The Wales star who just handed Wayne Pivac a timely lift and the words that should encourage every Dragons fan

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If George North’s early sending off for a dangerous challenge on Ashton Hewitt damaged the Ospreys v Dragons match as a spectacle, there were still no end of talking points from an encounter that ended in a 20-20 draw.

There was no malice in North’s challenge. But it was a bad misjudgement and it could have resulted in a serious injury. The card had to be a red.

Played in front of the Wales selectors, it was a game when both coaches had cause for mixed feelings, with a returning scrum-half especially likely to have impressed Wayne Pivac...

WEBB MASTER

Adversity can do different things to different people.

It can buckle the weak, but when the strong encounter it, they can shift mountains.

And so to Rhys Webb playing for the Ospreys against the Dragons.

There are Martians who might have heard that not everything has gone especially well for Webb over the past 30 months. He finished off his first spell with the Ospreys prematurely because of injury, then he went to France for a stay with Toulon that ended early because his family had returned home and the Wales international understandably wanted to be with them.

In between, he missed a Rugby World Cup.

His fortune had started to assume the dimensions of that which afflicted the man who bought a box of After Eights — and died at quarter-past seven.

The Wales star who just handed Wayne Pivac a timely lift and the words that should encourage every Dragons fan epaper 第1张Rhys Webb bossed matters for the Ospreys against the Dragons (Image: Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans Agency)

There were some who’d begun to wonder whether he could ever be the same player again, with the thinking being injuries and time out of the game, and particularly the international game, had sapped much of his potency.

Evidently, no one told Webb about such matters.

His importance to the Ospreys against the Dragons was such that they would have lost had they pretty much anyone else at scrum-half. When the Liberty team needed someone to boss matters behind the scrum after North’s 14th-minute indiscretion, up stepped the returnee from France via Bath.

He had a hand in both of the home tries and kicked superbly out of hand, with a variety of box kicks winning ground for his side and one diagonal effort arrowing 50 metres across field and into touch.

There was also a lovely back-of-the-hand offload and rapid linespeed throughout, on one occasion allowing him to snare Nick Tompkins.

The Dragons would have wanted to stretch the depleted hosts, but Webb and his half-back partner were having none of it.

“Credit to Webb and Stephen Myler, they shut the game down so that it went into a kicking contest that we need to be better at,” reflected Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan.

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There was confidence from Webb which never wavered.

Considering it was a first hit-out in five months, his was a hugely encouraging performance that would have pleased Wayne Pivac, a day after Wales’ coach watched Gareth Davies and Tomos Williams pick up injuries in the Scarlets v Cardiff Blues game.

Webb seemed to relish the against-the-odds challenge his side faced when one man down.

In truth, he is the type of bloke who would have fancied his chances of fighting his way out of the Battle of Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull or no Sitting Bull.

The thing is, others take a cue from such belief.

And the good news for Ospreys head coach Toby Booth and Pivac is that the 31-year-old will get better the more rugby he plays.

It was good to see him back.

And good to see the time away had done nothing to dent his swagger.

NO CHAMPAGNE

After so long in the doldrums, the Dragons could have been forgiven for seeing it as cause for cheer.

Their draw against the Ospreys in Swansea meant they cannot now finish the campaign as the bottom-placed Welsh region. That particular fate would be the lot of the Liberty team.

The Dragons’ specialist among the media contingent present in Swansea confirmed it’s the first time in five years for the Rodney Paraders to avoid that fate and only the fifth time in 17 seasons for them not to prop up the other regions.

A glass of champagne, then?

No.

Not even a small one?

Not for director of rugby Dean Ryan

The Wales star who just handed Wayne Pivac a timely lift and the words that should encourage every Dragons fan epaper 第4张Dragons head coach Dean Ryan (Image: Getty Images)

He is not a man for celebrating trifles and when asked if it was nice to finish above the Ospreys in the Conference A table his reply was short and to the point.

“I am not interested,” he said.

“I am just interested in us getting better.

“The Ospreys had some real challenges last year, so that (finishing above them in Conference A) doesn’t mean anything.

“When I first came to the Dragons, people said ‘if you win four games…’, but if five teams play really badly against us then what does that mean?

“It’s about us getting better, it’s about us being more competitive, it’s about us looking at how far we can travel as a group.

“Referencing against other people just doesn’t do anything for me.”

Feet on the ground, no messing, the journey continues.

Dragons followers should be encouraged.

TOP TIPS AND A YOUNGSTER WITH PROMISE

If Webb responded the right way to the Ospreys’ plight after North received his marching orders, so did, just a bit predictably, Justin Tipuric.

There were two high-quality possession steals, one near his own line, and some outstanding defensive work as the Dragons scented victory.

It was leadership by example from the Ospreys skipper.

The official man of the match was young centre Kieran Williams.

He needs to work on his defence, but if you want a wall knocking down and don’t have a crane and a wrecking ball to do the job, it might be useful to have Williams’ number on speed dial.

The power he generates from a standing start is something to behold and he invariably crashes over the gainline.

He has been compared with Scott Gibbs and his next challenge is to take a few tips from Gibbs’ defensive playbook. Do that and he could really go places.

A HEAVYWEIGHT CONTEST

Anyone wishing to enjoy a long and prosperous stay on this earth probably shouldn’t consider going head to head with Ross Moriarty.

The price Argentina’s fly-half Nicolas Sanchez paid for pursuing such a course a couple of years ago was to be acquainted with the Moriarty chokehold, a not altogeher dream-like experience which left the Puma shaken and more than a bit stirred.

Evidently, Dewi Lake hadn’t been watching, for he got into a tangle with the Dragons man. It stared with a seemingly harmless exchange on the floor which quickly threatened to escalate into something altogether more lively.

The Wales star who just handed Wayne Pivac a timely lift and the words that should encourage every Dragons fan epaper 第5张Dewi Lake takes on the Dragons' defence (Image: Ben Evans/Huw Evans Agency)

Even after the referee stepped in, words continued to be exchanged, with Lake, who gave it a real shot after coming off the bench at hooker, showing no sign of backing down.

The youngster has guts, something which his coach Toby Booth would have noted.

Moriarty had a strong game, too, with Ashton Hewitt, Jack Dixon and Ben Fry also doing well for the Dragons. There wasn’t much that was flashy about Fry’s game but a second watch of the match confirmed he had waded through a huge amount of work, tackling himself to a standstill.

He looks one to watch out for.

AND, FINALLY...

A word about referee Adam Jones, who was making his PRO14 debut.

He had a big decision to make on George North but he calmly reviewed the incident on the big screen, which confirmed that the Ospreys wing had dangerously taken out Ashton Hewitt in the air, and made the right call — no dramas.

The new boy also did a decent job of controlling the breakdown under this season’s fresh directives.

There was an authority about him. “I thought he did really well for his first outing,” said Ospreys coach Toby Booth.

“He’ll look at his game as do the players and I’m sure he’ll want to put his best foot forward, but I thought he was consistent.

“For a coach, that’s all you can ask for.”

In case Jones is in any doubt, in coach-speak, that’s a compliment.

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