The Ospreys maintained their march to the play-offs with a bonus point win over the Dragons at the Liberty Stadium on Friday night, but the story was all about Shane Williams as the legendary wing sparked wild celebrations when he converted his own try in overtime.
It was typical Williams, stealing the headlines with a timely score, and just like he had on his final international, he crossed at the death to prove that he has the best scriptwriters in the business!
There were two penalty tries for the Ospreys as their forwards controlled the scrum while man of the match Ryan Jones also scored a first half-try, with Dan Biggar kicking nine points.
In front of their largest home crowd in 16 months, the Ospreys were on the offensive from the very first minute, taking the game to the Dragons.
Hanno Dirksen, Andrew Bishop and Dan Biggar were all to the fore as the men in black worked through the phases, carrying well, and a break from Ian Evans almost unlocked the Dragons defence but the big second row was unable to get his pass away to the supporting Biggar with the try-line beckoning, knocking on in the tackle six metres out.
Next it was Ryan Jones on the charge, carrying into the 22. It was recycled well and Ross Jones whipped it wide to hooker Richard Hibbard on the touchline and he looked to barge his way over only for a great try-saving tackle by Toby Faletau, forcing the knock on as Hibbard went for the line.
Despite the Ospreys early dominance it was the visitors who opened the scoring, Lewis Robling slotting it over from just inside his own half 10 minutes in after Andrew Bishop was pinged for holding onto the ball after the tackle.
The pattern of the game remained the same regardless though, with the Ospreys pressing on the Dragons line, and Biggar levelled it just five minutes later with a simple penalty for defenders going off their feet at the ruck.
The exchange of penalties continued after the Ospreys were penalised at a Dragons scrum, Robling on target again.
Undeterred, the Ospreys came straight back at their opponents and duly scored the first try of the night at the midway point of the first half. The initial break was from Rhys Webb with a quick tap and go after the Ospreys were awarded a free-kick at a scrum in the Dragons half. Tom Isaacs pass released Bishop and the centre almost got over in the corner, the defence stopping him a metre short but he presented clean ball to allow Ryan Jones to pick up and drive over to give his team the lead. Biggar made no mistake with the conversion, a difficult attempt from the right hand touchline, to take the score up to 10-6 to the Ospreys.
The Dragons then patiently worked their way up field with a series of pick and drives but the Ospreys defence held firm and after winning a penalty after Dragons players went off their feet at the breakdown Webb launched a quick counter-attack, releasing Tom Isaacs who carried 40mm drawing the defender before flicking it outside to Hanno Dirksen. Only a last ditch tackle from Aled Brew stopped him in the corner but the Ospreys were awarded a penalty after the covering defenders all went off their feet in an attempt to slow things down.
The Ospreys opted for the scrum, confident in the dominance of their pack and their superiority told as the Dragons brought the setpiece down several times as they went backwards, referee Nigel Owens eventually issuing a yellow card to tighthead Nathan Buck. As they reset, the result was exactly the same, and this time the ref ran between the posts to signify the penalty try. Biggar’s conversion made it 17-6 with four minutes left until the break.
A huge Ospreys scrum in the final seconds saw the Dragons crumble under pressure again, but as Webb looked to release Justin Tipuric for a certain try he just lost control of the ball in the tackle, and Mr Owens whistle brought the first half to a close.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 17 NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS 6
As was the case in the first half, the Ospreys were well on top after the restart, Bishop showing up well in attack on more than one occasion, but again, just like the first 40 it was the Dragons who got the first points of the half, Robling keeping his team in touch after Biggar was judged to have gone off his feet.
Ospreys pressure forced Wayne Evans into a rushed clearance close to his own line that was charged down and in the scramble to clear, the penalty eventually went the way of the visitors on their own line. The ref then incurred the wrath of the home fans by opting to pull out his yellow card, Biggar sent to the bin for 10 minutes after he ruled that the flyhalf had stopped Brew taking a quick tap and go.
With Biggar off the pitch, kicking duties were handed to Ross Jones after a penalty was awarded to the Ospreys on the touch judge’s advice but the Wales U20 fullback’s effort was narrowly wide.
An Ospreys offence at the scrum allowed Robling to knock over his fourth successful penalty, bringing the Dragons back to within five points.
A wonderful Tipuric break up the left then brought the Ospreys crowd to his its feet, before the ball was worked left for Shane Williams who put in a lovely kick to the corner, Adam Hughes just beating him to the ball at the expense of an attacking lineout.
The Ospreys had largely been on top throughout the second half without troubling the scorers, but their dominance at the scrum was again rewarded with 11 to go, Dan Way becoming the second Dragons prop sent to the bin, and with Biggar back on the pitch it was no surprise that the Ospreys opted to go for the posts to take them more than one converted try ahead but his radar was off for once and the scoreboard remained unchanged.
They thought the score had eventually arrived in the 73rd minute, replacement centre Ashley Beck the catalyst with a scything run that took him into the corner where his progress was halted. It was recycled and Hibbard thought he had found his way over only for the decision from Mr Owens to award a Dragons penalty for a double movement.
With time running out that elusive third try finally arrived with less than two minutes on the clock and once again it came from the forwards, driving forward relentlessly at a scrum and leaving the referee no alternative other than to award a second penalty try of the match.
Biggar opted to drop kick the conversion from in front of the posts as the Ospreys looked for an improbable bonus point with just seconds remaining on the clock but they were duly rewarded for their ambition when the wing wizard Williams signed off in style after Brew had been turnedover on halfway. It was swung swiftly to Williams on the left and he showed there’s still plenty of gas in the tank and he raced clear from 40m out, sidestepping Faletau and crossing under the posts, celebrating with an impressive somersault. Incredibly, it was his first try for the region since October 2010.
He hadn’t finished yet though, as Biggar handed him the ball and Williams brought his farewell match to a fitting conclusion, slotting over his first ever conversion in professional rugby to round off a fantastic evening.