Ospreys back where they want to be after win over Dragons
MOTORING organisations would no doubt advise against trying to accelerate in difficult conditions, but the Ospreys put their foot down in the wind and rain at the Liberty last night, securing only their second try bonus point in the Pro12 this season with a 52-19 win against the Dragons.
Kahn Fotuali'i, Tom Habberfield, Ashley Beck, Tom Isaacs , Dan Biggar, Dimitri Arhip and Justin Tipuric crossed as the Pro12 champions moved back into the top four at the expense of the Scarlets.
Biggar finished with 18 points, having slotted over five conversions and a penalty, with Matthew Morgan also improving two of the touchdowns.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
It was a record win for the Ospreys over the Dragons, bettering the 42-10 victory they piled up in 2010.
Steve Tandy's side still have a hugely difficult set of matches to negotiate if they are to maintain their record of never having failed to make the knockout stage in this competition, but this seven-try success will significantly aid their cause.
All season they have struggled for bonus points.
But last night they had one in the bag within 42 minutes, reward for their ambition and ability to hold on to the ball in testing conditions.
Dan Lydiate returned for the visitors, but one man can only offer so much, especially when he's returning after six months out with injury. The back-rower lasted 40 minutes; by then the game had long been settled as a contest.
The Ospreys were too powerful in the front five, where Richard Hibbard caught the eye, and too determined not to slip up again. Fotuali'i had a superb game at scrum-half, scoring a try and setting up two, and Ashley Beck stood out in midfield.
Last week in Cardiff had been easy for the Ospreys' Wales contingent to get fired up.
Indeed, there are Buddhist monks who would have been climbing the dressing-room walls and raring to go given the atmosphere at the Millennium Stadium.
But this was a Pro12 game on a Friday night in damp conditions.
Bread and butter rather than caviar.
And the question was whether Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Jones, Ian Evans, Richard Hibbard, Justin Tipuric and Dan Biggar could produce big performances for the region.
The Ospreys needed the answer to be in the affirmative, with their bid to make the play-offs hanging by a thread.
The visitors were hit by Andrew Coombs pulling out shortly before the game with an illness.
And their problems multiplied when the Ospreys crossed for two tries in the opening eight minutes.
The first came after the home forwards had worked their way to within 15 metres of the Dragons' line with some superb driving play that forced the opposition to concede a penalty. Before anyone else had a chance to react, Kahn Fotuali'i had taken it and sprinted clear, diving over under the posts.
Then Tom Habberfield crossed for an excellent score which again had its roots in solid work by the forwards that scattered the Dragons cover, with Richard Fussell and Jonathan Spratt, skilfully, working the wing over in the corner.
Biggar converted both tries, leaving the visitors 14-0 adrift before some spectators had properly settled in their seats.
The Gwent club managed a penalty from Steffan Jones, but they were under pressure in all areas up front in the first half, with the Ospreys forcing penalties at scrums, more powerful in contact and stronger with ball in hand.
In fairness to the visitors, they were facing five of the pack that had wiped the floor with England last weekend, and Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Ian Evans and Justin Tipuric looked every bit as keen to perform in black as they had done in red. The commitment was highlighted shortly after Toby Faletau came on as a replacement for Lewis Evans.
Trying to work his way into the game, the Wales No. 8 was stopped dead in his tracks by a piledriving tackle from Hibbard.
Truly, the Ospreys hooker has added to his greatest hits collection over the past fortnight.
The third try owed much to Fotuali's invention, the scrum-half deceiving the defence with a crossfield run before sending Ashley Beck the other way with the cover nowhere to be seen.
Ahead 24-6 at the break, the Ospreys were not long bagging the bonus point try.
It was some score as well, starting when Tipuric claimed a loose ball on the floor. Play was spread rapidly with an inside pass from Spratt putting Fussell away, and Fotuali'i provided the support as the Ospreys made 50 metres upfield.
All that remained was for Tom Isaacs to race the final 15 metres to score under the posts.
Faletau and Dan Evans crossed for the Dragons, but there were further Ospreys touchdowns for Biggar, Arhip and the outstanding Tipuric.
It was a dominant home display; the play-off chase is truly on.