It was a painful night for the Ospreys as they surrendered their 14-month unbeaten home Magners League record to their Welsh rivals.
The Dragons secured their first ever win in Ospreylia, and although the home team were able to claim a losing bonus point, overall it was a disappointing 80 minutes for the Ospreys, who were without 15 international absentees.
It was a very disjointed and uneventful opening with neither side able to put their stamp on the game, but it was the Dragons who opened the scoring through a Jason Tovey penalty 12 minutes in after the Ospreys were caught going offside at a ruck in front of their posts.
The visitors then looked to build on their early lead and only some good cover defence from Craig Mitchell and Jerry Collins prevented Toby Faletau from finding a way through on the blindside as the Dragons patiently made ground deep into Ospreys territory.
Jerry Collins needed lengthy treatment after inuring his leg while tackling Patrick Leach on halfway, but he was able to continue. The Ospreys almost levelled after the Dragons were penalised for crossing in the same incident, but Gareth Owen’s long-range effort just dropped under the bar at the death.
Having played much of the first quarter on the defensive the Ospreys finally managed to generate some good possession and territory, Dragons fullback Leach doing very well to come across field and halt a mazy Richard Fussell run just a couple of metres short.
The scored were level just after the half hour, Dai Flanagan scoring his first competitive points for the region following his summer move from Cardiff Blues, a penalty after Robert Sidoli was guilty of going off his feet.
The Dragons hit back straight away, scoring the first try of the night less than 60 seconds later. The experienced Gavin Thomas carried well, driving at the heart of the Ospreys, before the ball was flicked up to Toby Faletau who had a lot of work to do, but did it well, taking Owen on the outside before holding off the challenge of Fussell to score. Tovey’s conversion attempt struck the left hand post to leave the score 8-3.
Flanagan was handed the chance to reduce the deficit after an obstruction offence, but his penalty attempt drifted to the right of the posts.
HALF-TIME OSPREYS 3 DRAGONS 8
Whatever was said in the dressing room at the break certainly had the desired effect as the Ospreys struck straight from the restart to draw level.
It was former Dragon Fussell who broke up the right before passing inside to fullback Owen who, supporting well on his shoulder, and the Maesteg man went under the posts to allow Fussell a simple conversion to put his team in front for the first time.
The lead was shortlived though, as Tovey slotted over his second penalty just a minute later after Ashley Beck went off his feet.
The setback didn’t upset the Osprey rhythm though, and they almost scored a second try after some fast counterattacking rugby, launched by Nikki Walker. The big Scot gathered a Dragons clearance kick before running straight back at the opposition. The ball was then worked through several pairs of hands before reaching Sonny Parker, who was bundled into touch as he tried to squirm his way over in the corner.
A penalty reversal after the touch judge spotted Nigel Hall pulling back Marty Holah without the ball offered Flanagan a penalty opportunity, but the flyhalf was off target.
The Ospreys then wasted what seemed a good opportunity to score, Walker’s powerful running again causing the Dragons problems, but when they ball was worked along the line, Fussell and Beck ran out of space, forcing the centre to come back infield where the Dragons had plenty of cover available.
Flanagan’s second successful penalty then nudged the Ospreys back ahead, before another Walker break caused havoc as he shrugged off James James Leadbetter’s tackle and carried 50 metres upfield. Unfortunately, his pass inside to Owen was just behind the fullback, who knocked on as he looked to gather.
Tovey then failed with a penalty awarded against Ian Evans for offside as the clock reached the hour mark.
The Dragons did retake the lead shortly after, scrum-half Wayne Evans having the simplest of run-ins from the base of a ruck after a good move started by Tom Riley, the number nine going down the blindside as the Ospreys defence set itself on the tryline, Tovey adding the extras to make it 18-13 to the visitors.
The teams then exchanged penalties, Owen now playing at flyhalf following a reshuffle allowing Barry Davies to return to Ospreys action after seven months out with a groin proble., replied with a simple penalty after Hall was penalised for not binding properly in the scrum, before the Ospreys were offside at a ruck,, Tovey popping the penalty over in the 70th minute.
The Ospreys tried in vain to find the winning score, playing a risky game as they threw the ball around, running from anywhere. Barry Davies was always looking lively but despite his efforts there was no way back, the Dragons able to strangle the life out of their opponents to claim a memorable win, their first in eight visits to Ospreylia.