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URC - Dragons v Ospreys Sept 26 2021

A new season, new players, a new name for the League, new teams, and the return of the crowds meant the opening United Rugby Championship match for the Ospreys away at Rodney Parade for a Welsh derby.

The Dragons kicked off and after a Dragons knock on, the first scrum of the match came in the opening minute, but Ospreys tighthead Thomas Francis was adjudged to have lost his bind and the first penalty of the match went to the Dragons. This penalty was kicked into the Ospreys 22 giving the Dragons an attacking lineout. Going off the top, the Dragons went through the phases into midfield before the Dragons outside half put a lovely little kick in behind the Ospreys defence and the Dragons fullback scored the opening try which was also converted and the Dragons led 7-0 after just five minutes. Rhys Webb went off for a HIA and was replaced by Ruben Morgan-Williams.

The Ospreys kicked off and the Dragons cleared to touch giving the Ospreys their first lineout of the match, but the ball was overthrown giving possession to the Dragons, but their next kick went out on the full giving the Ospreys another opportunity at the lineout. However, the ball did not find its intended target but somehow the Ospreys managed to retain the ball and kicked long. The Dragons fullback ran the ball back, but Nicky Smith was quickly over the ball and won a penalty for the Ospreys. Captain for the time being, Bradley Davies indicated a shot at goal but before it could be taken, the TMO informed the referee that foul play had occurred, and the replay showed that Owen Watkin had lifted a Dragons player at the previous breakdown. The referee and TMO agreed that the player had been lifted beyond the horizontal and showed Watkin a yellow card as well as reversing the penalty. The Dragons kicked to touch and went off the top at the resulting lineout and began to go through the phases. A wide pass was intercepted by Mat Protheroe, and he looked certain to score but the referee was playing advantage and called play back. The Dragons took a successful shot at goal and led 10-0 after eleven minutes.

The Ospreys then won a penalty that was kicked to touch giving them an attacking lineout where they went off the top and into midfield. Michael Collins ran an absolutely superb angle to dissect the Dragons defence before stepping the last defender and dotting the ball over the try line for the Ospreys’ first try of the new season. Anscombe added the extras, and it was now 10-7 after eighteen minutes.

The Dragons won a penalty when Francis did not release the tackled player and the Dragons went for goal. The kick was successful, and the Dragons now led 13-7 after nineteen minutes. Another Ospreys infringement, this time by Davies, gave the Dragons another chance to kick deep into the Ospreys 22 but Smith was able to turn the ball over, but Dan Evans was then penalised for holding on and the Dragons went for goal again with the penalty. The ball split the posts and the Dragons now led 16-7 after twenty-six minutes.

From the kick-off the Ospreys won a penalty and Anscombe slotted the kick to bring the score to 16-10 after twenty-eight minutes. The Ospreys discipline continued to let them down as they gave away a succession of penalties, but the Ospreys defence was able to hold firm and the half time whistle blew.

This was not a good half of rugby from the Ospreys as mistakes and discipline had let them down badly. The second half would require a much better performance.

No doubt with the word of Toby Booth still ringing in their ears, the Ospreys came out for the second half like a completely different team and quickly won a penalty that Anscombe kicked between the posts for the opening points of the second half. After forty-three minutes, the score was now 16-13.

The Ospreys continued in the ascendancy and Protheroe made a lovely break only to be tackled just yards from the Dragons’ line. The Dragons’ tackler refused to roll away and slowed the ball down giving the referee no option but to award the Ospreys a penalty and show the Dragons player a yellow card. From the penalty, the Ospreys took a scrum and looked to move the ball wide, but a long pass only found the touch line, but the referee awarded the Ospreys another penalty for the Dragons being offside. This penalty was kicked to touch for the attacking lineout. The Ospreys went through a few phases before Collins ran another lovely out to in angle and crashed over the line for his and the Ospreys’ second try of the match. Anscombe added the conversion and after fifty-two minutes, the Ospreys now led 16-20. Dan Evans went off with a knock and was replaced by Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler.

He made an impact minutes later when he broke a tackle and offloaded the ball to the supporting Anscombe who in turn fed the ball to Luke Morgan and he raced away from the cover defence for the Ospreys’ third try of the game. Again, Anscombe added the conversion and the Ospreys led 16-27.

Before the restart, the Ospreys made several changes with Tom Botha, Rhodri Jones and Elvis Taione replacing the front row, and the returning Lion Adam Beard on for B Davies in the second row. Ethan Roots came on minutes later for the cramping Morris and Morgan-Williams replaced Webb at 9, with Josh Thomas replacing the tiring Anscombe.

The Dragons were also making changes, and this paid off when their replacement scrum half dummied the Ospreys’ defence and raced away under the posts for a Dragons’ try. The conversion was good and with just four minutes left, the score was 23-27. Could the Dragons spoil things for the Ospreys?

Fortunately for the Ospreys, the defence was up to the mark and the game ended when the Ospreys won a scrum penalty deep into injury time. Thomas took a tap and kicked the ball into touch. The final whistle blew, and the Ospreys had won. The second half turnaround from the Ospreys was impressive but if they are to mount any sort of serious challenge, they must improve their first half discipline and significantly reduce the error count. All in all, this was a typical hard fought local derby, and the Ospreys ran out deserved winners. Next up is the first home game of the season and another local derby when Cardiff Rugby come to the Liberty Stadium next Saturday.


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