RaboDirect Pro12: Three talking points as Ospreys beat Dragons
RaboDirect Pro12: Three talking points as Ospreys are 20-10 winners against Newport Dragons
Ospreys disappoint but snatch win
Steve Tandy’s side dominated territory and possession in the first half, but went in at the break with the game scoreless—a rare feat in professional rugby—and saw their play-off hopes take a further hit as Newport Gwent Dragons stole into the lead early in the second half through former Ospreys scrum-half Richie Rees. The experience and ability of the Ospreys eventually came to the fore, despite what can only be described as a disappointing performance as they spurned almost a dozen chances to get the four tries they were looking for against a team third bottom of the Pro12. A 20-10 win through a try from scrum-half Tom Habberfield and a penalty try two minutes from time and 10 points from the boot of Dan Biggar was certainly flattering, but it keeps them in the hunt to break back into the top four with their final two matches coming at Zebre and home to Connacht, and they are expected to walk away with wins against both, but could very well need to secure bonus point wins if they are to reach the play-offs with injury-hit Ulster, currently five points ahead on 65 their likeliest rivals with a home match against leaders Leinster and visit to Munster to come in their final two matches.
Dragons youngsters impress
Newport Gwent Dragons are very much a club still in transition under the leadership of former Ospreys leader Lyn Jones – blighted by injuries and relying on youngsters throughout their starting XV backed by a few veterans, including 39-year-old prop Duncan Well, they were rocked before the game when captain Andrew Coombs was withdrawn through injury. In the Wales international’s absence, his colleagues set about spoiling what had been billed as an easy win for the Ospreys. Young flanker Nic Cudd came off the bench and put in a shift and a half as he threw himself into tackles and won turnovers at the breakdown at will. It was a gritty performance that the Dragons have had to rely on several times from individuals this season, and Cudd was justifiably man of the match. Taulupe Faletau was again outstanding from number eight, even if he was on the backfoot more often than he would have liked to be as devastating as he is for Wales. Young backs Hallom Amos, at full-back, Jack Dixon and Morgan Tyler showcased their pace and power as they led the Dragons in attack, and Amos and Dixon may be on the radar as possibles for Warren Gatland’s Wales squad this summer. On another day, the Dragons would have been blown away by the Ospreys, but they have shown glimpses this season that they can compete with the best, including a surprise double over Glasgow Warriors.
More Millennium magic
Moving derby matches to the Millennium Stadium still has some way to go to reach the heights set by the big record-breaking Aviva Premiership matches at Twickenham or the sell-outs achieved by Leinster vs Munster at the Aviva Stadium, but the second year of Judgement Day certainly produced two cracking encounters which could have gone either way and offered plenty of entertainment and controversial moments. The Welsh Rugby Union, the four regions and Pro12 organisers, who all get together to make these happen, should have discovered by now that hosting matches on Easter Sunday is probably not the best weekend to attract bumper crowds, even if some 30,000 is still an impressive number. Getting to Cardiff on a Saturday for a big Wales international can be enough of a problem for some parts of Wales, but that becomes even more of an issue on a Sunday when trains are infrequent from some of the rugby heartlands. Factor in that some families opt to make the most of a rare holiday and that is a further deterrent for some rugby fans making the trip to the Millennium, even if there is the lure of watching two matches for the price of one. For a start, both matches were again on free-to-air TV in Wales. That’s not to say the idea should be abandoned. If anything, it should happen more than once each season: one in the opening weeks and one towards the end of the season, albeit on a weekend that doesn’t coincide with the Easter break.