Williams stars for Ospreys as Tigers show their claws

Shane Williams was one of several Welsh Grand Slam stars who made a triumphant return to the Millennium Stadium as the Neath-Swansea Ospreys secured a second straight Anglo-Welsh Cup final meeting with Leicester after a 30-3 victory over Saracens.

Wing wizard Williams, just a week after scoring a key try in Wales’s 29-12 Grand Slam-clinching win over France, touched down twice more against Saracens in what was a dress rehearsal for next month’s European Cup quarter-final.

In the first of the two semi-finals played on Saturday, Leicester defeated fellow English giants Wasps 34-24.

Williams, the player of the Six Nations and one of nine Wales internationals in the Ospreys line-up, saw his double take his tally to eight tries in his last five games.

“Shane is world-class,” said Ospreys and Wales captain Ryan Jones.

“Shaun Edwards (Wales’s defence coach) calls him a predator, which is a perfect description.

“When Shane gets just half-a-chance, he jumps on it.” But the final scoreline disguised the fact that the Ospreys were only 8-0 ahead at the break.

It wasn’t until the 50th minute, when Wales centre Gavin Henson crossed for the second of the Ospreys’ four tries, that the regional side put real distance between themselves and Saracens.

Replacement back-row Filo Tiatia added a third touchdown before Williams added a second of his own.

Wales outside-half James Hook kicked two conversions and two penalties to set-up an April 12 clash with Leicester at Twickenham, where the Ospreys will look to avenge last season’s 41-35 defeat.

Saracens, looking for a first appearance in a domestic cup final since lifting the English Cup in 1999, saw stand-off Glen Jackson miss with his opening penalty-kick.

After an opening quarter dominated by defence, Hook kicked a penalty before Williams sprinted clear for a try which needed several minutes of study by the video referee before being awarded after it looked as if the Sarries cover might have forced him into touch.

At the start of the second-half Jackson kicked a penalty but that turned out to be Saracens’s lone score of the match.

Earlier Leicester’s Andy Goode took some of the limelight away from opposing outside-half Danny Cipriani, the golden boy of English rugby.

Goode scored one try, created another and kicked 14 points.

Cipriani, the star of the show on his full England debut during last weekend’s Six Nations victory over Ireland, scored two tries in a Millennium match where both sides crossed each other’s line four times.

But there was no denying the quality of Goode, not capped by England since Andy Robinson’s final match in charge against South Africa in November 2006.

“Andy Goode’s was an outstanding performance,” said Leicester director of rugby Marcelo Loffreda.

“His challenge is to be consistent, that is something I have been talking to him about and today he was 95 percent consistent,” the former Argentina coach added.

“If he keeps this consistency at this level he would do perfectly well as part of the England squad.” Leicester, a point ahead at the break, went beyond Wasps’s reach with tries from Seru Rabeni, Dan Hipkiss and Martin Castrogiovanni.

Victory was their first knock-out win over Wasps, who denied the Tigers an unprecedented treble last season when they beat their arch-rivals in the European Cup final.

England wing Paul Sackey scored Wasps’s other two tries and while Cipriani’s first was a superb solo score, his second came too late to change the result.

Sapa-AFP – Rugbyweek.com

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