All-star Ospreys too strong for Dragons
OSPREYS 52 DRAGONS 19
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons were left cursing the Six Nations feel good factor after being thumped by the Ospreys tonight.
The RaboDirect Pro12 champions wheeled out their Wales big guns for the clash at a sodden Liberty Stadium and reaped the benefits, crossing for seven tries in a one-sided rout to climb to fourth in the table.
It was an impressive statement of intent by the Ospreys who just like the national side, don't intend to let their trophy be taken from their cabinet without a fight.
The hosts fielded six players that had put England to the sword and, predictably, they did a professional, powerful job to brush their visitors aside in Swansea.
But while they are looking to secure a playoff place with a strong run-in, the Dragons are left playing for pride and a rather more sobering tussle for 10th spot.
In the build-up to their World Cup qualifier with San Marino, England boss Roy Hodgson was asked about the point of going up against such minnows.
Unfortunately, this had the same feel of a mismatch.
The Dragons’ tough end to the season means that they can scupper a few title dreams.
But, as expected, they fell short against what was pretty much an international side from numbers 1 to 10.
It wasn’t quite a farce of Glasgow proportions, when the Scots won 60-3 at Rodney Parade, but it was still a pretty humiliating defeat.
A dramatic improvement – not to mention a faster start – will be needed against the Scarlets in Cardiff next Saturday.
Thankfully there’s a roof at the Millennium Stadium because it certainly wasn't the weather to be taking on an Ospreys team that possesses fearsome grunt up front and a pair of the finest half-backs in Europe.
Every error with the slippery ball saw the shoulders of the Dragons pack slump as they trudged to another encounter with Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard and Co at the scrum.
And with Kahn Fotuali'i and Dan Biggar pulling the strings, it was an evening spent with their backs to the wall inside their own territory.
Given the strength of the home pack it was a considerable pre-match blow when Wales lock Andrew Coombs, fresh from a marvellous Six Nations, was forced to pull out because of illness.
They were bolstered by the fit-again Dan Lydiate but it was a tough defensive shift for the blindside flanker, who was understandably rusty before his pre-planned half-time replacement.
Just like against Leinster in their last game, the Dragons were hindered by a nightmare start in which their line was breached two times in the opening skirmishes.
First a powerful Ospreys attack resulted in seven points when Kahn Fotuali’i caught the visitors napping from a quick tap and go.
Then smart hands exploited an overlap down the left to send Tom Habberfield over the whitewash with Biggar majestically adding his second conversion.
The Dragons looked to have stemmed the flow when fly-half Steffan Jones knocked over a 12th-minute penalty then was narrowly wide with another shot at goal.
But it wasn’t long until another painful blow was struck, Ospreys centre Ashley Beck gliding over with ridiculous ease when Fotuali’i switched play.
Biggar twisted the knife with the conversion and a penalty (when the hosts mystifyingly went for goal) and it was 24-3 after half an hour – another Glasgow was definitely on the cards.
Thankfully, the Ospreys seemed to take their eye off the ball and, after Jones had knocked over another penalty, headed to their changing room with a 24-6 lead when they should have had the bonus point in the bag.
They didn’t have to wait long.
Once again it was all too easy with Fotuali’i in a Dragons old boy sandwich, Richard Fussell’s break allowing the Samoan to put wing Tom Isaacs under the sticks less than two minutes after the restart.
Thankfully the white flags were not waved and the visitors struck back immediately when they charged at the Ospreys line before spreading the ball to the right flank for full-back Dan Evans to cross for what was already a consolation try with over half an hour remaining.
Jones knocked over another penalty before a late flurry of tries – unfortunately three for the hosts (Biggar, Dmitri Arhip and Justin Tipuric) to Toby Faletau’s solitary effort for the Dragons.
Next weekend the Rodney Parade region head to the Millennium Stadium and better is required. The double header is named Judgement Day, yet most have already made up their minds about an extremely disappointing season.
Ospreys: R Fussell, T Habberfield (B John 66), J Spratt, A Beck, T Isaacs, D Biggar, K Fotuali’i (R Webb 63), R Bevington (D Jones 69), R Hibbard (S Baldwin 63), A Jones (D Arhip 51), A W Jones (captain, G Stowers 69), I Evans (L Peers 51), J King, J Tipuric, J Thomas.
Scorers: tries – K Fotuali’i, T Habberfield, A Beck, T Isaacs, D Biggar, D Arhip, J Tipuric; conversions – D Biggar (5), M Morgan (2); penalties – D Biggar
Dragons: D Evans, A Hughes (W Harries 60), P Leach, J Dixon, R Wardle, S Jones (H Amos 67), W Evans (J Evans 51), O Evans (P Price 67), S Parry (H Gustafson 48), N Buck (D Way 60), A Coombs, A Jones, D Lydiate (J Groves 40), N Cudd, L Evans (captain, T Faletau 26).
Scorers: tries – D Evans, T Faletau; penalties – S Jones (3)
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Dragons star man: Nic Cudd