Indiscipline proves costly for the Ospreys as Jason Tovey guides the Dragons to victory with seven successful penalties at Rodney Parade.
The Dragons raced into a convincing early lead, with 17 unanswered points in the first quarter, and although the Ospreys hit back through tries from Gareth Owen and Tom Prydie, along with a penalty try, they were unable to force their way back into the game.
There was a late change to the Ospreys starting line-up, fullback Barry Davies dropping out after pulling up with a slight twinge in the groin, an injury which had kept him out of action since November, Prydie getting the nod to make his first senior start for the region in an unfamiliar looking team.
The bad news of Davies’ setback was tempered by the return to the starting line-up of Ben Lewis and Ian Evans, Lewis featuring in the matchday XV for the first time since April 2008 following a double ACL reconstruction, while Evans hadn’t started a game at senior level since he also suffered an ACL injury, on Welsh duty in November 2008, a torn pectoral muscle suffered on Premiership duty for Swansea RFC last October as he made his comeback extending his time on the sidelines.
There was a subdued atmosphere around Rodney Parade as the match got underway, but the home fans were roused by some early Dragons pressure, resulting in a try under the posts in the 7th minute. Having been awarded a scrum close to the left touchline, the home side worked the ball across the pitch, Matthew Watkins bursting through the home defence. When he was stopped the ball was recycled well, and when the Ospreys were ruled offside at a ruck, a quick tap penalty from Wayne Evans saw him make his way to within inches of the line, allowing the supporting Adam Jones to go over, Jason Tovey converting. The fly-half then extended the lead five minutes later with a simple penalty from a central position just outside the 22 after Steve Tandy came in from the side of a ruck.
The Dragons helped themselves to a second try minutes later, a powerful run from wing Will Harries causing the initial damage before captain Ashley Smith was able to pounce on a loose ball close to the line. Referee Greg Garner had a close look before awarding the score, which Tovey converted.
After a low-key start, the match had burst into life, and the Ospreys finally got on the scoreboard, some good work on the 22 by skipper for the day Tandy freeing Owen who raced through unchallenged, 17-year old Prydie adding the extras for his first ever Ospreys points.
The visitors were slowly taking control of the game after a disappointing start, enjoying plenty of possession and territory, but first Sonny Parker and then Owen spilt the ball when in plenty of space to halt the Ospreys progress. As we reached the half hour mark, Tovey made the visitors pay for the errors, his second penalty of the night making it 20-7 to the Dragons. The lead soon became 16 when Tovey was once again successful after Jamie Nutbrown infringed at a ruck, Mr Garner finally losing patience with the Ospreys indiscipline and showing yellow to the scrum half.
The game had swung back the Dragons way, and only a Prydie tackle stopped Harries on the 22 after the winger had carried from his own half, leaving a host of Ospreys defenders in his wake. Tovey was enjoying a fine evening with the boot, and he extended his side’s lead after Ospreys hands were spotted interfering in the ruck.
As the interval approach and with their numbers back up to 15 the Ospreys laid siege to the Dragons line, their pressure seeing a number of penalties awarded their way close to the line. With the Ospreys taking the scrum option each time, the referee inevitably lost patience with the Dragons pack and awarded a penalty try and Prydie duly added the extras to make it 26-14 at the break.
HALF TIME: NG DRAGONS 26 OSPREYS 14
Ospreys indiscipline proved costly once again at the start of the second period, Ed Shervington being penalised for killing the ball, an indiscretion which resulted in him becoming the second Osprey to be sent to the sin-bin, Tovey helping himself to another three points.
With Shervington in the bin, Marc Breeze temporarily replaced Ben Lewis to send the front row back up to its full quota. The Ospreys were not only able to survive a man short, they narrowed the deficit thanks to a lovely try in the corner from Prydie following a piece of magic by Owen, his dummy on halfway creating the space for him to carry deep into opposition territory before his pass freed the full-back, who continued an evening of personal firsts by touching down for his first Ospreys try. In doing so, he became the youngest ever try scorer in the Anglo Welsh Cup in its various guises, aged 17 years and 340 days, although his unsuccessful conversion attempt left the score 29-19.
Prydie was certainly enjoying his evening, and it was only his timely intervention that prevented former Osprey Aled Brew from enjoying a free run from halfway after a nifty break by the winger, before Tovey slotted over another penalty for the Dragons. With the Ospreys looking for a way back into the game, they sent on Rhys Webb, Matthew Jarvis and James King in place of Nutbrown, Parker and Lewis.
Despite the Ospreys now enjoying the upper hand, once again the boot of Tovey made them pay for poor discipline, his seventh penalty of the night taking his team’s lead back up to 16 point with a little over quarter of an hour remaining, before Craig Mitchell, James Goode and Jonny Vaughton were introduced to the action in place of Ryan Bevington, Andy Lloyd and Kristian Phillips.
Brew rounded off the scoring with a late try which went unconverted to complete a resounding victory for the Dragons, but there was plenty to be happy about for the Ospreys, in the form of some of the younger players who were looking to make an impression.