Ospreys 31-12 Dragons, RaboDirect PRO12
Williams conjures another fairytale farewell
April 20, 2012
Ospreys winger Shane Williams notched a try in the last act of the game and added the conversion himself
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Retiring Ospreys star Shane Williams grabbed a last gasp try in what could be his last appearance at the Liberty Stadium to propel his side to a 31-12 victory over The Dragons on Friday night.
Just as he had done on his international swansong, Williams delivered a dazzling last-gasp try as the Swansea-based region claimed a bonus-point win to confirm their place in the end-of-season play-offs. Wales' record try-scorer could yet, though, be back in action at the ground if the Ospreys can seal a top-two finish with another victory in their final match out in Aironi next weekend.
After a storming start, the home side made hard work of putting away a gutsy Dragons side, scoring four tries in all - two of which were penalty tries from their much-vaunted scrum following Ryan Jones' 20th-minute score. And unless they fall flat on their faces against the league's basement boys next weekend, they look set to be back at the Liberty in the semi-finals.
The hosts' other points tonight all came from the boot of fly-half Dan Biggar, with four penalties from Dragons number 10 Lewis Robling all the visitors could muster. Williams was given a rousing reception by a season's biggest crowd of more than 14,000 at the Liberty and the Ospreys started as if they meant business.
With wing Hanno Dirksen to the fore, they launched an opening onslaught that lasted nearly four minutes until lock Ian Evans knocked on with a try beckoning. A break by flanker Ryan Jones then saw hooker Richard Hibbard denied in the corner as the Dragons continued to soak up attack after attack.
And, as soon as they managed to emerge from the siege, the visitors were first on the scoreboard with a fine long-range penalty from Robling. The Ospreys' response was swift with opposite number Biggar on target after more home pressure, but the Dragons, with barely any possession, were back in front minutes later with Robling adding another three points.
Finally, though, the Ospreys got the try all their intent deserved. Scrum-half Rhys Webb took a quick tap, centre Andrew Bishop cut through only to be brought down inches short, then Ryan Jones sniffed a gap on the blindside to burrow over. Biggar converted brilliantly from the touchline.
It needed a superb try-saving tackle from Aled Brew on Dirksen to deny the Ospreys a second try on the half-hour mark, but the respite was shortlived. From the ensuring five-yard scrum, the Dragons' eight crumbled time and again, prop Nathan Buck was yellow-carded and the inevitable penalty try followed. Biggar's simple conversion made it 17-6 and the Ospreys were in firm control just before the break.
Robling reduced the arrears with his third penalty four minutes after the restart, then the home side found themselves down to 14 men with Biggar yellow-carded for a senseless challenge on Brew as he looked to take a quick penalty. The lead was down to five points on 56 minutes as Robling bisected the uprights again and suddenly the Dragons were sensing an upset.
But their scrum problems continued when replacement prop Dan Way became the third player of the night to be binned, even though Biggar missed with the penalty that followed. The Ospreys were denied their third try when Hibbard was deemed to have made a double movement in the process of scoring, but with the Dragons scrum buckling again, another penalty try followed a minute from time.
With the clock ticking down there seemed little chance for any further scoring, but the script appeared to be written for Williams. He took a pass 35 metres out and cut inside the tiring cover before racing to the posts to finish with a cartwheel flourish. Williams even slotted the conversion to end another memorable night for one of Welsh rugby's all-time greats.
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