Ospreys comeback derails Toulon
January 22, 2011
Ryan Jones was the Ospreys' Man of the Match
© PA Photos
The Ospreys produced a fired-up second-half display to beat Toulon 29-17 at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday, denying the big-spending French side a home-quarter final in the Heineken Cup.
The Welsh region, still smarting after last weekend's disappointing loss to London Irish, recovered from a 14-9 half-time deficit to rack up 20 points in the second period, with Nikki Walker and skipper Alun-Wyn Jones scoring tries and James Hook slotting 10 points from the tee.
Toulon made 14 changes from the side that humbled Munster last weekend and duly missed out on the chance to host a Heineken Cup quarter-final for the first time, although they hit the ground running in Swansea and were quickly two tries to the good as Rory Lamont and Matt Henjak beat some porous defence from the home side.
Wales wing Shane Williams came off the replacements' bench for his first game in 10 weeks in a major boost for Warren Gatland prior to the Six Nations, with the former IRB World Player of the Year setting up Walker for a well-taken try. Gatland was at the ground to see his return and also run the rule over props Craig Mitchell and Duncan Jones before he names his squad on Sunday.
Dan Biggar opened the scoring for the Ospreys with a simple penalty on five minutes, but it was the French outfit who made the most of their possession by scoring two tries in the space of 10 minutes. Scotland fullback Lamont got the first of those as he ran through an attempted tackle by Ryan Jones after a good position had been set up by loose-head Saimone Taumoepeau, who ran out of a ruck unopposed.
Stung by that score, the Ospreys were further stunned when opposition skipper Henjak muscled his way over from short range after good work by the lively No.8 Fotu Auelua. The Ospreys did have their chances, most notably when Walker attempted to feed Richard Fussell down the left, but the region just lacked the necessary clinical edge.
Biggar penalties on 30 and 39 minutes kept the Ospreys in the hunt until Jonny Wilkinson's reliable left boot kicked Toulon into a 17-9 lead shortly after half-time. The Ospreys should have had a try on 50 minutes but Fussell failed to get the ball down in the left corner after a great tackle by Wilkinson - summing up the region's effort to that point.
It took the introduction of Williams to spark the Ospreys into action and just five minutes in to his first game for two months he created Walker's score with a neat scissors pass. Hook's conversion put the Ospreys 19-17 ahead and the centre added a further three points before Jones pounced five minutes from the end to extend the Ospreys' home Heineken Cup winning record to 12 matches - going back to 2005.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The thirst for knowledge has seen coaches break away from the confines of rugby and look to America." Tom Hamilton on the two-way learning process
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside