Biarritz clip the Ospreys’ wings

Wales’ hopes of landing their first ever European Cup disappeared on Saturday as the Ospreys lost 29-28 to France’s 2006 finalists Biarritz in their quarter-final clash.


Ospreys outscored Biarritz three tries to two including one five minutes from time by Nikki Walker and converted by Dan Biggar which gave the French side a nervous last few minutes.


“We knew the match would hinge on the tightest of margins,” said Biarritz joint coach Jack Isaak.


“However, I think we deserved to win the match. We are above all delighted with the result. We made a lot of errors, and allowed them back into the match.”


In the semi-finals Biarritz will host two-time winners Munster, who beat the French side in the 2006 final, after they came through another hard fought match 33-19 with former All Black winger Doug Howlett’s second try with five minutes remaining finally sealing their place in the last four.


The two sides, who had also met in the group stages, were evenly-matched throughout the contest, though, the Irish side – beaten by Northampton in the 2000 final – ran out deserved winners in the end scoring four tries to the one by their opponents.


The earlier match had been tight going into the break with Biarritz leading 16-15.


Biarritz owed their narrow lead to a superb individual try by Zimabwean-born American international winger Takudzwa Ngwenya – which was converted by Dimitri Yachvili who also scored with a penalty – and two drop goals by veteran France centre Damien Traille.


Biarritz, technically the hosts though they were playing in the Spanish city of San Sebastian attracting 26,000 spectators, added to their lead when England World Cup winning back Iain Balshaw went over to score a try in the 49th minute.


Yachvili, who had landed another penalty, had set up the try after Biggar late-tackled Ngwenya and converted to make it 26-18.


Traille added a third drop goal on the hour mark looking as if Biarritz were safe but Walker’s try and Biggar’s conversion changed all that, however, the Ospreys kicker was unable to get them over the winning line as his last second drop goal went wide.


On Friday holders Leinster had breathed a huge sigh of relief as largely outplayed by French side Clermont in Dublin, they prevailed by the same margin and scoreline as Biarritz – only thanks to a horror kicking show by the normally reliable Australian Brock James.


Shell-shocked James cut a heart-broken figure after fluffing two, late drop-goal attempts, including the last kick of the game.


In all, he missed five out of nine kicks while Irish counterpart Jonathan Sexton succeeded with seven from eight.


“Tonight I was crap. It was unacceptable,” said James.


“My performance was a disappointment for me as well as the team.


It’s very frustrating.


“On the penalties, it’s a technical problem. There was a little wind but I can’t blame that. Now I will practice and watch the videos to see what the problem is.”


Sunday’s final quarter-final sees an all-French clash between three-time winners Toulouse at home to Stade Francais, who have never won the trophy and who are looking to this season’s competition as salvation for what has been a disappointing campaign on the domestic front.



 

Final Score Biarritz (16) 29 Ospreys (15) 28

 

Scorers

 

Biarritz
Tries: Ngwenya, Balshaw
Cons: Yachvili (2)
Pens: Yachvili (2)
DGs: Traille (3)

 

Ospreys
Tries: R Jones, Byrne, Walker
Cons: Biggar (2)
Pens: Biggar (2)
DG: Biggar

 

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland).

 

Attendance: 25,000

 

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