Report: Welsh Regional Christmas Derbies

AS IS TRADITION now, the Welsh regions faced off against one and other over the Christmas/Boxing Day period. Illtud Dafydd reports on a Dragons win in Cardiff, and the Ospreys beating their West Wales rivals the Scarlets at the Liberty Stadium. The return fixtures will be played on New Year’s Day and Saturday January the third.

Cardiff Blues 17- 23 The Dragons

Both teams entered the Boxing Day fixture desperate for a league win, both teams languishing towards the bottom end of the Guinness Pro12 table with the lucrative sixth spot in in the table that claims a place in next seasons European Champions Cup over a 10-point  distance away. The Arms Park was soaked, with both players and supporters drenched in festive rain even before kick-off as over 10,000 fans ventured in the wet weather to the ground. In quite an open first half with both sides attempting to play some rugby, helped by the artificial pitch underfoot it was the away side that got the upper-hand. Lyn Jones’ side pinning their hosts back with some intelligent kicking through Tom Prydie, Hallam Amos and the former Cardiff Blue, Jason Tovey. Elliott Dee crossed for the Men of Gwent, as Gareth Davies missed a rather simple penalty goal and the Dragons were 13-3 up at half-time.

Dee’s first half try came from a rolling maul, and so did his side’s second touchdown (a penalty try) as the Cardiff Blues were unable to deal with the Dragons heavier forward pack and the away side went 17 points up with half an hour to play. The Blues’ coach, Mark Hammett had picked three flankers in his back-row in Josh Turnbull, Ellis Jenkins and Josh Navidi as a number eight, a decision that resulted in the home side lacking weight in the pack and a clear lack of ball-carrying ability until Manoa Vosawai was brought on for youngster Jenkins with 25 minutes to go. Tavis Knoyle was brought on for Lewis Jones, and his loud voice behind Vosawai changed the capital city side’s fortune with the score coming to 17-20 with 10 minutes to play as Gareth Anscombe, on for Gareth Davies slotted two conversions. Tom Prydie added to his tally with a second penalty which claimed the victory and the Dragons are now only two points behind the Blues in the Pro12 table. Both teams have only 3 wins each from their opening 11 league fixtures.

The Ospreys 17-15 The Scarlets

Under similarly wet conditions at the Liberty Stadium the following day Wayne Pivac’s Scarlets crossed Loughor Bridge to Swansea looking for their first win at the Liberty Stadium since September 2007. The away team started well through a Rhys Priestland penalty, but within minutes former Ospreys and now Sacrlets back-three, Kristian Phillips was sent to the sin-bin for a late, reckless tip-tackle on former Scarlets now Ospreys back-three Dan Evans. The Ospreys took control of the first half, despite being under pressure at the scrum, the home side held on to possession well and were awarded with two tries before the break. The second Ospreys try coming through Wales international Dan Lydiate who was making his first start for the Ospreys since joining from Racing-Metro mid-season and Dan Biggar adding the points. His rival in the outside-half jersey, Rhys Priestland had been replaced by Steven Shingler earlier in the half as he was suffering from a back injury.

The Second half was to be similar to the first, but the Scarlets were the side with the majority of the ball possession. A Steven Shingler penalty goal made it a two-point game with a quarter of an hour left of play which made for an exciting finish to an entertaining fixture. The Scarlets couldn’t find score those elusive points to claim the win, mainly due to the lack of quality in the backline with Scott Williams out injured and Hadleigh Parkes, a recent acquisition from Auckland Rugby deputising for him and Liam Williams being restricted to narrow spaces as the Ospreys defence held strong. The home side reclaimed top spot in the league from the Glasgow Warriors and travel to Llanelli on Saturday January the 3rd with the home side looking for revenge, but also to keep up with Connacht who are in 6th spot, four points ahead.

Other Pro12 results:

Munster 28-12 Leinster

Ulster 13-10 Connacht

Glasgow Warriors 16-6 Edinburgh

Zebre 16- 26 Treviso