Morgan Morris Ospreys

SWANSEA WALES - MAY 18: Morgan Morris of Ospreys breaks on the attack during the United Rugby Championship match between the Ospreys and Dragons RFC at the Stadium on May 18, 2024 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Ospreys’ Morgan Morris Impresses Most Watchers . . . Except Warren Gatland

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By Simon Thomas

When two greats of the Welsh game like Shane Williams and Justin Tipuric describe a player as “superb” and “amazing”, that’s praise indeed.

Those were their plaudits for the Ospreys No 8 Morgan Morris after he produced yet another Man of the Match performance in his team’s 26-13 victory over the Dragons in Swansea.

Morris has arguably been the most consistent player in Welsh rugby over the last three or four seasons, but he remains uncapped having not received a call up to the national squad.

His skipper Tipuric, who knows a thing or two about back row play, can’t speak highly enough of him, saying: “He has been amazing for years and years now. He is just class.”

Wales wing legend Williams was commentating on the derby for Premier Sports and spoke in glowing terms about Morris’ perseverance.

“He’s just been superb,” he said.

“He hasn’t been selected in the Welsh team. It looks like Warren Gatland is not interested at the moment.

“But what I like about him is the fact he still keeps his head up, keeps working hard in training week-in, week-out and keeps getting the performances.

“It’s the only way you can prove a coach wrong and you’ve got to be proud of the fact he’s doing that. He’s been great.”

Adding his thoughts on Morris’ international chances, Ospreys coach Toby Booth said: “We feel he is getting closer all the time and that’s down to the work he has put in.

“He’s got physically fitter and we are starting to see the fruits of his labour. We are starting to see visibility on both sides of the ball.

“If he is not putting the red shirt on, he is putting the white shirt on and we know what he is going to deliver.”

Morris was a rampaging presence with ball in hand against the Dragons, while he also showed his skill-set with a magnificent offload to send scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams over just before the break.

That score came in between a brace of tries for Wales hooker Dewi Lake, with centre Keiran Williams clinching the all-important bonus point by touching down near the hour mark.

It’s a result that keeps alive the eleventh-placed Ospreys’ mathematical hopes of making the play-offs.

They must now claim another bonus point victory – against Cardiff Rugby on Judgement Day – and hope results go their way elsewhere.

The win over the Dragons also means they have clinched the Welsh Shield, which is based on league matches between the four regions.

Reflecting on the game, Booth said: “We are happy. You can’t get more than five points and that was the main thing. We scored some nice tries and our set-piece was dominant. It goes into the final weekend now.”

Indiscipline cost the Dragons dear as they leaked three tries during the sin bin period following yellow cards for Aaron Wainwright and Dane Blacker, while they conceded 20 penalties in all.

Their head coach Dai Flanagan said: “We couldn’t get a foothold in the game. We got frustrated and dived in and gave penalties away which put them back in areas where they were stronger. We went down to 13 men and there was a massive momentum swing. Hopefully we will learn lessons.”

As for the two other Welsh sides, they both recorded bonus point victories away from home.

The Scarlets beat Zebre Parma 32-18 out in Italy with scrum-half Gareth Davies touching down twice to become just the second Welshman – after club colleague Steff Evans – to score 50 league tries.

Player of the Match Davies said: “It’s good to get the win. It’s a tough place to come.

“We knew Zebre were going to come out all guns blazing and they really did challenge us in the first 20 minutes, but I thought we got together and managed the game well and came away with a good win.

“We have had a tough old season, so it’s nice to have a good win out here and hopefully it will give us a bit of momentum going into the last game of the season.”

Completing one of the best weekends of the campaign for the Welsh regions, Cardiff defeated the Hollywoodbets Sharks 36-14 in Durban to end a ten-match losing run in all competitions.

Skipper Liam Belcher declared: “We needed that. We hadn’t had a win since Boxing Day.

“It’s been tough-going with results, losing in the last minute and stuff like that. It was a big effort from the squad.”

The Player of the Match award went to Ben Thomas who moved from his regular centre berth to start at fly-half.

Giving his thoughts on the win, he said: “It’s very pleasing. We needed that performance. We’ve had a lot of games where we’ve run teams close and not come away with the result.

“It was a good performance and the result was huge for us.

“We will go into the Judgement Day derby against the Ospreys now and really give it a go.”

What’s coming next?

And then there was one – just one more round to go, but with so much still to play for.

All will be resolved in a fortnight’s time when calculators will need to be at the ready.

The top three sides are all involved in derbies. New league leaders Munster host Ulster in Limerick, the second-placed Bulls travel to Durban to take on the Sharks and Leinster entertain Connacht.

Glasgow, now down in fourth, will look to apply the pressure as they have a Friday night game at home to bottom-of-the-table Zebre.

Elsewhere, there’s a huge encounter in terms of the play-off race as Benetton and Edinburgh – locked on 49 points in eighth and seventh respectively – meet in Treviso.

The Lions, who are also on 49, are away to fellow South Africans the Stormers in Cape Town.

There are two further derbies in Wales, with the Cardiff City Stadium the setting for a Judgement Day double header.

First up, it will be the Dragons against the Scarlets. Then the Ospreys will be hoping to be in a position to secure a play-off spot by claiming maximum points against Cardiff, a scenario that hinges on other results earlier in the day.

Before all that, two URC sides will be involved in next weekend’s EPCR finals at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Leinster take on Toulouse in a mouth-watering Champions Cup showpiece, while the Sharks face Gloucester in the Challenge Cup final, knowing victory will see them qualify for next season’s Champions Cup instead of whoever finishes eighth in the URC.

Now that would add yet another twist to the tale on the final weekend of the regular league season!

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