Planet Rugby

Ospreys win but do little else

18th October 2008 17:22

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Paul James Ospreys v Perpignan 18/10/2008

Nervy effort: Paul James is felled by Nicolas Mas

The Ospreys may have beaten Perpignan 15-9 in the Heineken Cup on Saturday, but their win at the Liberty Stadium will leave major doubts over their title credentials.

Without both James Hook and Gavin Henson, who was restricted to the bench, they looked devoid of ideas, and had to rely on young fly-half Daniel Biggar's boot to guide them to a unsatisfactory victory.

With Hook withdrawn late on, due to a back spasm, the Ospreys had no other choice than to include the internally banned Henson to their squad - albeit he was not used, stressing the Ospreys are not prepared to accept his behaviour. With no Hook to steady the young heads at the axis of the side, notably Dan Biggar, the home side struggled early on.

Their cause was not helped when Alun-Wyn Jones' indiscipline cost them three points early on, as Jérôme Porical sent over an easy penalty to settle the French nerves. After a messy opening quarter, where both sides struggled to assert any sort of control on the game, Porical added a second penalty.

Perpignan then gifted their hosts an easy three points in return, giving away a penalty from the kick-off. Biggar settled himself to send over a valuable three points. Perpignan then gifted the Ospreys a one-man advantage as Adrien Plante saw yellow for a dangerous tackle on Lee Byrne.

The advantage began to tell instantly, and the Ospreys were unlucky not to score, only for the ball to be knocked out of Tommy Bowe's reach with the line at his mercy. As it was they had to settle for three points, Biggar adding his second when Wayne Barnes called play back for a penalty advantage in the lead up to Bowe's chance.

Once again the lead swung back to Perpignan - thanks to Porical's third penalty - after the Ospreys were caught offside. However, with Paul James flooring Marius Tincu with a big right hook the Ospreys were lucky not to be down to fourteen men permanently. Lucky for James he escaped punishment here, but he can expect a lengthy ban if hauled before the citing commissioner.

A second yellow card sent Perpignan deeper into trouble, as Barnes began to lose his patience. Jean-Pierre Perez was the second man in the bin, for a cynical offence that looked like it cost the Ospreys a certain try. Despite one final push the home side were unable to breach the Perpignan line in the closing stages of the first half.

The second half started in horrible fashion for the Ospreys, lending calls for Henson's introduction, as Biggar's re-start sailed out on the full, and from the resulting scrum there was a needless penalty. Ryan Jones and his troops drew a breath of relief as Porical missed his first kick of the game, and set about getting a footing in the game.

But for a greedy Huw Bennett they would have hit the lead, the Welsh hooker failed to utilise a three man over-lap and eventually the Ospreys were held up over the line. The chance was well and truly gone when the ball squirted out of the side of the scrum and Cusiter hacked it clear.

The Ospreys huffed and puffed, but somehow they couldn't blow the house down - and once again had to settle for three points. Another cynical foul, but no yellow card this time, just three points against them thanks to Biggar's third penalty of the game.

Chance after chance began to fall at the Ospreys feet, but once again they were unable to take advantage, settling for a fourth Biggar penalty to hand them a slender lead. Still Sean Holley resisted the temptation to use Henson, keeping faith with Biggar as the game entered a crucial stage.

That decision yielded a further three points with eight minutes to go, as Perpignan again fell foul of Barnes - this time Guillaume Vilaceca heading for the bin - and Biggar slotted his fifth penalty to give his side a six point lead.

Despite a late charge from Perpignan the home side held on, and with control of the ball when the hooter went, were happy to send it deep into the stands and take the four points. It may not have been pretty but as far as the Ospreys are concerned it was all about getting the result, although if they are to push on from here there will need to be a vast improvement before their double date with Treviso.

The Scorers:

For Ospreys:

Pens: Biggar 5

For Perpignan:

Pens: Porical 3

Yellow cards: Plante (Perpignan - 25th minute, dangerous tackle), Perez (Perpignan - 33rd minute - professional foul), Vilaceca (Perpignan - 72nd minute, professional foul)

The Teams:

Ospreys: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 James Hook, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Daniel Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Filo Tiatia, 7 Marty Holah, 6 Ryan Jones (c), 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun-wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Paul James.

Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Ian Gough, 19 Andrew Lloyd, 20 Tom Smith, 21 David Bishop, 22 Jonny Vaughton.

Perpignan: 15 Jérôme Porical, 14 Adrien Plante, 13 Farid Sid, 12 Christophe Manas, 11 Julien Candelon, 10 David Mele, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Jean-Pierre Perez, 6 Gerrie Britz, 5 Rimas Alvarez Kairelis, 4 Olivier Olibeau, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Marius Tincu, 1 Perry Freshwater (c)

Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Kisi Pulu, 18 Guillaume Vilaceca, 19 Bertrand Guiry, 20 Viliami Vaki, 21 Nicolas Durand, 22 Philip Burger.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

Touch judges: David Rose (England), Kevin Stewart (England)

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