Pro12 round-up: Tipuric helps Ospreys take back second spot
Welsh side respond to Munster and Leinster wins, as Scarlets enjoy derby spoils
Justin Tipuric scores for the Ospreys against the Dragons. Photograph: Camerasport
The Ospreys moved back up to second in the Guinness Pro12 by running out 10-0 winners against Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade. The West Walians started 2017 with a victory thanks to a try by Wales flanker Justin Tipuric and five points from the boot of international team-mate Dan Biggar.
The Dragons headed into the game in 10th place and on a run of five straight wins in all competitions in Newport but couldn’t cause an upset despite the tricky conditions being something of a leveller.
The Ospreys responded after leaders Munster and Leinster enjoyed New Year’s Eve derby wins against Connacht and Ulster respectively. The game had to pass a pitch inspection with visiting head coach Steve Tandy clearly unhappy at it getting the green light.
The four points would give him reason to smile at him failing to convince referee Ian Davies to call it off. The going was extremely heavy on a surface that had been used 24 hours earlier when Newport County were thumped by Exeter and it was a predictably cagey affair with plenty of kicking.
The Ospreys struck for the only score of a hard-fought first half with Tipuric racing away for a 13th-minute try. The openside was sent clear down the left by scrumhalf Tom Habberfield and fellow backrow forward Olly Cracknell and he had too much pace for the covering Dragons defence.
Biggar converted and the west Walians managed to safely negotiate a period down to 14 men when Habberfield was sin-binned for slapping the ball down at a ruck.
Alun Wyn Jones was a big presence for the Ospreys. It remained 7-0 at the break but the Liberty Stadium side started impressively in the second half and dominated possession and territory. Penalties were kicked to the corner rather than between the posts in a bid to build a commanding lead but the Dragons held firm.
It remained a seven-point game approaching the hour and the Ospreys continued with their tactic to power over rather than go 10 clear, an approach that was hindered by a faltering lineout.
The Dragons had offered precious little threat with ball in hand but O’Brien was wide with a second penalty of the game from long range and Biggar secured the spoils from the tee in the 72nd minute. The hosts went on the charge late on in a bid to salvage a bonus point for their honest toil but the visitors held firm.
Meanwhile, Scarlets held on to celebrate an important 15-10 derby victory over Cardiff Blues at Parc y Scarlets.
Scarlets’ two tries – one in each half – came from Rob Evans and skipper Scott Williams, with Rhys Patchell providing a penalty and a conversion.
Blues, who claimed a losing bonus point, were indebted to a fine try from centre Willis Halaholo in the second half, converted by Steve Shingler, who also kicked an earlier penalty.
The Scarlets welcomed back Wales centre Jonathan Davies but were without fellow international duo Liam Williams and Ken Owens. For Blues, Rhun Williams and Taufa’ao Filise came in as the only changes from their 27-16 win over the Dragons on St Stephen’s Day.
The game came alive after 11 minutes with the only try of the first half. Patchell dummied to kick but instead went on a run and when the ball was recycled from the breakdown, wing Johnny McNicholl put fellow wing Evans through and he dummied his way over. Patchell missed the conversion.
There was a worry for Scarlets and Wales as prop Samson Lee limped off with a calf injury on 16 minutes. The Blues showed their attacking intent with runs from fullback Matthew Morgan and centre Rey Lee-Lo but the visitors gave away a penalty in a good attacking position in the Scarlets 22.
The Blues came again through a break from Shingler and scrumhalf Lloyd Williams but a knock-on snuffed out their momentum. Scarlets increased their lead on the half-hour with a Patchell penalty after Sam Warburton had gone in from the side of a ruck right in front of the posts. But Davies dropped the restart in his 22 and from the resulting scrum Scarlets gave away a penalty which Shingler converted.
Scarlets went close to scoring their second try at the start of the second half when Will Boyde’s kick ahead was missed by Alex Cuthbert and Scott Williams was just stopped from going over.
Patchell missed a long-range penalty after 44 minutes but that was soon forgotten as Scarlets scored another excellent try. Evans went on a 40-metre run and got to the 22-metre line before passing to Davies, who sent fellow centre Scott Williams over.
Patchell converted to extend the home lead to 12 points. Blues responded seven minutes later as Halaholo ran in from close to halfway, dummying his way past fullback Aled Thomas. Shingler converted to cut the Blues advantage to just five points. Thomas missed a 40-metre penalty attempt five minutes from the end and then fluffed a drop-goal attempt.