Two-try Tipuric helps blow away the gloom and doom
NEVER mind the Met Office's gloomy forecast for the weekend — the talk before last night was of a perfect storm threatening to engulf the Ospreys.
Doom-mongers raised the spectre of a losing run extending to four matches and the former Pro12 champions heading off to Munster next week trying to arrest a horror sequence of defeats minus their 11 Wales squad members who will be away on autumn-series duty.
But with a significantly improved performance, Steve Tandy's side restored a measure of calm to the Liberty.
Two tries from Justin Tipuric, a penalty try and a touchdown from Scott Baldwin spurred the hosts home, with Dan Biggar supplying 17 points and Matthew Morgan chipping in with a drop goal.
There was a worry for Wales when Toby Faletau left the field on a stretcher in the 52nd minute after appearing to take an accidental elbow to the head. There was a standing ovation around the ground as the popular No. 8 departed, with the news later that he had been taken to Morriston Hospital as a precaution with his neck in a brace.
Warren Gatland will undoubtedly hope the bump isn't as serious as it appeared.
But a big plus for the national coach was Justin Tipuric's display.
The Trebanos product displayed a gargantuan appetite for work as he tore into rucks, tackled with venom and supported ceaselessly. For good measure, Tipuric also frequently demonstrated the skills of a back, not least when claiming his second try. It saw him him collect a high pass from Tom Habberfield, chip the ball over the defence and then gather before touching down.
Tipuric's first touchdown was none too shabby, either, arriving after Matthew Morgan had ripped open the cover with a devastating break from deep.
It all meant Lyn Jones was unable to mark his return to his old stamping ground with a win.
The region's former head coach, who steered them to three pieces of silverware between 2003 and 2008, had been hoping to pilot his new charges to victory at a venue that held fond memories for him.
But it wasn't to be.
Coaches can make a difference but they are ultimately dependent on their players and the Ospreys' players have a clear edge on those at the Dragons.
Anyone doubting that, check out the figures for national squad representation: Ospreys 11, Dragons 2. Stuff like that matters.
Prior to last night, some might have considered an Ospreys side with Biggar at full-back, Adam Jones on the bench and a fit Ryan Jones not even in the mix akin to Manchester United taking the field with Robin van Persie in goal, Wayne Rooney at centre half and Rio Ferdinand having a weekend off.
No way, Jose, might have been the protest.
Or no way, Steve, anyway.
But needs must and the Ospreys were missing Richard Fussell at No. 15, forcing Biggar into emergency duty at the back.
As for Adam Jones, he was at least on hand to provide impact from the sidelines, along with Duncan Jones and Joe Bearman.
The Dragons had made the right noises all week and were hopeful of doing a lot better than last season, when they copped a 52-19 beating.
They were strengthened by the return of Andrew Coombs, with the Wales international skippering the side from lock.
And the former Newport player made an immediate impact as the Dragons moved into a shock lead within four minutes.
Faletau first caused alarm bells to ring in the home defence with a powerful drive that saw him target Aaron Jarvis.
Coombs then surged down the wing before passing to Tom Prydie, whose kick ahead rebounded off Morgan Allen and back into the arms of Coombs. A lovely offload later and Prydie was in for the try, converted by Kris Burton.
There was an element of fortune about the score, but the Ospreys had started poorly, with loose kicking allowing the visitors to make the running.
With confidence dented by a hat-trick of consecutive defeats, and seven changes from the side beaten at Northampton, they would have been looking to impose themselves on opponents who are notoriously poor travellers.
Indeed, the Dragons had only won three out of 33 games on the road against their fellow Welsh regions.
Better late than never for the home side, they started to get the scoreboard ticking over.
Biggar kicked a straightforward penalty and then Steve Tandy's side conjured a try that owed everything to the class and eye for a gap of Matthew Morgan.
The diminutive fly-half had been sighted so infrequently in the Ospreys' starting line-up over the past six months there must have a temptation to consider him a missing person.
But in the 19th minute he let everyone know he was very much alive and well and living on Quality Street.
Receiving the ball some 65 metres out, the Bridgend product accelerated past Ross Wardle and left Owen Evans floundering, putting his foot to the floor as he motored clear of Jevon Groves and then stepped past full-back Dan Evans.
In barely four seconds the Dragons' cover had been shredded by pure skill.
Faletau did superbly to track back and haul down the little man, but Justin Tipuric was on hand to accept the offload and cross for the score, converted by Biggar.
Out of position he may have been, but Biggar did exceptionally well at full-back in the opening half, taking several high balls and making an impact whenever he joined the line.
There were also strong efforts from Richard Hibbard, Alun Wyn Jones and the omnipresent Tipuric, who must be torture to play against.
For the Dragons, Faletau and Coombs predictably led the charge, but the Ospreys led 16-10 at the break, with two more Biggar penalties sandwiching a drop-goal from Kris Burton.
Tipuric's moment of magic came in the 46th minute, helping the Ospreys into a 26-10 lead before scrum dominance yielded a penalty try.
The bonus-point score came from a driving line-out, with Scott Baldwin peeling off the back to dive over in the corner.
Francisco Chaparro replied for the Dragons, but it was no more than a consolation. The Ospreys were simply a cut above.