Newport Gwent Dragons ended a run of five defeats on the spin as they edged Ospreys 18-14 to record their first LV= Cup win of the season at a wet and windy Rodney Parade.
Steffan Jones kicked six penalties from six attempts as the Dragons held off a spirited performance from their RaboDirect PRO12 rivals – ending Ospreys’ run of seven successive victories against other Welsh regions.
Ospreys scored the only try of the game through Jonathan Thomas and this was added to by nine points from the boot of Mathew Morgan but in the end the sin-binnings of Morgan Allen and scrum-half Rhys Webb proved costly.
Morgan’s boot did earn the visiting side a losing bonus point, however, leaving them four points adrift of Aviva Premiership outfit Northampton Saints in Pool Four with one game to play.
It was a scrappy affair with both sides struggling to find their rhythm as the heavy rain lashed down at Rodney Parade, making it an error-strewn encounter with handling errors throughout.
There was a delay just one minute into the match as Dragons wing Mike Poole received treatment on the field for a leg injury, subsequently leaving on a stretcher and replaced by Dan Evans.
Once play resumed Jones kicked Dragons in front with a penalty from right in front of the posts, awarded after Ospreys strayed offside.
And Jones doubled his tally with another two minutes later as Dragons took the game to the reigning RaboDirect PRO12 champions in the opening stages.
But Ospreys found their stride and mounted a good spell of pressure as they looked for an opening try, but Mathew Morgan missed an opportunity to half the deficit with his fist penalty of the night.
He made no mistake on his second attempt though, slotting from in front of the posts after Dragons No. 8 Ieuan Jones had been yellow-carded for frequent infringements at the breakdown.
But both teams were soon down to 14 men as Jones’ opposite number Allen was sent to the bin on 28 minutes after holding on at the breakdown, and Jones restored the home side’s six-point from the resulting penalty kick from inside the 22.
Allen’s time on the sidelines did little to deter Ospreys and Morgan soon notched another from the kicking tee to bring the score back to 9-6.
And just before Allen returned Morgan wasted no time levelling the scores, finding target from distance after the home side were penalised for not releasing – making the score 9-9 at the break.
The tempo of the match did not improve much as the rain intensified after the break and Jones edged the Dragons back in front with his fourth successful penalty of the evening.
Despite trailing it was Steve Tandy’s side who were enjoying the better spell of possession, but stout Dragons defence initially kept them at bay.
Ospreys kept up the pressure and were rewarded just before the hour mark after a catch-and-drive from a lineout and quick ball gave flanker Jonathan Thomas the chance to power over from close-range.
Morgan was off target with the conversion, however, giving Ospreys a narrow 14-12 lead.
And with 15 minutes remaining Dragons edged back in front, Jones maintaining his 100 per cent record and slotting a penalty from 35 metres.
Ospreys’ hopes of re-taking the lead took a blow in the 68th minute when scrum-half Webb was yellow-carded for clumsy high tackle and flailing arm.
The visiting side were growing visibly frustrated and conceded another penalty inside the 22 for not releasing with seven minutes to play, and Jones continued his perfect night from the kicking tee with a superb effort from a tricky angle to extend the lead to four.
The atmosphere at Rodney Parade was nervy in the closing stages as Ospreys went looking for the decisive try once Webb returned from his spell on the sidelines.
But the home side held firm to record the win to leave Ospreys’ hopes of qualification to the semi-final stages hanging by a thread.