Dan Evans ripped up the record books at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday afternoon as the Ospreys returned to winning ways with a bonus point victory over the Dragons.
The Ospreys thought they had taken the lead with exactly four minutes played, Aled Davies and Bradley Davies combining to release Justin Tipuric on the 22m line, the skipper racing over unchallenged to touch down under the posts.
To the Ospreys dismay, the TMO intervened and the try was ruled out for a forward pass. However, at the resulting Dragons scrum, the visitors were pushed off their own ball and, with a penalty advantage in their favour the Ospreys were able to attack at speed.
The ball was swiftly moved left to right where they had a man over, Owen Watkin feeding Evans, who ignored his man on the outside to step infield and score, Luke Price with the conversion.
It was all the home team in the opening quarter as the pack provided a strong platform, dominating at the scrum in particular, but the scores were level just shy of 20 minutes as Dragons scrum half, Rhodri Williams, picked off his opposite number’s pass from a ruck on the visitors’ 5m line to race the length of the field to score, outpacing the chasing Tipuric. Tovey added the extras and the scoreboard read 7-7.
Price had an opportunity to respond immediately but his penalty from almost 45m out drifted wide of the mark.
At the other end, Price was then caught on the wrong side of the ruck, and Tovey was handed the simplest of kicks right in front of the posts to put his team ahead with 28 minutes played.
Somehow, despite the Ospreys enjoying the greater territory and possession, the visitors were 10 clear just five minutes later. It was Hallam Amos making a nuisance of himself in an aerial battle and although Watkin gathered the loose ball, his blind pass back inside from the touchline was easily picked off by Amos, the Blues bound player racing clear to score under the posts to give Tovey the easiest of conversions.
The hosts dominance at the scrum saw them rewarded with another penalty, Leon Brown binding illegally, and Price made no mistake to reduce the deficit to seven at the break, a scoreline that barely reflected what had happened on the field in the first 40.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 10-17 DRAGONS
The Ospreys needed a positive start on the scoreboard, and they got it with their second try of the match coming inside two minutes of the restart.
Keelan Giles provided the spark, hacking a loose ball on halfway forward and although the cover got back, good pressure from the chase saw the Ospreys win back possession, working it wide to the left where Evans went over for his second of the afternoon.
The angle proved too much for Price and poor discipline a couple of minutes later allowed the Dragons to nudge back five ahead, hands in the ruck given Tovey another simple kick.
The Ospreys pack again provided a strong platform for the backs, James King soaring high to claim good line out ball and, after the maul was halted on the left, it was swung the width of the field where Evans stepped infield, running a great line at pace to take the ball from Price and score his third, a second hat-trick for the Ospreys.
Price was on target with the conversion and the hosts led 22-20 with 26 minutes to play.
A historic afternoon for the fullback got better in the 63rd minute when he became only the second player ever to score four in a game for the Ospreys, Tommy Bowe the first to so over 10 years ago in a European tie versus Benetton. Evans did really well at the end of a long spell of possession to collect the loose ball on the left and finish from close range.
The try secured a bonus point and Sam Davies’ first points of the afternoon took the Ospreys more than a converted score clear.
The final quarter saw the Ospreys continue to dominate without troubling the scorers, the Dragons now winless at the Liberty since October 2010.