It was a tough evening for the Ospreys U18s, whose hard work was not reflected on the scoreboard after three tries were disallowed on a poor night in challenging conditions.
Despite having the home advantage, the conditions were definitely not on the Ospreys’ side and they not only faced driving rain but also difficult opponents. Despite crossing the whitewash on several occasions for tries disallowed due to prior infringements, the Ospreys’ efforts went unrewarded and as the visitors claimed what was, ultimately, a comfortable victory at Aberavon RFC.
From the off, the conditions meant that expansive rugby was difficult and instead the players resorted to kicking for territory, with the forwards taking on the ball at every opportunity and keeping it tight.
The visitors were first to secure a try. The ball was worked down the narrow side and Ewan Rosser kicked through across the Ospreys’ try line before grounding the ball to push the Dragons into an early lead, converted by Will Reed.
Minutes later, a Dragons’ infringement handed the Ospreys the opportunity to close the deficit and Joe Hawkins successfully slotted the ball through the centre of the posts to take the score to 3-7.
The Ospreys went through the phases, putting in some big hits in their attempts to push the Dragons back into their own 22, and were awarded another penalty for a side entry into the ruck. However, Hawkins pushed it wide of the posts.
As the sheets of rain thickened over the Talbot Athletic Ground and the conditions worsened, mistakes were frequent on both sides.
With twenty-minutes played, the Dragons were awarded a penalty 5-metres out after a catalogue of errors by the hosts, which saw Reed take a quick tap penalty and drive over the whitewash. The young outside half picked himself up to add the extra 2 points, taking the score to 3-14.
Soon after the restart, the visitors stole the ball from an Ospreys’ lineout on the half-way line which gave the Dragons possession. This saw them stretch the ball wide and a break down the open side saw Morgan Richards crash over the whitewash for an unconverted try, extending the visitors’ lead to 16 points clear.
Although conditions remained poor, the Dragons looked to put the ball through the hands and spread the ball wide.
After the boys in blue set up camp in the Ospreys 22, an infringement on their behalf awarded the Ospreys a penalty which allowed them to move out of defence and relieve the pressure, which resulted in them obtaining territory in the Dragons’ half.
The fourth try of the night for the Dragons was secured by Ollie Howard, a pick and drive from the young wing forward seeing him cross the whitewash from close range down the middle channel untouched, Reed with the extras.
With 37-minutes played, the visitors were reduced to 14 men as Dylan Bartlett was called to the Headmasters office and shown a yellow card.
Minutes before the half-time whistle, whilst on a rare excursion to the Dragons’ 22, the Ospreys failed to capitalise on their extra-man advantage and although they battled hard by going through the phases and despite their best efforts to punch holes, they could not find a way through the Dragons’ defence.
HALF TIME: OSPREYS U18S 3 – 26 DRAGONS U18S
From the restart, the Ospreys began to capitalise on their extra-man advantage and set up camp in the Dragons’ 22. The hosts crossed the line twice within minutes of the restart but both were disallowed due to knock-ons. A third try was chalked off due to a spilled ball before the Dragons were returned to full-strength 46 minutes into the game.
58-minutes into the game, the Ospreys were caught offside which enabled a Dragons’ lineout on the 5-metre line. The Ospreys stole the ball and kicked for touch which relieved them of the Dragons’ relentless pressure.
As conditions worsened both sides resorted to a kicking game to force errors within their opponents.
An Ospreys’ lineout on the half-way line saw them push the ball to the narrow side and travel into the Dragons’ 22. An attacking scrum 5 saw in a good position as the hosts looked to move the ball to the blind side only to be intercepted by Rosser. The right winger pinned his ears back to run the length of the field to touch down under the sticks and score an excellent individual, and his second, try, converted by Reed. This took the visitors 30 points clear.
The conditions eased as play entered into the final ten-minutes. A mistake by the Ospreys in their own 22 allowed Carrick McDonough to use the open side and slice through the Ospreys’ defence, where he forced his way across the line in the corner for an unconverted try, taking the score to 3-38 with 71 minutes played.
The Dragons continued to control possession and dominate play by going through the phases.
In the dying minutes of the game, there was still time for another Dragons’ try. A smart move in midfield saw Reed put an inside pass to Lewis Bates who broke away and ran 40-metres to touch down, Reed with the extras, bringing the game to the end.
FULL TIME: OSPREYS U18S 3 – 45 DRAGONS U18S