DAN’S DE­LIGHT, LEAD­ING FROM THE FRONT AND IT’S AGONY FOR WINGER

Wales On Sunday - - SPORT SUNDAY - SI­MON THOMAS Rugby correspondent si­mon.thomas@waleson­line.co.uk

THE Ospreys fi­nally brought their seven-match los­ing streak to an end as they claimed a 28-14 bonus-point vic­tory over the Dragons at the Lib­erty Sta­dium.

We as­sess how the as­sorted Wales squad mem­bers on duty fared and the other is­sues from the derby en­counter.

CAP­TAIN FAN­TAS­TIC

EAR­LIER this week, War­ren Gat­land re­vealed how he’d spo­ken to Alun Wyn Jones to see if he was in the right frame of mind to con­tin­ues as Wales cap­tain.

As the Kiwi coach ac­knowl­edged, there’s a pres­sure that goes with the role, while Jones al­ready has the Ospreys arm band and plenty go­ing on in his life away from rugby, what with build­ing a new house and his wife be­ing preg­nant.

Gat­land said he wouldn’t have had a prob­lem if the Lions sec­ond row pre­ferred to focus on his own per­for­mance and let some­one else take the reins, such as Ken Owens or Jonathan Davies.

But Jones wanted to do the job and it’s clearly not weigh­ing heav­ily on him given his dis­play in last night’s derby clash with the Dragons.

Re­spon­si­bil­ity is an in­spi­ra­tion rather than a bur­den for the man who has cap­tained the Ospreys more than 100 times since tak­ing the helm in 2010.

Once again, he led by ex­am­ple, mak­ing 14 car­ries and 10 tack­les, while the slight de­lay in his pass was cru­cial in cre­at­ing the over­lap that al­lowed Sam Parry to cross out wide.

Jones is now 32, but there are no signs of his pow­ers wan­ing and his coach Steve Tandy could hardly have been more ful­some in his praise for the big man after the game.

“He has been phe­nom­e­nal in fair­ness to him. The way he is lead­ing the team is just un­be­liev­able,” he said.

“He’s a British Lion, but he gets bet­ter. It’s hard to imag­ine, but he does get bet­ter, with the time and ef­fort he puts in on and off the field. There’s no stone un­turned with him.

“He car­ries the bur­den around los­ing games, prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit too much, but that shows what an un­be­liev­able Os­prey he is. He is some player on and off the field.”

Some player in­deed.

DAN’S THE MAN

IT wasn’t just Gavin Hen­son that Dan Big­gar was com­pet­ing with last night in a No.10 bat­tle.

He also has Rhys Pri­est­land hov­er­ing over his shoul­der, with the Bath man back in the Wales squad and push­ing hard for the fly-half berth for the au­tumn opener against Aus­tralia.

So, Big­gar would have been keen to send out a state­ment in this derby clash be­fore head­ing into the Wales camp and that he did.

Play­ing against Hen­son for the first time, he got the bet­ter of the Dragons vet­eran, win­ning their in­di­vid­ual duel.

The key one-on-one mo­ment came mid­way through the first half, when Big­gar checked his op­po­site num­ber with a half step in­side be­fore go­ing around him on an arc­ing run to touch down in the cor­ner.

He con­tin­ued to drive his team for­ward, build­ing up the pres­sure with a se­ries of penalty kicks into the cor­ner, which cul­mi­nated in the line-out drive try from Bren­don Leonard that took them clear in the fi­nal quar­ter.

And it was his de­ter­mined route one carry that paved the way for Fia go­ing over for the try that sealed both the win and the bonus point after Hen­son had sliced to touch.

Amid a cou­ple of er­rors, the old fella did some nice things on his re­turn to the Lib­erty Sta­dium which he be­strode in an Ospreys jersey for so many years.

But this was BIg­gar’s night as he showed he means to hold on to that Wales No.10 jersey.

HAL­LAM HITS THE HEIGHTS

IT may sur­prise some to learn that Hal­lam Amos is still only 23 given it seems he has been around for such a while now. But then, of course, he did make his re­gional de­but when he was just 17 years and 28 days back in Oc­to­ber 2011.

The tal­ent was there to see from those early days as a teen, but his progress has been ham­pered by in­jury over the past cou­ple of sea­sons.

