DRAGONS DOWN THE OSPREYS
By David Wilkinson
The Dragons travelled to Swansea in search of their first win at the Liberty Stadium with a selection headache in the backline due to a lengthy injury list. They were not helped by international call ups for Will Harries and Aled Brew.
The Ospreys themselves were in a similar situation with many of their squad on Wales duty but were still able to field an impressive looking side.
The Dragons welcomed back Ashley Smith and Tom Willis to the match day squad while Nathan Brew was able to make his first start of the season in place of brother Aled as Pat Leach moved from centre to full back.
It was the visitors who started the stronger, showing attacking intent from the start. Jason Tovey slotted an early penalty after missing a drop goal attempt to take the lead.
The Dragons continued to test the Ospreys, with the impressive Toby Faletau making inroads into the Ospreys defence and almost grabbed the first try of the game with a strong charge towards the line, but was forced into touch just short.
However, this failed to spark the game to life as both sides were guilty of making elementary mistakes at key moments. The Dragons were dealt a blow when Andrew Coombs was forced off midway through the half with a rib injury which brought Robin Sowden- Taylor into the fray.
The Ospreys were soon level s as debutant Dai Flanagan slotted a long range penalty, making up for an earlier Gareth Owen miss.
This spurred the Dragons on and Faletau scored a fine try in the corner the physical number eight collected the ball in the 22 following a break by Gavin Thomas. Faletau powdered through a number of challenges before dotting the ball down over the line. Tovey was unlucky with a tricky conversion as he saw his attempt rebound off the posts.
This was the last of the notable action in the first half as the game petered out before half time.
Following the break, it was the Ospreys who came out firing with former Dragon Richard Fussell showing good pace to round the dragons defence before sending full back Gareth Owen under the posts. Flanagan converted to put the Ospreys ahead for the first time in the game.
This lead was short lived as two minutes later Tovey slotted another penalty as the Ospreys were guilty of infringing at the breakdown making the score 11-10 to the Dragons.
Despite finding themselves behind, the Ospreys continued to press and Sonny Parker was forced into touch close to the try line following a bustling run. Flanagan missed with an attempt on goal but was successful minutes later as Gavin Thomas was penalised for coming in at the side of the ruck.
With the Ospreys holding a narrow 13-11 lead the Dragons crafted a fine backs move, Tom Riley made a strong break up the centre of the pitch and was brought down just inside the 22.
Taking advantage of their great field position the Dragons continued to press and following some crisp interlinking between backs and forwards, Wayne Evans crossed the line. Tovey added the extras making the score 16-18 to the Dragons.
Gareth Owen was successful with a penalty, but Tovey had the last word adding an extra three points. The Ospreys pressed for a try to bring the scores level but the Dragons defence remained strong as they hung on for a deserved victory.
The win ended the Liberty Stadium hoodoo for the Dragons and saw them climb up the league to ninth place following their victory over Aironi last weekend.
Ospreys (3) 16
Tries: Owen Cons: Flanagan Pens: Flanagan 2, Owen
Dragons (8) 21
Tries: Faletau, Evans Cons: Tovey Pens: Tovey 3
Ospreys: Owen, N. Walker, Parker, Beck, Fussell, Flanagan, Nutbrown, Bevington, M. Davies, Mitchell, Lloyd, Evans, Smith, Holah, Collins.
Replacements: Isaacs for Owen (75), B. Davies for Flanagan (66), D. Jones for Bevington (40), Hibbard for M. Davies (54), Griffiths for Mitchell (67), McInerney for Lloyd (66), Tipuric for Smith (71).
Not Used: Webb.
Newport-Gwent Dragons: Leach, Hughes, Riley, Smith, N. Brew, Tovey, W. Evans, Price, S. Jones, Hall, Charteris, Sidoli, Coombs, G. Thomas, Falatau.
Replacements: M. Jones for N. Brew (48), Willis for S. Jones (53), Morgan for Sidoli (56), Sowden-Taylor for Coombs (31), Gustafson for G. Thomas (73).
Not Used: Palmer, Connor, Leadbeater.
Ref: Dave Pearson (RFU).