The Ospreys suffered a second LV= Cup defeat on Saturday evening as a young team went down fighting at Rodney Parade.
The old head of Jonathan Thomas scored the only try of the game to put the Ospreys in front with 20 minutes to go, but it was the boot of Steffan Jones that ultimately ensured the Dragons came out on top, the outside half steering a more experienced Dragons team to victory as he kicked six from six.
The Dragons were handed an early opportunity to get points on the board after Rhodri Hughes was penalised at a ruck following an exciting run by Michael Poole, picking up a loose ball on halfway and scything his way through the defence into the 22.
However, there was a lengthy delay before the penalty kick could be taken as Poole received treatment after sustaining a serious looking injury in the tackle, eventually being stretchered off to warm applause from the Rodney Parade crowd.
When play eventually resumed, with one minute 45 seconds showing on the clock, Jones made no mistake, kicking the Dragons ahead.
He then doubled the lead on eight minutes with a kick from the left after the Ospreys were penalised for going off their feet.
Young Ospreys wing Dafydd Howells sparked the Ospreys into life when he pounced on a loose ball just outside his own 22, picking it up one handed and haring forward. He flicked it inside to Matthew Morgan who was hauled down on halfway, in turn looking to offload to skipper Rhys Webb who just couldn’t gather cleanly when he was facing a straight run in from 45m.
As the clock moved towards the midway point of the first half an Ospreys penalty after the Dragons had illegally pulled down a maul allowed Morgan his first sight at the posts on the right but he pulled his kick wide of the near post.
The Ospreys maintained the pressure though, and after being awarded another penalty just a couple of minutes later Morgan this time opted to go to the corner. Hughes secured good ball at the lineout, providing a solid base from which to attack the Dragons line as they moved it to the right and back to the left again, pounding on the line, before Ieuan Jones was pinged for killing the ball, resulting in a yellow card and a simple three points for Morgan.
The two teams were evened out a couple of minutes later, Morgan Allen caught offside and also shown a yellow for persistent team infringements, much to the delight of the home support. Again Jones made no mistake, his third penalty taking the Dragons lead back up to six points, only for Morgan to respond with his second within minutes, leaving it 9-6 with 34 gone.
Morgan then levelled things after the Dragons brought down the Ospreys maul illegally again as it rumbled 10m upfield from a lineout on the left, his kick leaving it all square at the break.
HALF-TIME: NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS 9 OSPREYS 9
A pitch that was already soft underfoot at kick-off had cut up badly during the first half as the rain fell persistently, but both teams deserved credit for trying to keep the ball alive where possible in the opening 40 despite conditions worsening.
The first points of the second period came in the 50th minute , again through the boot of Jones, after Allen was caught entering a ruck from the side.
It was becoming increasingly difficult to keep hold of the ball, but another opportunistic break from Howells up the left from a Dragons knock-on gave the 17-year old another opportunity to show his gas, before a bout of handbags led to referee Llyr Ap Geraint-Roberts issuing a warning to the unlikely matches combatants, Dragons 8 Jones and diminutive Ospreys fly-half Morgan.
Morgan then had the chance to go the corner, only to overhit it. However, confusion reigned as his kick appeared to be helped over the line by a Dragons hand before being grounded, and after 10 seconds or so of nobody seeming to know what was happening, the referee and touch judge agreed on a drop out, before finally asking the TMO to rule on it.
Eventually the decision was Ospreys scrum five, and after the first shove resulted in an Ospreys penalty, instead of resetting Morgan put the ball out for a lineout, a decision which proved to be the correct one. Quick ball was secured and after the first surge to the line was repelled, the experienced figure of Jonthan Thomas was hand to twist and turn, placing the ball over the line to give his team the lead for the first time. Morgan’s conversion was off target, meaning the Ospreys held a two-point advantage going into the final quarter.
An Ospreys offside following a powerful break from hooker Sam Parry up the left then allowed Jones to nudge the Dragons straight back in front five minutes later.
With 68 minutes gone and the game delicately poised the Ospreys were reduced to 14 when skipper Rhys Webb was yellow carded for a high tackle.
Inevitably, the Dragons looked to pile on the pressure and it became very frantic and untidy, tempers again boiling after a penalty award in the hosts favour after the Ospreys had brought down the maul illegally, Arthur Ellis penalised. From the penalty, Jones maintained his 100 per cent record to take his team four clear with a little over seven minutes left.
As the rainfall came down heavier than ever the Ospreys looked to work their way upfield but were unable to make the breakthrough, with the final minutes petering out as the Dragons held on for the win.