named an experienced 23-man squad and the Dragons did likewise.

The game kicked off and at the first ruck there was a bit of a scuffle between AWJ and the Dragons tighthead prop but there was nothing in it and play continued with a scrum.

The Ospreys won a penalty after a great jackal from Sam Parry and Walsh sent the penalty deep into the Dragons’ half. After the lineout, the Ospreys went through multiple phases and under penalty advantage and an AWJ offload, Nicky Smith powered over from half a metre for the opening try of the match. Walsh added the conversion and after 8 minutes the Ospreys led 7-0.

A Dragons interception foiled a promising Ospreys attack but fortunately, Owen Watkin was able to get back and minor the ball to prevent a Dragons’ score.

The Ospreys then won another penalty and Walsh split the posts to add the three points, 10-0 after 18 minutes. Minutes later, the Dragons were awarded their own penalty and a successful shot at goal reduced the deficit to seven points, 10-3 after 21 minutes.

A late off the ball hit on Walsh gave the Ospreys another penalty and Walsh got up off the floor to add the three points, 13-3 after 28 minutes.

Another late off the ball hit on Walsh gave the Ospreys another penalty and after a TMO intervention, the referee showed the Dragons 6 a yellow card. The Ospreys set up a driving maul from the lineout and after a strong drive from the pack, Parry came close to scoring but the ball escaped his grasp as he went for the line and a goal line dropout was the decision.

The Ospreys attacked again, but the Dragons were able to clear to touch. At the lineout, the Ospreys produced a perfectly executed training ground move as Ethan Roots ran a front peel that caught out the Dragons’ defence, before he offloaded to the supporting Dan Lydiate and he powered his way over the line for the second Ospreys’ try of the match. Walsh was unable to add the conversion and after 38 minutes, the Ospreys now led 18-3.

The Dragons won a penalty as time expired on the first half and their fullback stepped up and slotted the kick from inside his own half to give the Dragons a valuable three points. Half time score 18-6.

The second half started with the Ospreys in the ascendancy and they forced a turnover from a lineout. From the scrum the Ospreys looked to move the ball under penalty advantage and when Ruben Morgan-Williams cut back against the grain, he passed to Morgan Morris. From just inside the 22, the Ospreys 8 was unstoppable and after a neat sidestep, crossed the line for the Ospreys’ third try. Before the conversion, another TMO intervention for foul play brought the referee’s attention to yet another late, high and off the ball hit on Walsh. The referee checked the hit and determined it was worthy of a red card so the Dragons were now back down to 14 men for the rest of the match. Walsh went off for a HIA that he would ultimately fail so Luke Scully had to come on and his first touch was a difficult touchline conversion that he slotted with some ease. 25-6 after 43 minutes.

A lovely free-flowing move from the Ospreys almost resulted in a try for Morgan-Williams but a superb covering tackle prevented the score, however the Ospreys retained possession and went wide again, allowing Iestyn Hopkins to score in the corner for the Bonus point try. Scully was wide with the conversion and after 52 minutes, the Ospreys led 30-6.

Straight from the kick-off, the Dragons attacked and when their winger kicked through, the bounce of the ball evaded the covering Scully and the winger was able to regather and dot down for the Dragons’ first try of the match. The conversion was missed and after 55 minutes, the Ospreys led by 30-11.

Both teams went to their benches, and this saw the introduction of the returning from injury Dewi Lake. He had an immediate impact, pouncing on a Dragons’ overthrow at a lineout, making the hard yards before offloading to the supporting Morris who then passed to Kieran Williams and he raced in to score the Ospreys’ fifth try of the match, 37-11 after 57 minutes.

Lake was then shown a yellow card after a high tackle on his opposite number so both sides were down to 14 men after 66 minutes. The Dragons then came close to scoring but the referee adjudged the ball to have been held up and a goal line drop out was the decision.

Then came a moment that those present in the stadium will remember for some time as the crowd rose as one, to applaud the efforts of the amazing AWJ as he walked off the pitch. This could possibly have been his final home appearance for the Ospreys.

The Dragons were awarded a penalty and they went to the corner. They set up a driving maul and as they moved towards the try line, the Ospreys infringed. The referee awarded the Dragons a penalty try and showed Gareth Thomas a yellow card putting the Ospreys down to 13 men for the remaining four minutes.

Sub Josh Van Der Harry Deaves proved that the current World Player of the Year is not the only flanker who can throw in at the lineout when he hit his jumper at the first time of asking.

Luke Morgan almost scored a try after collecting a kick through but the Dragons’ defence got back and held him up over the line for another goal line drop out but the Dragons were unable to make the extra man and space count and the final whistle blew.

Full time score 37-18.

In overall terms this was a mission accomplished. A comfortable bonus point home win against limited opposition, while integrating elements of the squad returning from being locked away for several months by Team Wales. The loss of key first choices Jac Morgan and Alex Cuthbert for the rest of the season will sadly be very keenly felt, Yet again the Ospreys looked a decent side when they could get their runners over the gain line and the defensive system again looked comfortable. The attack however remains very limited with our attacking shape easily lost when the attack goes beyond a couple of phases and both halfbacks failed to bring runners on to the ball consistently. We saw too many of the early season problems return when we played too far behind the gain line and could not generate quick ball with forward momentum. There were encouraging glimpses of explosive power from the centres and Dewi Lake gave an explosive cameo which was sadly shortened by the yellow card.

If this was the final on-field bow in Swansea for the great Alun Wyn Jones, then he gave a virtuoso performance. The terms legend and great should be reserved for very few and he is one of those few. One must hope that if the Rugby World Cup is his final curtain call, he will take up some key off field role at the Ospreys to ensure his talents are not lost to us.

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