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Dragons’ Griffiths heads Guinness PRO12 OPTA rankings

Guinness PRO12 Rugby Editor

29 Nov 2016

©INPHO/Camerasport

Kingsley Jones hailed Newport Gwent Dragons’ ‘breakdown’ masterclass after they downed Edinburgh 27-19 at Rodney Parade, and it is easy to see why as 21-year-old back-row Ollie Griffiths made an astonishing six turnovers.

Scarlets’ Olympic silver medallist James Davies leads the overall standings with 12, but Griffiths managed to treble his previous total and fire himself into fourth overall with an astonishing shift at ruck-time.

Man of the Match Griffiths made 32 metres with ball in hand, while his 15 tackles were invaluable in stemming any Edinburgh go-forward, a lot of which came from Scottish full-back Blair Kinghorn, who made 97 metres – the second highest in Round 9.

Young fly-half Angus O’Brien was also pivotal for Jones’ side, scoring a try and kicking 12 points on his way to a round-leading 17 points that helped Dragons to leapfrog Edinburgh into ninth-place in the Guinness PRO12.

Griffiths also made a joint best three offloads, tied with Edinburgh winger Damien Hoyland and Benetton Treviso’s Marco Barbini who made three in a losing cause against Rassie Erasmus’ powerful table-topping Munster side.

Scarlets No. 10 Rhys Patchell helped Wayne Pivac’s side to upset previous leaders Leinster, pitching in ten points as the West Wales side downed Leo Cullen’s men to move fourth in the Guinness PRO12 table with a 38-29 win at Parc Y Scarlets.

And Jonny McNicholl – making his first Guinness PRO12 appearance since signing from Super Rugby’s Crusaders – made 90 metres and scored a try five minutes into a hugely impressive debut.

Leinster’s rising star Adam Byrne made three clean breaks as the Irish province fought back for a bonus point, though it was not enough to stop fierce provincial rivals Munster usurping them at the league summit.

Connacht reignited their campaign with an 18-7 win over Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground and at the heart of their performance was last year’s Guinness PRO12 player of the year Bundee Aki, the indefatigable centre making 20 carries.

Aki now leads the overall standings on 119, well clear of Dragons’ Ed Jackson in second place. Pat Lam’s side were boosted by a round-high 104 metres from Jake Heenan, though they did have to contend with four clean breaks from Blues’ Tom James and Willis Halaholo beating four defenders.

Table-toppers Munster dominated Benetton Treviso 46-3 at Thomond Park and Tyler Bleyendaal capped a fine individual performance with a round-high two assists that moved him third on the overall list behind Ospreys pair Sam Davies and Josh Matavesi.

Steve Tandy’s Ospreys sided turned in a hugely impressive shift to beat Glasgow Warriors 22-5 for their first win at Scotstoun in eight attempts, with duo Sam Underhill and Sam Parry contributing six turnovers between them.

The Welsh side host Edinburgh at the Liberty Stadium this Friday with a chance to go top if Munster fail to repeat the result of their stunning European Champions Cup triumph over Glasgow Warriors.

Metres Gained

Jake Heenan (Connacht Rugby) – 104m

Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) – 97m

Matthew Morgan (Cardiff Blues) – 96m

Defenders Beaten

Willis Halaholo (Cardiff Blues) – 6

Dan Baker (Ospreys) – 4

Carries

Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby) – 20

Olly Cracknell (Ospreys Rugby) – 17

Ben Toolis (Edinburgh Rugby) – 16

Offloads

Marco Barbini (Benetton Treviso) – 3

Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh Rugby) – 3

Ollie Griffiths (Newport Gwent Dragons) – 3

Breaks

Tom James (Cardiff Blues) – 4

Ronan O’Mahony (Munster Rugby) – 4

Adam Byrne (Leinster Rugby) – 3

Rey Lee-Lo (Cardiff Blues) – 3

Tackles Made

Kristian Dacey (Cardiff Blues) – 21

Lewis Wynne (Glasgow Warriors) – 19

Ed Jackson (Newport Gwent Dragons) – 18

Turnovers won

Ollie Griffiths (Newport Gwent Dragons) – 6

Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff Blues) – 3

Sam Parry (Ospreys Rugby) – 3

Sam Underhill (Ospreys Rugby) – 3

Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby) – 3

Try Assists

Tyler Bleyendaal (Munster Rugby) – 2

Jon Evans (Scarlets) – 2

Tries Scored

Ronan O’Mahony – 2

Andrew Conway – 2

Points Scored

Angus O’Brien (Newport Gwent Dragons) – 17

Rhys Patchell (Scarlets) – 10

Isa Nacewa (Leinster Rugby) – 9

Tyler Bleyendaal (Leinster Rugby) – 9

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