Ospreys rally to beat Toulouse
December 15, 2012
Dan Biggar knocked over 12 points for the Ospreys
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The Ospreys kept their Heineken Cup quarter-final hopes alive with a memorable 17-6 win over Toulouse at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.
Dan Biggar kicked two penalties and a drop goal to give the hosts a 9-6 half-time lead, with a further penalty from the fly-half and an excellent finish from man of the match Eli Walker sealing a famous win. Toulouse's only response came in the form of a penalty and drop goal from Jean-Marc Doussain and their failure to at least pick up a losing bonus point throws Pool Two wide open ahead of next month's deciding fixtures.
The Ospreys will need to beat Leicester and Treviso and hope other results go their way to advance, but today's result will lift the spirits of Wales as a rugby nation. The wretched form of the regions has been bemoaned by many, but the Ospreys thoroughly deserved a success built on a rock-solid defence, exemplified by tireless hooker Richard Hibbard, and the astute play of half-backs Biggar and captain Kahn Fotuali'i.
Biggar had booted them into a third-minute lead before a loose pass from Justin Tipuric halted a promising attacking situation. Toulouse appeared edgy, with Maxime Medard attempting to counter attack when under severe pressure and gifting the hosts possession in the 22.
The Ospreys failed to capitalise but a punishing defensive effort continually forced Toulouse into a plethora of uncharacteristic errors. Biggar doubled the lead with a well-taken drop goal at the end of the opening quarter after another pinpoint up and under from the fly-half had caused panic in the visiting ranks.
The French side's increasing frustration showed when lock Patricio Albacete was sin-binned after using his feet to clear Ian Gough away from a rolling maul. Doussain got Toulouse on the board in the 29th minute after more controlled mauling had put their hosts on the back foot.
The Ospreys twice turned down shots at goal in an effort to make their numerical advantage tell with a try but, after being repelled by some superb Toulouse defence, Biggar was soon asked to step up to make it 9-3. Doussain hit back with a drop goal right on half-time but, with Wales tighthead Adam Jones now on the field for his first appearance since mid-October, the Ospreys remained in the ascendancy during the early stages of the second half.
Toulouse slowly began to work their way into the game and Doussain missed an opportunity to level matters as he struck the post with a penalty, while their anger increased further when a member of the Ospreys staff prevented Medard taking a quick throw. The game then turned decisively in the home side's favour on the hour mark.
Toulouse skipper Jean Boulihou was sin-binned for a high tackle on wing Walker, with Biggar slotting the resulting penalty. Walker, who had looked a constant threat with ball in hand, then escaped some weak tackling down the left-hand touchline to finish off excellent Ospreys build-up play.
Biggar could not add the extras but the Welsh side were brimming with confidence, and only a wonderful cover tackle from Gael Fickou prevented Ashley Beck scoring under the posts after Richard Fussell and Andrew Bishop had got free thanks to the officials missing a blatant forward pass. After their lung-bursting efforts the Ospreys tired as time began to tick down and Toulouse desperately sought a bonus point.
The French pack could not ground the ball after rumbling over the line, while Ross Jones was sin-binned for illegally disrupting the maul. A try looked like it had to come when Luke Burgess led a breakout with several men in support during the final breathless passage of play, but the Australian dallied and the final pass flew into touch as the Ospreys held out to breathe life back into their European campaign.
And backs coach Gruff Rees believes the Ospreys' stunning win offers a "light at the end of the tunnel" to Welsh rugby. "We said we would play to the last in this group regardless of the results. We knew three wins from our last three games might give us a quarter-final place in this competition or the Amlin Challenge Cup," Rees said. "Leicester have snuck a result in Treviso which does not help us, but it puts something on the game at home to them next month.
"We also denied Toulouse a losing bonus point. We felt if they got that today then in the next game they could get to 19 points, which we would have found difficult to surpass, but there is still a bit to play for there. We will just continue to plough on in terms of what we want to achieve.
"We think we offer a light at the end of the tunnel. People are quick to beat up Welsh rugby but we are confident in the future direction of the team. We said after losing in Toulouse last week that we are trying to develop 20-25 players who can compete and achieve in the Ospreys shirt, and this result today shows we can do that and maybe more."
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