North scores on return in dramatic Ospreys derby defeat

By Sports Desk January 04, 2020

George North opened the scoring for Ospreys on his return from injury on Saturday, but a dramatic finish saw Dragons come out on top in their Pro14 derby clash.

Wales wing North had been out of action since rupturing his hamstring in the Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat to South Africa in October.

He was fit to start and play 79 minutes for struggling Ospreys, yet his eventual departure came amid a thrilling stretch in which Dragons claimed a 25-18 victory.

North dotted down after 19 minutes following Scott Williams' kick and, although Leon Brown responded in style, Ospreys were in control again as Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler scored in the second half.

They remained in front until the 74th minute, but Rio Dyer's try brought Dragons back into the match, and Adam Warren went over with two minutes remaining to settle it.

Defeat leaves Ospreys still bottom of Conference A with just one win in 10 matches.

Fellow strugglers Zebre found some form at home to Cheetahs.

Charlie Walker scored a pair of tries in a 41-13 success, just Zebre's second of the campaign.

At the other end of the table, Leinster equalled their best ever start to a season with a 10th straight win, defeating Connacht 54-7.

Max Deegan and Garry Ringrose each scored twice, with the table-topping Irish province crossing eight times in all in another dominant victory.

Elsewhere, George Horne went over twice and brother Pete also got on the scoresheet as Glasgow Warriors ran in six tries to claim a 38-19 bonus-point win at Benetton.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh took full advantage of Pieter Scholtz's early dismissal to rout Southern Kings 61-13.

Scholtz saw red for contact to the neck in the 13th minute, and Edinburgh, who trailed at that point, scored the first of their nine tries a minute later in a handsome victory.

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    "It's been an amazing inspiration for not just myself but the entire country, and yet another spark for myself as a South African to want to achieve great things," he told Stats Perform.

    "I'm quite close friends with a few players and it's great to see how their lives have changed and the blessings and the sponsors and so on that are coming their way. It's amazing, it's well deserved and it's great."

    Van Niekerk is friends with several key South Africa players, including captain Siya Kolisi, and he is a cousin of Cheslin Kolbe.

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    Van Niekerk recalled: "Thinking back to Cheslin's final try: he's come through so much, moving to France, thinking that he wouldn't make the SA team, and just wanting to go and enjoy his rugby and then getting selected for the World Cup.

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    HIGH - A 2016 GRAND SLAM

    Jones' first tournament was a resounding success as England beat Scotland, crushed Italy and then edged past Ireland and Wales in the Six Nations.

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    Later that year England headed to Jones' homeland for a three-Test series, and the tremendous start continued for the former Wallabies coach.

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    England arrived in Dublin in March 2017 seeking both a second successive Grand Slam and a world-record 19th straight victory.

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    LOW - FIVE-GAME LOSING STREAK

    Fast forward 15 months and things felt very, very different for Jones' side as they lost a fifth game in a row, going down 23-12 to South Africa.

    England had lost the last three games of that year's Six Nations - beaten by Scotland, France and Ireland - before back-to-back defeats at the start of the three-Test series in South Africa.

    "We're a bit like an old car at the moment - you fix one bit and another part breaks down," said Jones, who saw his team round out the tour with a 25-10 victory in Cape Town.

    HIGH - OUSTING THE ALL BLACKS

    No one had beaten New Zealand at a World Cup in a dozen years, yet the back-to-back champions were stunned 19-7 in the 2019 semi-finals.

    It was perhaps the finest performance of the Jones era, Manu Tuilagi's early try setting England on their way to a famous victory over the All Blacks.

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    LOW - FALLING FLAT IN THE FINAL

    A week later England were unable to conjure up another spectacular performance in Japan as South Africa's 32-12 victory meant they took home the Webb Ellis Cup.

    Jones' side were simply not at the races, a raft of handling errors blighting their performance.

    "That's the great thing about rugby; one day you're the best team in the world and the next a team knocks you off," Jones said.

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