A delectable Welsh derby weekend sees Dragons make the short trip west to face rivals Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.
After a fortnight’s break, both sides will have had plenty of time to dissect recent defeats in an attempt to put things right in Swansea on Saturday.
What’s at stake?
Put simply: bragging rights.
With the Cardiff Blues also matching up against Scarlets in Round 18, it’s a chance for the four regions to get one up on their foes with a big performance.
For Ospreys, however, there also remains the small question of the Guinness Pro14 Finals Series to consider; a win here would provide quite the boost as they keep up the chase in Conference A.
On the other side of the fence, the Dragons’ away form has left plenty to be desired as of late, and they would love nothing more than to put an end to their hoodoo at the home of their rivals.
Team news (Ospreys) Allen Clarke’s side will be boosted by the return of their Welsh international contingent, riding high after a glorious Grand Slam triumph in the Guinness Six Nations.
While it is too early for influential skipper Alun Wyn Jones – who is set to sign a new deal and stay with the province, but misses this one through injury – Justin Tipuric, Aled Davies and Owen Watkin are all back in action.
Team news (Dragons) The visitors will likewise be glad to see Ross Moriarty and Aaron Wainwright return to the fold as the pair slot straight into the back row.
Exciting young lock Max Williams also gets the nod in the pack for his first Guinness PRO14 start of the season.
Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke: “It’s been a tough couple of months on and off the field, but the boys and management have held firm and remained committed.
“Our last game at home for the season gives us the opportunity to show what we stand for as a team and how much we appreciate the backing of our supporters, friends and families.
“The returning internationals from the magnificent Grand Slam success have given everyone an added boost and confidence. As a squad we know we’re going to have to be at our best in order to achieve our aims”
Dragons head coach Ceri Jones: “We’re all looking forward to the derby and know the challenge we will face down at Ospreys.
“We will need to replicate the physicality we produced when we beat them in December and ensure our accuracy is good then we feel we can get a positive result.
“Having some of our Wales contingent certainly back adds to us and we look forward to seeing them build on recent performances back in a Dragons jersey.”
Key battle – the back row
With such firepower in action for both provinces, the back of the pack seems the place to be.
Justin Tipuric captains the hosts at flanker, with Ross Moriarty and Aaron Wainwright driving things for the Dragons; it’s a match-up that could well decide where this match is won and lost.
Key stat: Dragons have already beaten Ospreys in Round 12 this season but have not achieved the double over them since 2010/11, on the only previous occasion they were victorious at Liberty Stadium.
Did you know? Ospreys lost to Munster 19-13 in their most recent Guinness PRO14 fixture at Liberty Stadium but have not lost successive matches at the venue in the tournament since October 2017, when Scarlets became the latest Welsh region to win at the venue.
Ospreys: Dan Evans, Hanno Dirksen, Cory Allen, Owen Watkin, Keelan Giles, Luke Price, Aled Davies; Nicky Smith, Scott Baldwin, Tom Botha, Adam Beard, Bradley Davies, Olly Cracknell, Justin Tipuric (c), James King
Replacements: Scott Otten, Jordan Lay, Ma’afu Fia, Lloyd Ashley, Sam Cross, Matthew Aubrey, Sam Davies, Luke Morgan
Dragons: Jordan Williams, Jared Rosser, Tyler Morgan, Jarryd Sage, Hallam Amos, Jason Tovey, Rhodri Williams; Brok Harris, Richard Hibbard (c), Leon Brown, Max Williams, Matthew Screech, Aaron Wainwright, Taine Basham, Ross Moriarty
Replacements: Rhys Lawrence, Josh Reynolds, Lloyd Fairbrother, Joe Davies, Lennon Greggains, Tavis Knoyle, Josh Lewis, Dafydd Howells
TV: At Liberty Stadium, Swansea, 3pm. Live on Premier Sports 1 and eir Sport
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 175th competition game), Assistant Referees: Ian Davies, Craig Evans (both WRU), TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU), Citing Commissioner: Paul Thomas (WRU)
An incredible four-try showing from full-back Dan Evans led Ospreys to a comeback triumph and denied Dragons a first Guinness PRO14 away win in four years.
March 2015 was the last time Dragons won on the road in the competition but looked in position to break that streak as interception scores from Rhodri Williams and Hallam Amos had them 17-10 to the good at the break.
But Evans ran in three tries in the second half, to add to the one he crossed for in the first 40 minutes, to hand Ospreys a hard-fought victory that ends a run of six straight defeats in all competitions.
The hosts have not lost to a fellow Welsh region at the Liberty Stadium since October 2017 but Dragons’ hunt for a first Guinness PRO14 victory of 2019 goes on.
Ospreys got off to a flying start as Bradley Davies broke and offloaded for Justin Tipuric to run in under the posts, only for the try to be disallowed for a forward pass.
Dragons’ reprieve didn’t last long though as just two minutes later, quick hands from Cory Allen to Evans enabled the full-back to dive over and Luke Price’s conversion made it 7-0.
But then the Dragons fought back in style. Firstly, Williams intercepted a long, raking pass from his opposite number Aled Davies deep inside his own 22 and had just enough gas to go the length of the field and touch down.
After Price put a kickable penalty wide, Jason Tovey showed him how it was done by slotting a three-pointer and became the first Dragons player to reach the 1000-point milestone before they moved 17-7 ahead on 32 minutes.
It was another interception, as Welsh winger Amos picked off Owen Watkin’s flick inside to speed over down the left and although Price narrowed the gap to 17-10 at half-time, the visitors still looked well-placed to record a first away Guinness PRO14 victory since winning in Treviso back in March 2015.
But Ospreys turned things round after the break with Evans running riot and showing his incredible finishing ability.
First he took advantage of an overlap to scoot over in the corner on 42 minutes and although Tovey then slotted another penalty, Evans completed his hat-trick by crashing on to a pop pass from Price – slicing through the Dragons defence and dotting down.
Price’s conversion made it 22-20 and Evans soon claimed his fourth try, moving the lead beyond one score, as Allen’s pass was almost intercepted but instead the full-back gathered and showed his power to stretch out for the score.
And despite their best efforts, Dragons were unable to close the 29-20 deficit as they left the Liberty Stadium without so much as a losing bonus point.