VIDEO: Late score breaks 14-man Ospreys' hearts
PRO14 MATCH REPORT: Ashton Hewitt’s last-gasp try broke 14-man Ospreys’ hearts as Dragons snatched a dramatic 20-20 draw after George North saw red at the Liberty Stadium.
Despite playing 65 minutes with a one-man disadvantage following North’s sending off, Ospreys’ heroic defending looked to have sealed victory only for Hewitt’s try with a minute remaining to remarkably change the final result.
An action-packed opening 15 minutes saw North and Hewitt cross for a try apiece before both wingers were involved in the red-card incident – the Wales international clumsily taking out his opposite number in mid-air, leaving referee Adam Jones, officiating his first Pro14 match, no option but to produce a red card.
Leon Brown’s brilliant, athletic score briefly gave Dragons the lead but the 14 men responded through Sam Parry’s try to lead 20-15 at half-time.
And despite the visitors knocking incessantly on the door throughout the second half, the Ospreys valiantly held firm until the 79th minute when Hewitt crossed in the corner but Sam Davies’ conversion drifted wide to ensure the spoils were shared.
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Veteran flyhalf Stephen Myler – making his Ospreys debut after signing from London Irish – was handed the perfect nerve-settler with a simple third-minute penalty and the Toby Booth era at the Liberty Stadium got even better seven minutes in.
Ospreys’ big-hitters all came to play during the build-up as Alun Wyn Jones produced a great tip pass, Rhys Webb sniped from the base of a ruck and North barged through Hewitt out wide to touch down the try, with Myler expertly slotting the tricky conversion for a 10-0 lead.
The shell-shocked Dragons soon found their feet however and, on 12 minutes, Jack Dixon produced a one-handed offload to Hewitt who slipped through a couple of would-be tackles to scoot over the whitewash.
And the breathless start to the game continued when North was sent off inside the opening quarter of an hour for recklessly taking out Hewitt in the air.
Davies missed the opportunity to level proceedings when his penalty attempt drifted wide but Dragons did take the lead on 26 minutes as tighthead prop
Brown ran a scintillating line to carve through the Ospreys’ defence, showing incredible athleticism to outpace covering defenders and dot down.
But 14-man Ospreys refused to back down as a second Myler penalty and Parry’s score following his perfect support line for the breaking Kieran Williams gave them an advantage, although Davies’ successful three-pointer on the stroke of half-time narrowed the visiting deficit to 20-15.
Dragons squandered a number of promising attacking positions throughout the second half thanks to knock-ons and turnovers with perhaps their most costly coming ten minutes from time when Dafydd Howells lost control of the ball while sliding over the try-line.
Ospreys’ 14 men were producing some heroic defence to repeatedly deny their visitors but the dam eventually burst on 79 minutes when the ball was spread wide and Ellis Shipp’s final pass allowed Hewitt to slide over in the corner.
Davies had the chance to win it but his conversion from tight on the touchline went just wide of the left upright to leave the final score at 20-20.
Player of the Match – Kieran Williams
All four starting centres impressed throughout a scintillating first half as they showed off their contrasting skillsets but Ospreys No.12 Kieran Williams was the most impressive of all.
His hard-running style consistently gave Ospreys front-foot ball which proved vital once they were reduced to 14 men and the Williams was also the architect of Sam Parry’s try – marrying his strength with some neat footwork to make a break that enabled the supporting hooker to score.
Play of the Day
They left it late, almost too late, but Dragons eventually breached the Ospreys defence with Ashton Hewitt’s second try right at the death.
Dean Ryan’s men had spent most of the second half squandering attacking opportunity after attacking opportunity – either from their own sloppiness or their opponents’ brave defending – but they spread the ball wide one last time and Ellis Shipp drew his man before popping a perfect pass for Hewitt to slide over and snatch a draw.
Tries: North, Parry
Cons: Myler 2
Pens: Myler 2
For the Dragons:
Tries: Hewitt 2, Brown
Red card: George North (Ospreys, 13)
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 George North, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Kieran Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 6 Olly Cracknell, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Nicky Thomas, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Will Griffiths, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Josh Thomas, 23 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler.
Dragons: 15 Dafydd Howells, 14 Owen Jenkins, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies (captain), 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Ben Fry, 5 Joe Maksymiw, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Leon Brown, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Brok Harris.
Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Conor Maguire, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Joe Davies, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Arwel Robson, 23 Adam Warren.
Referee: Adam Jones
Assistant referees: Craig Evans, Gwyn Morris
TMO: Sean Brickell