The Ospreys left it late, but they remain in the hunt for a play-off place after a hard fought 20-10 victory over Welsh rivals Newport Gwent Dragons on Judgement Day at the Millennium Stadium.
Scrum-halves Richie Rees and Tom Habberfield exchanged tries before a penalty try just two minutes from the end secured a well deserved win for the Ospreys, with Dan Biggar grabbing ten points from the tee.
It was a match that the Ospreys had dominated from the first minute, enjoying 60% possession and 70% territory, but a combination of poor finishing, bad luck, and dogged defending saw the Dragons frustrate their opponents throughout, eventually taking the lead against the run of play six minutes after the restart following a scoreless first half.
However, the Ospreys stuck to the task in hand and eventually reaped their reward, the win keeping the pressure on those teams above them in the PRO12 table as the season draws to an exciting conclusion.
There was an early scare as former Osprey, Tom, Prydie intercepted and almost broke free with the line at his mercy but Jonathan Spratt caught the winger before he got going.
The Ospreys started to mount some pressure on the Dragons following a twenty metre rumble from a driving maul with Scott Baldwin in possession. It wasn’t long until the Ospreys finally crossed the line through Richard Fussell but referee Nigel Owens ruled it out after consulting the TMO, spotting an earlier knock on from Tom Habberfield at the base of a ruck underneath the posts.
It was all Ospreys for the opening quarter of an hour but they were unable to break down the wall of black jerseys in front of them. They eventually crossed the line for the second time, this time through Dan Baker but the try was again ruled out after the number eight failed to keep control of the ball as he reached out to score.
The Ospreys showed their intentions by turning down kickable penalties in favour of going to touch as they chase a playoff place in the league. But they were unable to convert their chances as they were turned over again, five metres out with the Dragons defence looking impenetrable.
Most of the match was being spent in the Dragons twenty-two but the Ospreys couldn’t get that all-important score as replacement flanker Nic Cudd was causing havoc for the Ospreys at the breakdown. A turnover for the Dragons saw Will Harries put boot to ball to clear before racing Fussell towards the Ospreys line in a battle for possession. The fullback got there first but he was under pressure, causing Ryan Jones to kill the ball and take a yellow card for his team.
Both teams were looking for the opening try with Hanno Dirksen and Jeff Hassler running hard at the opposition and Prydie having a go for his side but amazingly, it remained scoreless at the turnaround.
HALF TIME: Dragons 0 Ospreys
It was the Dragons who struck first, albeit against the run of play through another former Osprey, scrum-half Rees as they caught the opposition defence napping. Hallam Amos slipped the ball out to Tyler Morgan who linked up with Cory Hill before scrum half Rees was on hand to finish the move and score beneath the posts. Kris Burton added the extras.
Biggar tried a chip and chase as a way to break down the Dragons defence but was prevented from running through as Cudd grabbed hold of the Wales outside-half without the ball. The open side found himself in the bin and Biggar took the bread and butter 3 points on offer to him.
The Ospreys remained on the hunt for a try as Dan Baker broke through the Dragons defence. But as the number eight went to offload the ball, the Ospreys failed to keep possession yet again and spilled the ball forward.
However, the Ospreys kept their tails up and finally gathered the lead through Habberfield. Ashley Beck offered to carry off the shoulder of Biggar only to be stopped just short of the line, but the young scrum-half was on hand to pick up and dive over for his second ever Ospreys try, both of which have come against the same opposition. Biggar slotted the conversion to give his team the lead.
Just as Cudd returned to the field, Jonathan Spratt went the other way after quashing a Dragons attack with a deliberate knock on almost immediately after the Ospreys took the lead. Prydie stepped up to take the penalty and level the scores.
The lead swung back in the Ospreys favour soon after following a dominant Ospreys scrum, forcing the infringement from the Dragons front row. Biggar kicked the points, bucking the trend of the first half when they kicked for touch, to put the Ospreys three clear with 10 minutes left to play.
Despite being a man short, the Ospreys started to regain the momentum and almost grabbed their second try. Sam Lewis came close in the corner following some strong carries from Nicky Smith and James King but again, the Dragons forced the turnover.
There was a fourth yellow card in the match and Dragons centre Tyler Morgan was the player to receive it. The Ospreys were just short in the corner through Biggar when the 18 year old killed the ball to stop the momentum and was sent to the sin bin.
But the Ospreys eventually got their just rewards for their efforts after another powerful scrum and Nigel Owens had no choice but to award a penalty try. Biggar converted.
With time almost up the Ospreys kept going forward and it was Aisea Natoga's turn to break the line as he came close to scoring as he tried a chip and chase only for Will Harries to show his pace again, beating his opposite man to the ball. The Ospreys kept their foot on the gas as the game entered injury time and Tyler Ardron looked to have touched down in the corner after ignoring Natoga on his outside. The TMO again ruled it out as the Canadian dropped the ball under pressure from Harries.
That was the end of the action, with the Ospreys claiming a win that meant they have now completed two entire PRO12 seasons unbeaten against Welsh opposition, the last derby loss coming 15 games ago at Rodney Parade in January 2012.
FULL TIME: Dragons 10 Ospreys 20