Newport Gwent Dragons 30-24 Ospreys – Rodney Parade, Friday 19th December 2008, Magners League
Report by Mark Denham
The Men of Gwent took the Ospreys’ scalp in this fiery Welsh derby to kick off this year’s festive period in style.
Regardless of loyalties, this game was undoubtedly a fantastic spectacle of rugby, both regions showing glimpses of true quality over the eighty minutes.
It was the Dragons though who did enough to come out victors though last Friday, coping with the elements in conjunction with a serious Ospreys threat. The West-Walians travelled to Rodney Parade with a slightly weakened team, though one that still included Ryan Jones, Jonathan Thomas and the returning Gavin Henson.
Scrum half Robert Lewis and prop Rhys Thomas gave the home side an advantage in the first half with two well-taken tries before the enigmatic centre come fullback dived over in the corner for the first of his two tries. Stand-in fly half Dan Biggar scored three first half penalties to ensure that his side would go in at the interval just a point behind their hosts.
Gareth Wyatt stretched the Dragons’ advantage mid-way through the second period, only for Henson to force his way over after a great break from Sonny Parker when it looked like the home side had the game sewn up.
What proved to be the match-winning try was built from the most unlikely of sources. Jason Tovey was the beneficiary of a Colin Charvis cross-field kick, the flanker spotting the fullback out wide with pinpoint accuracy for the youngster to collect and run home.
A Dan Biggar penalty kick pulled the away side back to within six points in the last ten minutes, ensuring that a nervy finish would be played out as the torrential rain and wind continued. The Dragons showed composure and tactical awareness as the Ospreys looked for a break, tackling the visitors high in their own half and ensuring that no play would ensue in dangerous territory.
When the final whistle blew, the seven thousand plus in attendance as well as the television audience at home rejoiced in what had been a feast of rugby – a far cry from the slogged out kick-fest that some had expected. Paul Turner was naturally delighted at the final whistle, commenting that his side had taken another step in defying those in the game who consider them nothing more than the fourth Welsh region.
“I’m obviously delighted,” said Turner. “I felt we did enough. We had a bad start and a bad five minutes just before half-time, but I was really pleased with the rest of the game. A lot of our young players stood up.
“The Ospreys don’t often concede four tries, so I’m delighted with that. It showed our desire near the end where we defended in their half, which is what you’ve got to do to win these games.
Ospreys coach Sean Holley was disappointed with the manner of the defeat, though didn’t regret making the personell changes that he did going in to the game.
"[It’s] Very disappointing to lose a game when I thought for large periods we were the much better team.
“We felt we had the right team, and for long periods I was thinking that we did. We are bitterly disappointed because I felt we had enough to come here and win”.
Cardiff Blues will visit Rodney Parade on Boxing Day, determined not to fall foul of the Dragons’ in a similar way. Whilst the Blues will possess their own threat, Paul Turner’s men showed on Friday that the work that has gone into this side this season is starting to show at the highest of levels and on the most critical of stages.