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October 03, 2004

The Ospreys 40 - 17 Glasgow Warriors

Celtic League match played at St Helens (Swansea) on Saturday October 2nd 2004 | No comments

Donnie Macfadyen went over for Glasgow's second try
This is the season in which most rugby folk engage in the favoured pastime of "pick your Lions XV".

The man who has that job for real, Clive Woodward, was at Ravenhill in Belfast last week, and saw two particular candidates, who confirmed their established and flowering talents respectively again last evening. They are Shane Williams and Gavin Henson.

The stand-off, who can play with equal ability at full-back or inside centre, was only 19 when he was voted IRB young player of the year, a fairly ridiculous award in terms of making global comparison at that stage of the player's career. It had the unfortunate, maybe inevitable, result of swelling his head and leading to a fall-off in performance. Now he is the genuine article, and having broken into the Welsh team on their summer tour of Argentina, a regular berth awaits, and maybe - if his present rate of progress continues - perhaps even a run-out at Christchurch against the All Blacks next June.

Henson's confidence was illustrated by a penalty goal kicked from inside his own half, and if that was not enough, he attempted a drop-goal at one stage from his own ten-metre line.

And Williams continues to delight all those who want to see room in the modern crash, bang, wallop game for a small, swift, darting player with a cricketer's hands and a desire to seek the open spaces.

On the ground where Gary Sobers once famously struck Malcolm Nash of Glamorgan for six sixes, both teams lined up in calm conditions with a firm surface under foot. Given that it had been a wet week in Wales, that was fairly remarkable.

The home team had plenty of early possession, and adopted the obvious tactics of hitting the ball up close to ruck and maul via their big men. Donnie Macfadyen, a heavily bandaged Cameron Mather and the 18-year-old John Beattie, making his first Celtic league start, had plenty of tackling in the early stages to keep them busy.

An early exchange of penalties between Dan Parks and Henson started the scoring, but wing forward Steve Tandy, on 16 minutes, followed by international centre Sonny Parker, six minutes later, established the Ospreys' dominance with tries.

With half an hour gone, and already a potential winning lead of 15-3, Ospreys were noticeably relaxed and alarm bells were ringing for the visitors. Former Welsh hooker Garin Jenkins enquired at one stage, when Glasgow were under the cosh, whether they would capitulate. But Glasgow's answer was to demonstrate their team spirit by promptly returning to the attack via Parks - who seems to have beefed up a bit over the close season - making a lovely break in front of the home posts. When the pack recycled, Kevin Tkachuk almost forced his way over, before Mather did so, for Parks to add the points. Glasgow were back in the contest at 18-10 just before the interval.

The Ospreys are the form team of this year's competition to date. Hugh Campbell admitted that "our object was to contain and put in a strong defensive performance". He noted that "they have steppers and runners who are outstanding in the offload".

The visitors' containment gameplan was going to be put severely to the test in the second period. A shaky line-out, and occasional problems at the rear of the scrum, meant that the forwards were on the back foot for most of the time, and when Glasgow attempted to move the ball behind their pack, they were continually under pressure.

The home side's lead was extended when Andrew Millward was the last of several forwards to pick and drive on 50 minutes, and, as always when the PA announcer indicates that a popular prop has scored, the crowd raises the decibel level that bit extra.

Jonathan Thomas, a replacement for Brent Cockbain (making his first appearance following the tragic death of his one-year-old son two weeks earlier), then went close after a Henson scissors, but from the resulting scrum, highly promising No.8 Ryan Jones crashed over, demonstrating the power, pace and low-slung athleticism that has experts talking glowingly about him in these parts.

A score of 30-10 with a quarter of an hour to go was not an appealing prospect, but once again the Scots put in a strong finish to the half. While Richard Mustoe and David Bishop scored further tries for the Welshmen, Macfadyen secured one for the Scots.

"We made too many unforced errors, including from kick off, and with penalties missing touch," Campbell conceded afterwards. "Our turnovers and knock-ons when not under pressure put us on the defensive, at a time when we needed to be competent in all aspects."

Report by David Stewart from the Scotland on Sunday

Referee A Lewis (Ireland)
Kevin Tkachuk
Gordon Bulloch
Lee Harrison
Andy Hall
Dan Turner
Cammy Mather
Donnie Macfadyen
John Beattie
Sam Pinder
Dan Parks
Kenny Logan
Andrew Henderson
Andy Craig
Sean Lamont
Scott Barrow
Scott Lawson
Andy Kelly
John Beattie
Andy Wilson
Graeme Beveridge
Calvin Howarth
Rory Kerr
Match Substitutions
Off On
Andy Craig Rory Kerr
Off On
Gordon Bulloch Scott Lawson
Off On
Dan Parks Calvin Howarth
Off On
Cammy Mather Andy Wilson
Off On
Lee Harrison Andy Kelly
Off On
Dan Turner Steve Swindall
Dan Parks Penalty
Cammy Mather Try 
Dan Parks Conversion
Donnie Macfadyen Try 
Calvin Howarth Conversion

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