Morgan Morris helped drive the Ospreys to the top of the United Rugby Championship Welsh Shield as they secured a bonus-point victory over the Dragons at the Swansea.com Stadium.
The No. 8 who Wales continually overlook scored a try hat-trick and was named a deserved man of the match. But the Dragons never gave up during an encounter in Swansea which featured 11 touchdowns. They led 24-8 after 26 minutes, only for the hosts to rally.
The result sees Toby Booth’s team climb over the Scarlets in the Shield on the strength of games won. The sides have a game each to play, with the Ospreys taking on the Bulls at home a week on Friday and their rivals hosting the Stormers the following day.
Morris’s three-try salvo took the game away from the Dragons at the Swansea.com Stadium. The back-row forward has played consistently well all season without reward in the shape of a Wales call, but he used his strength and opportunism to help bail the Ospreys out of a concerning spot against the Dragons.
There were three turnovers in the second half from Jac Morgan, while Will Reed performed encouragingly on his first start for the visitors and Griffiths and Taine Basham worked hard as well.
For the Ospreys, Reuben Morgan-Williams scored twice to add to Morris’ triple, with Sam Parry and Nicky Smith also crossing. Jared Rosser, Adam Warren, Mesake Doge and Lewis Jones went over for the visitors.
The first half was startling, with the Dragons taking a 16-point lead, only to find themselves trailing 29-24 at the interval. Against the odds, the visitors made the initial running, powering in front with tries from Rosser, Warren and Doge, who was everywhere during the opening stages.
The Ospreys looked more than a bit shell-shocked. Gradually, however, the hosts began to crank up their forward effort with their scrum and driving maul to the fore. Morris went over for his first score from short range and shortly after the impressive Michael Collins surged through the cover to send Morgan-Williams over.
A yellow card for Basham for a ruck infringement allowed Booth’s team to apply further pressure culminating in Morris claiming his second touchdown just before the break.
With the Ospreys winning more ball than at any point and Morgan exerting a growing influence at the breakdown, the hosts began to build pressure. Morris crossed for his third and a Rhys Webb-style effort from close range took Morgan-Williams over, with replacement hooker Parry notching a try after a break down the left from Keelan Giles.
The home front row of Smith, Dewi Lake and Tomas Francis never stopped grafting and much the same typically applied to Alun Wyn Jones, who relished opportunities to run with ball in hand as well as putting in the close-quarters stuff for which he is renowned.
Lewis Jones crossed near the end. By then, the game had long been settled as a contest.
Ospreys: Michael Collins; Alex Cuthbert, George North, Owen Watkin, Keelan Giles; Gareth Anscombe, Rhys Webb (capt); Nicky Smith, Dewi Lake, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Will Griffiths, Jac Morgan, Morgan Morris.
Replacements: Sam Parry, Gareth Thomas, Tom Botha, Bradley Davies, Dan Lydiate, Reuben Morgan Williams, Stephen Myler, Luke Morgan.
Tries: M. Morris (3), R. Morgan-Williams (2), S. Parry, N. Smith.
Cons: G. Anscombe (6).
Pens: G. Anscombe.
Dragons: Jordan Williams; Rio Dyer, Adam Warren, Josh Lewis, Jared Rosser; Will Reed, Gonzalo Bertranou; Aki Seiuli, Taylor Davies, Mesake Doge, Joe Davies, Ben Carter, Harri Keddie (capt), Taine Basham, Ollie Griffiths.
Replacements: James Benjamin, Josh Reynolds, Luke Yendle, Huw Taylor, Ben Fry, Lewis Jones, Sam Davies, Jonah Holmes.
Tries: J. Rosser, M. Doge, A. Warren, L. Jones.
Cons: W. Reed (3), S. Davies.
Pen: W. Reed.