The Ospreys ran in seven tries on their way to a record victory over the Dragons at the Liberty Stadium, a win that sees them move back into the play-off spots with just four games to go.
Dan Biggar scored 18 points, including a second half try, while there were touchdowns for Kahn Fotuali’i, Tom Habberfield, Ashley Beck, Tom Isaacs, Dmitri Arhip and Justin Tipuric. Matthew Morgan also kicked two late conversions.
The opening minutes were all Ospreys, an early scrum penalty inside the host’s half going in their favour, which allowed Biggar to put his team upfield. From the lineout, there were waves and waves of pressure on the Dragons line, with the Toms on the wing, Habberfield and Isaacs, both going close as play swung across field, left to right and back again.
Eventually the early pressure told, just short of four minutes, after the visitors were penalised for going off the feet at a ruck in the shadow of the posts. The ever alert Fotuali’i was the first to react, a quick tap penalty before the opposition could retreat the full 10m to the line giving him a simple run in to score, Biggar adding the extras.
Barely seven minutes had been played by the time the lead had been doubled, this time quick ball at the ruck allowing the ball to be moved swiftly through the backline to the wing where Habberfield was given an unopposed run to the line. Biggar’s second conversion was far more difficult but went the same way as the first, bisecting the posts to make it 14-0.
Steffan Jones responded by slotting over a penalty after a deliberate knock-on by Isaacs on his own 22, getting the Dragons on the scoreboard in the 13th minute.
Hands in the ruck from Richard Fussell just a couple of minutes later allowed Jones another go, albeit from further out, but this time his kick was narrowly wide to the right of the sticks.
With the game just at the midway point of the first half the Dragons players found themselves back underneath the posts for a third time as the Ospreys crossed once again, this time through centre Beck. Awarded a penalty close to halfway, Biggar went for the corner and although the attempted maul was held up, Fotuali’i slipped the ball infield to Beck who danced past one attempted tackle before going over to score, Biggar again converting.
As the half hour approached the Ospreys were camped on their opponents line, a series of scrum offences against the Dragons allowing them to turn the screw. However, just when it seemed that they may finally get some reward for their dominance they opted to go for the posts, Biggar duly taking his team 21 points clear.
The Dragons eventually put together a spell of concerted pressure, retaining the ball and inching their way towards the Ospreys line, Adam Hughes showing up well with one line-break, and the penalty eventually went against the Ospreys for Beck offside, allowing Jones to put over his second three pointer of the night with just over five to go until the break.
With time just about up, a huge Ospreys shove on a Dragons scrum saw the hosts secure the ball, Jonathan Thomas picking up from the base and carrying well, It was swung wide across the field, but Habberfeld just failed to gather, his knock on bringing a pleasing first half to an end.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 24 DRAGONS 6
The bonus point arrived within two minutes of the restart, a length of the field score sparked from a turnover by Tipuric on his own 22. The ball was moved away from the ruck quickly and Fussell made the initial break over halfway. He had plenty of options as the Ospreys attackers outnumbered the Dragons defence, the ball fed inside to Fotuali’i who drew the last defender before releasing Isaacs to score, Biggar again adding the extras.
The Dragons responded positively by scoring their first try of the night within minutes. It came from a rare penalty decision in their favour at the scrum, and after Steffan Jones went to the corner the forwards pounded on the line to draw in defenders and then when they had the overlap is it was spun out to the right for Dan Evans to score. Dragons outside half Jones missed the conversion, leaving the score 31-11 to the Ospreys.
The score gave the Dragons renewed belief and again they worked themselves into a good position, Toby Faletau’s direct running in midfield causing the Ospreys problems before it was moved through hands to Dan Evans and Hughes on the right, the Ospreys scramble defence just about keeping them out.
However, play was taken back for an offence in the build-up and Steffan Jones was able to put over the penalty.
As the heavens opened it was becoming a much looser, broken up affair, which was suiting the Dragons better than the Ospreys, and another scrum penalty to the visitors, close to halfway, gave Jones another opportunity to go for goal but his long range effort struck the outside of the left upright.
Having spent the last 15 minutes on the back foot the Ospreys finally managed to break out from under the cosh in style to grab their fifth try of the night. The initial catalyst was Isaacs on the left wing with a swift break up the flank before feeding Fussell on his inside.
The fullback was hauled down just short and the ball was recycled and spun across field to the right. Beck was stopped just short of the line as he cut infield, but after some pick and gos the Ospreys created a three man overlap on the left. It looked like they’d blown it after Jonathan Spratt was halted before he could offload, but Biggar was alert and there was no stopping him from close range. The fly-half picked himself up to convert his own try, taking the scoreline up to 38-14 in the 63rd minute.
Back came the Dragons with a try from Faletau that would have infuriated the Ospreys coaches, after the hosts made a mess of their own put-in inside their own 22. Jevon Groves did a good job of disrupting as Jonathan Thomas tried to pick up at the base before Faletau pounced to score. The conversion from Jones was again off target.
What was now proving to be an end to end affair swung back the other way as the Ospreys scored their sixth try of the night, a lineout drive from close range resulting in Moldovan international Dmitri Arhip grounding, the ref taking a good look before confirming the score, Matthew Morgan converting.
Try seven came just a couple of minutes later through Tipuric, three minutes from the end. Matthew Morgan broke from his own half and looked set to go all the way only to lose his footing 25m out. The ball was recycled and Spratt sent over a perfectly weighted cross-kick before the Dragons defence could regroup which the Welsh international openside collected without breaking stride before sliding over the line, taking the Ospreys to the 50 point mark.
Morgan added the extras to round off the scoring but there was one last push from the visitors as they looked to add a gloss of respectability to the scoreline, pressing the tryline. The pressure resulted in a yellow card for Arhip for hands in the ruck, meaning the Ospreys played the last 60 seconds a man short. The Dragons were still unable to find a way through, Faletau’s knock-on over the line the final play off the game.