Ospreys will look to keep the pressure on Guinness PRO12 leaders Munster when they travel to Rodney Parade to take on Newport Gwent Dragons on New Year’s Day.
The Ospreys haven’t lost in the Guinness PRO12 since a 33-0 defeat to Munster back at the beginning of November and sit second in the league.
The Dragons meanwhile were beaten by Cardiff Blues on Boxing Day and are tenth in the table with three wins so far in the campaign.
What’s at stake?
Ospreys start the round in second but as they’re the final game they could be third if Leinster defeat Ulster on New Year’s Eve.
The Welsh outfit are currently two points behind Munster so could go top if they win and their rivals don’t pick up a win at Connacht.
Meanwhile the Dragons have just three wins to date and were leapfrogged by Edinburgh after they beat Zebre on New Year’s Eve.
Team news (Newport Gwent Dragons):
Coach Kingsley Jones has made six changes to the team that lost 27-16 to Cardiff Blues on Boxing Day including a whole new front row of Phil Price, Elliot Dee and Brok Harris.
Nick Crosswell joins Cory Hill in the second row while in the backs, Tyler Morgan partners Ashton Hewitt in the centres with Carl Meyer returning to start at full-back.
Team news (Ospreys Rugby):
Paul James will move into second in the Ospreys’ all-time appearance charts with his 210th appearance while Dan Biggar appears for the 196th time for his club.
Young winger Keelan Giles is rested by head coach Steve Tandy who has made eight changes in total. Alun Wyn Jones captains the side from the second row with fellow Wales international Justin Tipuric starting at seven.
Dan Biggar became the first man to score 2000 points in the regional rugby era against the Scarlets and will be looking to add to that tally against the Dragons.
Only Dan Parks is ahead of Biggar in the Guinness PRO12 all-time points list as the fly-half moves another step closer to his 200th appearance for the club.
Lions contenders: Dan Biggar, Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric
Newport Gwent Dragons: Carl Meyer, Pat Howard, Tyler Morgan, Sam Beard, Ashton Hewitt, Angus O’Brien, Tavis Knoyle; Phil Price, Elliot Dee, Brok Harris, Nick Crosswell, Cory Hill, Lewis Evans (c), Ollie Griffiths, Ed Jackson.
Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Sam Hobbs, Lloyd Fairbrother, Matthew Screech, Rynard Landman, Sarel Pretorius, Dorian Jones, Adam Warren.
Top Points Scorer: Angus O’Brien 63pts. Top Try Scorer: Pat Howard 4.
Ospreys Rugby: Sam Davies, Dafydd Howells, Kieron Fonotia, Josh Matavesi, Dan Evans, Dan Biggar, Tom Habberfield, Paul James, Scott Baldwin, Ma’afu Fia, Lloyd Ashley, Alun Wyn Jones (c), Olly Cracknell, Justin Tipuric, James King.
Replacements: Sam Parry, Nicky Smith, Rhodri Jones, Rory Thornton, Dan Baker, Sam Underhill, Brendon Leonard, Hanno Dirksen.
Top Points Scorer: Sam Davies 62pts. Top Try Scorer: Ben John 5.
TV: Live on BBC Two Wales & BBC Sport website. Kick-off: 17:05 GMT
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 27, Dragons won 9, Ospreys won 18.
At Rodney Parade, 5.05pm Live on BBC WALES
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU, 56th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Simon Rees, Gwyn Morris (both WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Gwyn Bowden (WRU)
TMO: Neil Hennessy (WRU)
Ospreys climbed to second in the Guinness PRO12 table as Justin Tipuric’s first-half try was the difference in an attritional 10-0 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.
With conditions not conducive to running rugby, a Welsh derby that contained more than 100 kicks from hand – with varying levels of success – was essentially decided by Tipuric’s 12th-minute score.
Great combination play from Tom Habberfield and Olly Cracknell enabled the flanker to cross the whitewash, while it took another 60 minutes for the scorers to be troubled again, when Dan Biggar added a late penalty for the visitors.
Angus O’Brien missed two three-pointers for the Dragons as Ospreys did enough to get the victory on the board – seeing them leapfrog Leinster into second, just two points behind league leaders Munster.
A cagey opening saw both teams struggle to get used to the boggy conditions at Rodney Parade with Pat Howard’s interception of Josh Matavesi’s loose pass a rare moment of excitement, only for Matavesi to recover in defence and win the ball back.
And the sole score of the opening period came from the half’s one moment of true quality, on 12 minutes.
Ospreys scrum-half Habberfield made the initial break, squirming out of one tackle and releasing the impressive Cracknell before the former Wales Under-20 international drew the last defender and offloaded to back-row partner Tipuric to canter over.
The try saw the 27-year-old bring up 100 points for Ospreys while his Wales team-mate Biggar – who recently became the first man to score 2000 points in the regional rugby era – slotted the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Habberfield was sin-binned on 17 minutes but the Dragons failed to take advantage of the extra man, while O’Brien also spurned an opportunity to get the hosts on the board by putting a penalty wide of the left-hand upright just after the half-hour mark.
With the conditions causing both sides to consistently opt to put boot on ball, rather than keeping it in hand, the game became a territorial kicking battle.
The second half began with Ospreys twice turning down the chance for points by booting penalties to the corner but the Dragons defence held firm in the face of pressure.
O’Brien had another opportunity to narrow the deficit but his 66th-minute penalty from near halfway drifted agonisingly wide of the right upright.
And on 72 minutes, Biggar gave the visitors an unassailable 10-0 lead by slotting a three-pointer of his own, as, despite late pressure, the Dragons were unable to get anything on the board.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final
02 Jan 2017