There have been a cou­ple of lengthy lay-offs with dam­age sus­tained on Wales duty, but hap­pily the 11-times capped med­i­cal stu­dent is now fit and very much fir­ing again.

Play­ing at full-back, he was a threat just about ev­ery time he touched the ball last night, with his pace, his an­gles and his beau­ti­fully bal­anced run­ning.

He made more than twice as many me­tres (189) as any other player on the pitch and was al­ways look­ing to take on the home de­fence.

It’s great to see him performing with such verve and he has to be a strong can­di­date to pro­vide back­three cover on the bench against Aus­tralia with his ver­sa­til­ity and at­tack­ing po­tency.

KEELAN CROCKED

THE sad­dest sight of the night was see­ing Keelan Giles leav­ing the Lib­erty Sta­dium on crutches wear­ing a knee brace.

A year ago, the young winger was the talk of Welsh rugby, hav­ing burst on the scene with a try-scor­ing blitz.

It hasn’t quite hap­pened for him this sea­son amid the Ospreys’ stut­ter­ing start and now it looks as though he faces a lengthy lay-off.

He was hurt as he chased his own chip ahead mid­way through the sec­ond half.

Com­ing across to cover, his op­po­site num­ber Ash­ton He­witt went in feet first at­tempt­ing to clear the ball. But in­stead he col­lided with Giles, whose knee buck­led in hor­rific fash­ion, re­sult­ing in him be­ing stretchered off the pitch.

There was no mal­ice on the part of He­witt, but he was a tad reck­less with his foot­ball-style slid­ing tackle and it re­mains to be seen whether the cit­ing com­mis­sioner will be­come in­volved.

As for Giles, we just wish all the best in his re­cov­ery.

WALES WANNABEES

THERE were a num­ber of Wales’ new guard on dis­play at the Lib­erty Sta­dium.

Two of them – Dragons front row­ers Leon Brown and El­liot Dee – cel­e­brated their call-ups to the au­tumn squad with tries and gen­er­ally im­pressed.

Brown takes some stop­ping with ball in hand, as Sam Davies can tes­tify, hav­ing been bumped out of the way as the prop pow­ered over. But he also does more than his share in de­fence, mak­ing no fewer than 15 tack­les. As for Dee, well he is turn­ing the li­ne­out drive try into a real trade­mark of his, this time peeling away to skid in low and just reach the white­wash, while his work-rate was ex­em­plary as usual.

Dragons skip­per Cory Hill led the way de­fen­sively with 21 tack­les, a phe­nom­e­nal tally for a lock, show­ing his en­gine is in good nick as he heads off on in­ter­na­tional duty.

But Tyler Mor­gan saw his evening cut short by a leg in­jury and one hopes there is no is­sue there as the cen­tre pre­pares to link up with Wales.

In the Ospreys ranks, it was the end of a re­mark­able week for Sam Cross. Hav­ing not even sup­posed to have been in­volved against Sara­cens, the Olympics Sevens star marked his first pro­fes­sional game of 15-a-side rugby with a try-scor­ing per­for­mance that earned him a shock call-up to War­ren Gat­land’s squad.

So, there were a few more eyes on him this week. What is no­tice­able is how of­ten he pops up in the wide chan­nels, while he al­ways looks to keep the ball alive, as you would ex­pect from some­one with such a strong Sevens back­ground.

Owen Watkin had a qui­eter game this week as he works his way back to match fit­ness after such a lengthy lay-off and for him, like Cross, it’s all about learn­ing and de­vel­op­ing over the com­ing weeks in Wales camp.

CROWD CON­CERN

ONE fi­nal point. The at­ten­dance.

Now clearly the Ospreys hadn’t had a great start to the sea­son, los­ing seven games in a row, while the match was live on tele­vi­sion.

But, by any mea­sure, a crowd of just 7,442 for a Welsh derby has to be seen as dis­ap­point­ing. And, be­fore you ask, no, I don’t have the so­lu­tion.

Hal­lam Amos made more me­tres than any player

Alun Wyn Jones was again in in­spi­ra­tional form

Gavin Hen­son, right, leads the ap­plause as Dan Big­gar leaves the field on Fri­day night PIC­TURES: Huw Evans Agency

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