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