The Ospreys survived a late rally from the home team but were able to hold on for a well deserved win at Rodney Parade on Friday night.
The only tries of the game came from Eli Walker and Rhys Webb as the visitors moved into a 17-6 lead early in the second half, the Ospreys making it two from two in the new PRO12 season.
It was a 15th consecutive win for the Ospreys in PRO12 Welsh derbies, a run that goes back to January 2012.
They were on top in the early exchanges, with the opening minutes played out in the Dragons half. A Nicky Smith charge caught the eye, giving his team some go forward and Josh Matavesi just failed to reach his own little dink through behind the defence as the visitors looked to make an early mark on the scoreboard.
Matavesi was again at the heart of things when he popped up on the shoulder of James King to burst past the first man into space some 35m out, where he tried to feed his skipper, only for the ball to go to ground.
After the initial pressure the Dragons were able to work their way into the contest, enjoying the upper hand in a couple of early scrums, the second of which resulted in a penalty and the simplest of kicks for Jason Tovey to open the scoring after 15 minutes.
This sparked the Ospreys back into life and after a powerful run from Dan Baker, picking up at the back of a scrum on halfway, the Dragons were forced to concede the five metre scrum, Jonathan Evans putting the ball out behind the sticks as Matavesi looked to get on the end of Dan Biggar’s grubber.
The resulting set-piece saw the Ospreys awarded a penalty not once, but twice, before the Dragons rallied and won the put-in at the third scrum for a knock-on at the base. When it went down this time, Nicky Smith and Lloyd Fairbrother were both shown yellow by Nigel Owens.
Tempers were fraying, and when the next decision in the scrum lottery went in the favour of the Ospreys, with Owens indicating a free-kick, the two scrum halves clashed as Evans didn’t want to let ball go. Webb reacted and the decision was reversed on the linesman’s advice.
Some lovely interplay between forwards and backs then took the Ospreys close, Walker providing the initial spark, Baker, Duncan Jones and Matavesi all carrying well, before Walker was hauled down just short, knocking on as he tried to lay the ball off for the support.
The Ospreys did level things on 30 minutes though, through the reliable boot of Biggar, after the TMO had confirmed some illegal afters from Ian Gough on his former colleague.
It was proving to be a lively, combustable affair with plenty of needle to excite the crowd, if little by way of real quality, but it was a moment of magic that saw the Ospreys take the lead just before the break. Tidying up at a ruck on the left, Webb spotted acres of space behind the Dragons defence and Walker read his little chip down the blindside perfectly to collect and cross for the first try of the night. Biggar made no mistake from the touchline.
HALF-TIME: NG DRAGONS 3 OSPREYS 10
The first opportunity of the second half went to the Dragons, awarded a penalty from a scrum some 30m out, and it was teenage replacelement Angus O’Brien who split the sticks to bring his team back to within four, six minutes after the restart.
The Ospreys hit back immediately, an overthrown Dragons line out in their own 22 allowing the visitors to press the line, and after probing right, left and then back to the right, it was Webb who was alert once again, his show and go allowing him the space to dart over from close range and dab down under the posts. Biggar was again on target with the conversion.
O’Brien was able to keep the Dragons in touch with a simple close range penalty to move the scoreboard up to 9-17 on 51 minutes.
Play was becoming very messy but the Ospreys were always looking the more threatening in a stop-start game that was becoming more bitty by the minute.
With 10 minutes to go the Dragons crowd were baying for blood when centre Tyler Morgan needed lengthy treatment after competing with Walker for an aerial ball close to the touchline. It was referred to the TMO and the decision was penalty to the home team and a yellow for the Ospreys wing, meaning they were to play out the final minutes a man short.
O’Brien duly sent over his third, and most difficult, penalty of the half, to leave his team trailing by just five points.
The pressure was on the young Ospreys team now, and a penalty for not releasing close to halfway gave O’Brien to reduce the deficit further and he made no mistake, the scoreboard moving to 15-17 with a little over five minutes left on the clock.
As you’d expect, the Dragons threw everything at the Ospreys in the closing minutes but the defence held firm, a hopeful long range drop goal attempt from the impressive O’Brien 40m out that drifted wide of the sticks all the hosts had to show for their efforts.