Planet Rugby

Williams leads the Ospreys to Twickenham

22nd March 2008 19:00

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Sonny Parker looks to get the fend going on Farrell

Flying high: The Ospreys had far too much for a weak Saracens side

The Ospreys ensured the EDF Final would be a repeat of last season's showpiece with a 30-3 victory over Saracens at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Fielding eleven of Wales' Grand Slam winners many thought they would put Saracens to the sword, but with the roof on the stadium open swirling winds and snow made for a dour encounter. Although it was the Welsh contingent in the Ospreys ranks that injected brief moments of excitement into the game early on.

Having witnessed Leicester and Wasps serve up a feast of exciting rugby in the first semi-final the same was hoped of this game, yet with tempers on the boil the game never managed to flow. On several occasions the forwards engaged in needless bouts of handbags.

In fairness to those involved with Wales last week this game may have been something of an anti-climax, the same excuse can not be offered for the rest of the players. A select few players apart this was as ordinary as professional rugby gets for the bulk of the game.

Brent Russell was a constant danger to the Ospreys, it will be a mystery then as to why they insisted on kicking aimlessly to him for the best part of the first half. Sadly for Russell he had little support in attack, instead his good work was often wasted.

Having started the game at a rate of knots, twice crossing the line but twice denied by earlier infringements, the Ospreys soon lost their fizz and after thirty minutes only had a James Hook penalty to show for their efforts. In contrast Saracens never really got going, Brent Russell's darting runs aside they offered little.

It came as little surprise that Shane Williams was the one to spark the game into life on the stroke of half time. Gavin Henson, back to his best, forced the error in midfield with a huge tackle and Williams hacked ahead. With Richard Haughton, Brent Russell and Dan Scarbrough all giving chase it was the little Welsh try-scoring machine who pipped them to the post for the try.

Having stuttered to half time without so much as stringing a meaningful attack together the Ospreys seemed to wake from their slumber in the second half. The forward battle was still tetchy but the Ospreys were getting enough ball to finally turn pressure into points. First over the line was Henson, who handed off a weak Andy Farrell tackle before galloping twenty metres to score.

Having added a conversion and penalty Hook was able to sit back and watch as Filo Tiatia barged his way over within seconds of coming on. Hook duly added the extras and with a quarter of the game still to go the game was as good as over.

Saracens offered some resistance but when Ian Evans kicked ahead for Williams' second try their body language changed and you could see they had accepted defeat. They tried valiantly in the dying stages but with no luck as the Ospreys held on with ease.

The worry for Saracens now is that they take on the same opposition in two weeks time, only next time the stakes will be much higher - a place in the Heineken Cup semi-finals will be on the line. The Ospreys will be a stronger side by then, the fact they left four internationals on the bench suggests they were resting a few players this time out.

As to where Alan Gaffney goes between now and then is a fine question. The answer, whatever it is, will be there for all to see in two weeks. Saracens fans hope that there is a significant improvement on what was on display in Cardiff.

The Ospreys now will take on Leicester in the final, a repeat of last season's final. Last year Leicester won at a canter, so the Ospreys will be looking for revenge, bouyed by their Grand Slam winners.

Man of the Match: For Saracens Brent Russell was the lone light, and therefore it comes as no surprise that this award goes to an Osprey. Several played some fine rugby, Shane Williams included. But it was Gavin Henson who stood above the rest. His defence is simply superb and his attacking game gets better each week. Another polished display from Henson.

Moment of the Match: The game was in the balance until Shane Williams scored his first try. At that stage you knew the Ospreys would go on to win and set up a re-match with Leicester at Twickenham.

Villain of the Match: There were various incidents but nothing that serious. As frustrated as players may have become they did well to keep their fists to themselves.

The Scorers:

For Saracens:

Pen: Jackson

For Ospreys:

Tries: Williams 2, Henson, Tiatia

Cons: Hook 2

Pens: Hook 2

The Teams:

Saracens: 15 Brent Russell, 14 Richard Haughton, 13 Francisco Leonelli, 12 Andy Farrell, 11 Dan Scarbrough, 10 Glen Jackson, 9 Neil de Kock (c), 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Don Barrell, 6 Kris Chesney, 5 Hugh Vyvyan, 4 Chris Jack, 3 Cencus Johnston, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Nick Lloyd.

Replacements: 16 Andy Kyriacou, 17 Cobus Visagie, 18 Tom Ryder, 19 Paul Gustard, 20 Moses Rauluni, 21 Kevin Sorrell, 22 Kameli Ratuvou.

Ospreys: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Johnny Vaughton, 13 Sonny Parker, 12 Gavin Henson, 11 Shane Williams, 10 James Hook, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Ryan Jones (c), 7 Marty Holah, 6 Jonathan Thomas, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn-Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.

Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Lyndon Bateman, 19 Filo Tiatia, 20 Justin Marshall, 21 Daniel Biggar, 22 Andrew Bishop.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

Touch judges: Martin Fox (England), Peter Huckle (England)

TMO: Geoff Warren (England)

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