Pro14 Judgement Day: Cardiff Blues 23-26 Ospreys
|Guinness Pro14 Judgement Day: Cardiff Blues v Ospreys|
|Cardiff Blues (20) 23|
|Tries: Anscombe, Smith Pen: Anscombe (2) Cons: Anscombe (2)|
|Ospreys (13) 26|
|Tries: A W Jones, Biggar Cons: Biggar (2) Pens: Biggar (3) Drop goal: Biggar|
Dan Biggar's late drop-goal gave Ospreys victory over Cardiff Blues in their Judgement Day encounter.
Alun Wyn Jones put Ospreys ahead but Blues responded with Gareth Anscombe's superb solo score and a try from Garyn Smith.
That gave Blues a 20-13 lead, which Biggar wiped out after the break as he capitalised on ragged defending.
He and Anscombe then kicked a penalty each before Biggar struck the decisive blow with three minutes left.
It was fitting that the Ospreys fly-half should have the final say, as he and his Wales team-mate Anscombe had enjoyed a fascinating duel in their respective 10 jerseys.
With a European Challenge Cup final on the horizon on 11 May and having already qualified for next season's Champions Cup, the Blues had made 13 changes as they omitted several first-team players.
Ospreys took the fixture's total number of alterations to 27, though that was because they were reverting to their strongest side after resting players for last weekend's defeat at Zebre.
They had won 12 of their previous 13 meetings with the Blues but, with that solitary defeat coming in comprehensive fashion at last year's Judgement Day, they were keen for revenge.
Their returning big hitters set a quick early tempo and, after their collision-hungry wing Jeff Hassler pierced through the Blues' midfield, Jones shrugged off some weak would-be tacklers to score the game's opening try.
The Blues' response was spectacular as Anscombe, one of the few first-teamers retained and restored to fly-half, collected a quickly-taken lineout 40 yards out and danced past several static Ospreys defenders on his way to the line.
Having orchestrated last season's victory over the same opponents, Anscombe was again enjoying himself at 10 with an intelligent display of playmaking, be that running, passing or kicking.
His sense of invention was shared by Steven Shingler, another natural fly-half but on this occasion at inside centre, whose delicate grubber kick set up his midfield partner Smith to cross for the Blues' second try.
That score, coupled with a second Anscombe penalty, gave the Blues a 20-13 half-time lead, though Ospreys started the second period strongly and got their reward when Biggar wriggled his way past some feeble tacklers to touch down under the posts for a try he converted himself.
The shoot-out between Anscombe and Biggar was an illuminating snapshot of an absorbing encounter, with both teams' attacking endeavour matched by the healthy mutual animosity expected in a Welsh derby.
The two fly-halves exchanged another pair of penalties before a sequence of patient Ospreys phases set the platform for Biggar to calmly stroke over the match-winning drop-goal.
Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke said: "We are happy to have won what is an away fixture.
"There is an understandable frustration and elements of the game we need to improve on.
"We were in control at 7-3 but conceded a couple of soft tries with a bit of genius from Gareth Anscombe.
"We controlled the territory in the second-half and it was symbolic of their character and resolve to keep digging in at the end.
"We will prepare now for the Champions Cup play-off match and in the context of our season it will be a cup final."
Cardiff Blues head coach Danny Wilson was full of praise for his team after making 13 changes from the semi-final last week.
"We had a bench full of boys making their debuts.
"To go against a fully-loaded Ospreys side who had a week to prepare and to put in that effort, that kind of commitment has left me feeling very proud of the group.
"Inevitably under that pressure in terms of field position and possession you're going to struggle.
"But some of the defensive work, I'm extremely proud of the group for what they've achieved."
Blues: Matthew Morgan; Aled Summerhill, Garyn Smith, Steven Shingler, Blaine Scully; Gareth Anscombe (c), Lloyd Williams; Rhys Gill, Kirby Myhill, Taufa'ao Filise, Damian Welch, James Down, Macauley Cook, Olly Robinson, Josh Turnbull
Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Brad Thyer, Dillon Lewis, Ben Murphy, Alun Lawrence, Lewis Jones, Harri Millard, Max Llewellyn.
Ospreys: Dan Evans; Jeff Hassler, Kieron Fonotia, Owen Watkin, Hanno Dirksen; Dan Biggar, Tom Habberfield; Nicky Smith, Scott Otten, Dmitri Arhip, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Sam Cross, Justin Tipuric, James King
Replacements: Ifan Phillips, Rhodri Jones, Ma'afu Fia, Adam Beard, Giorgi Nemsadze, Reuben Morgan-Williams, Sam Davies, Ashley Beck.
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)
Assistants: Dan Jones, Shane Kierans
TMO: Neil Hennessey