Spice puts Ospreys on edge of glory

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The Independent Online

The amalgamation of Neath and Swansea always seemed an unlikely and probably unhappy project when Welsh rugby decided to rationalise itself a couple of years ago. The two old clubs were always, to put it lightly, the best of enemies. "It'll never work!" the throng of Welsh supporters, never particularly low on Jonahs, nay-sayers, pessimists and eyeores even in times like this, sang, sonorously, as one.

The amalgamation of Neath and Swansea always seemed an unlikely and probably unhappy project when Welsh rugby decided to rationalise itself a couple of years ago. The two old clubs were always, to put it lightly, the best of enemies. "It'll never work!" the throng of Welsh supporters, never particularly low on Jonahs, nay-sayers, pessimists and eyeores even in times like this, sang, sonorously, as one.

But with perfect perversity, in a season when nothing in the Principality has been as it should be, it has worked. Friday night's 30-0 win over the Newport-Gwent Dragons put the Ospreys within one win of the Celtic League title.

Two tries from the scrum-half Jason Spice - tellingly, with a host of Ospreys away playing some match or other with the Welsh national team, a Kiwi - one from Adrian Durston and another from Richard Mustoe did for an alarmingly limp bunch of Dragons, and left the Ospreys needing only a win over Edinburgh next week to wrap up the title. Seeing as beating Edinburgh is about as easy as appropriating mars bars from a partially fractious toddler - and probably even easier than that at the Gnoll, the old Neath stronghold - it looks like it's party time in Neath-Swansea. Wherever that is. Roll on next season, a new stadium at Morfa and a promised, serious tilt at the Heineken Cup.

There was one blow for the Welsh on Friday, their women's side losing 11-6 at home to Ireland in one of the parallel Six Nations tournaments to the main event. The Under-21s did a Grand Slam, though, in another.

In Hong Kong yesterday a 12-7 win over Samoa put England into the quarter-finals of the World Cup Sevens, thanks to tries from Ugo Monye and Simon Amor. In the last eight today Mike Friday's team face Scotland, who were unbeaten until their final pool game against New Zealand - which they lost 48-0. The other quarter-finals pair New Zealand and France, South Africa and Australia and Fiji and Argentina.

Wales are not competing, thanks to financial constraints. Ireland, on the other hand, are marooned in the short game's version of Sunday morning at the Croydon branch of IKEA, and face a scrap over the Plate with the Samoans. At least they have avoided the ignominy of fighting to avoid the wooden spoon in the Bowl. It all makes sense if you're there.

In the Super 12, the New South Wales Waratahs beat South Africa's Stormers 25-10 in Sydney to keep up their perfect start to the competition. The Crusaders, perennial finalists, hammered their New Zealand rivals the Blues 41-19 and the Bulls, from South Africa, pulled off a surprise with a 21-12 win in Wellington against the Hurricanes.

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