Leicester Tigers 32 Ospreys 32
The Ospreys come away from Welford Road with two points after an enthralling draw in their opening Heineken Cup fixture
Leicester came storming back to claim a draw after 20 unanswered points from the visitors had put them in the driving seat at the interval, a last gasp try, scored and converted by Billy Twelvetrees, levelling it at the death.
The Ospreys were handed a boost ahead of kick-off when Leicester were forced into a host of late changes amongst their backs, Dan Hipkiss,Harry Ellis, Aaron Mauger and Matt Smith all ruled out through injury, but the Tigers showed no indications of any unsettling effects, bursting into the lead with just two minutes on the clock. One of the late replacements, Lucas Amorosino did the damage with his initial burst in midfield, before the ball was worked through the hands to reach Johne Murphy out wide, who cut infield to touch down, Jeremy Staunton missing the conversion.
With the opening minutes being played at a frantic pace, there was little by way of controlled rugby from either side, with both sets of players struggling to impose themselves on the game. The home side were having the better of the scrum contest during the early stages, and Staunton extended the lead with a simple penalty after Huw Bennett was penalised by referee Alain Rolland after the scrum went down.
The scrum continued to be a hotly contested area, with the Tigers scrum penalised three minutes later, allowing Dan Biggar to get the Ospreys on the scoreboard with a long range effort from just inside his own half, before Staunton missed from the 10 metre line.
A well worked set-piece move from the lineout almost saw the Ospreys force their way through, only for Shane Williams to run out of space on the touchline, and when the ball was worked back across the pitch, Leicester were penalised for going off their feet at the ruck, allowing Biggar an easy penalty attempt to make it 8-6 with 22 minutes on the clock.
It got even better for the Ospreys a minute later, Jordan Crane failing to collect a Biggar up and under, and with the referee playing advantage to the Ospreys, Williams was released on the 22 to race over, giving the Ospreys the lead for the first time. Biggar duly adding the extra to give the Ospreys a 13-8 lead.
The Ospreys then took advantage of another Leicester error, James Grindal knocking on, and as the ball was recycled, Biggar calmly slotted over a drop goal from near halfway.
The home side, unbeaten on their own patch in over a year before today, were being pressurised at every opportunity, and a wild pass from Grindal was picked up by Tommy Bowe near halfway, allowing him to race through unchallenged to score under the posts. Biggar converted, and then slotted him another penalty to make it 26-8 to the Ospreys.
Leicester reduced the deficit a minute later, working the ball well from their own half before Twelvetrees stretched over despite the best efforts of Williams. Twelvetrees added the extras from his own try, and a minute later, he struck the upright with a penalty from inside his own half, before a second effort from a similar range, with the clock showing time, drifted harmlessly wide, leaving the score 26-15 to the Ospreys at the end of an absorbing first half.
HALF TIME: LEICESTER TIGERS 15 OSPREYS 26
The Ospreys got the first points of the second period, once again through the boot of Biggar, after the home team were penalised for going off their feet at the ruck.
Leicester responded instantly, putting the visitors under intense pressure at the scrum on halfway, before fullback Scott Hamilton carved the Ospreys defence wide open and fed the supporting Amorosino who went over unchallenged, Twelvetrees converting.
It was a thoroughly entertaining game, and with the crowd roaring the Tigers on, the home side were applying intense pressure on the Ospreys as they looked to level it. Lee Byrne was forced out of the action in the 53rd minute, replaced by Andrew Bishop with Hook switching to fullback, before Jerry Collins was forced to leave the action temporarily with a blood injury, Filo Tiatia entering the fray.
It was developing into a huge physical battle, with the Ospreys having to absorb lengthy periods of Leicester pressure, and just after the hour, the visitors sent on Richard Hibbard and Ian Gough for Huw Bennett and Jonathan Thomas.
Biggar was able to give the Ospreys some breathing space when he slotted over another penalty from near halfway after England hooker George Chuter was penalised for holding on, making it 32-22 after 64 minutes. Leicester were soon back on the attack though, and Twelvetrees responded with a simple penalty after the visitors strayed offside.
Having soaked up the pressure, the Ospreys began to gain more of a foothold, and Williams looked to be in out wide after Twelvetrees had been caught in possession, only for Bowe’s final pass to drift forward.
Leicester again took control as the clock counted down, and with just over four minutes remaining, concerted pressure led to Staunton punching a hole in the opposing defence and crossing despite the best efforts of three Ospreys to secure a bonus point for his side. Twelvetrees duly converted to make it 32 each.
The home side were forced to defend for the closing minutes, holding on to secure a draw and two points.