Biarritz 29 Ospreys 28
It was a heartbreaking afternoon for the Ospreys as they were defeated by the narrowest of margins in San Sebastian.
The men in black outscored Biarritz by three tries to two, with Ryan Jones, Lee Byrne and Nikki Walker touching down, but it wasn't enough to secure a first ever Heineken Cup semi-final for the region as they exited the competition at the quarter-final stage for a third successive season.
On a delightful afternoon in the Basque country, the Estadio Anoeta was bathed in sunshine as the two teams entered the field to a tumultuous welcome from a crowd whipped into a pre-match frenzy by the colourful PA man on the halfway line.
The hosts came straight at the Ospreys, and they were in front with just 30 seconds on the clock, Damien Traille slotting over a drop goal from in front of the posts.
The Ospreys responded well and a great break from Hook on his own 22 took them deep into opposition territory before Shane Williams was bundled into touch. Another tremendous run by Hook at the heart of the Biarritz defence almost saw the centre reach the line, but he was finally hauled down just a couple of metres short as he looked to offload.
It was breathless stuff and Hook, in exceptional form, was at the heart of things again when his hand-off and break from halfway created space for Andrew Bishop who almost got away from the cover thanks to a cool sidestep. As the ball was recycled, the Ospreys looked to work it wide only for winger Takudzwa Ngwenya to knock on as he looked to intercept. The Ospreys had a scrum in a good position but made a hash of it, allowing Ngwenya to break from inside his own 22, racing the length of the pitch to score in the corner despite the best efforts of Mike Phillips and Shane Williams. Dimitri Yachvili converted to make it 10-0 with a little over 12 minutes gone.
The scoreline was harsh on the Ospreys who had created some good openings, but they were able to get themselves on the scoreboard as the midway point of the half approached. Shane Williams' fancy footwork did the initial damage, and when the ball reached Ryan Jones on the 22 he was able to ignore the support on his shoulder to cross the line and score, Biggar adding the extras.
Yachvili made no mistake with a penalty attempt minutes later after Ryan Jones was penalised for not releasing the ball after being tackle, extending the Biarritz lead to six points, and then Traille's second drop goal of the afternoon made it 16-7 to the hosts who were keeping the scoreboard ticking over every time they ventured into Ospreys territory.
Slowly the Biarritz pack were starting to take control, and Yachvili was given another chance to extend his team's lead after the Ospreys were penalised at the scrum, but his effort from close to the touchline was just wide.
An excellent sidestep from Damien Traille left Dan Biggar grasping thin air, and as Biarritz moved the ball quickly through the hands, only last ditch tackling close to the line prevented Wenceslas Lauret from scoring.
A long range penalty attempt from Biggar then struck the upright after referee spotted Biarritz hands in the ruck, but the Ospreys had more luck in the 35th minute, Byrne touching down in the corner after an excellent attacking move that had seen them work the ball the width of the pitch, Marty Holah providing the scoring pass. Biggar's missed conversion meant that the score was 16-12 to the hosts.
The Ospreys confidence was up again, and a quickly take line out by Jerry Collins caught the Biarritz defence napping, and after some patient build up play, Dan Biggar was able to sit himself in the pocket to slot over a drop goal to ensure that the Ospreys trailed by just one point at the break.
HALF TIME: BIARRITZ 16 OSPREYS 15
Dan Biggar handed the Ospreys the lead for the first time shortly after the restart, his penalty ensuring Ilikena Bolakoro was punished for tackling Tommy Bowe in the air, but it was the young fly-half's illegal tackle on Ngwenya just a couple of minutes later that allowed Biarritz to retake the lead through a Yachvili penalty.
Biggar's failure to send the restart 10 metres resulted in a scrum on halfway to Biarritz, who freed Ngwenya out wide. The flier's chip and chase over the covering defence caused all sorts of problems for the Ospreys, Balshaw grounding to score, Yachvili's conversion making it 26-18.
The Ospreys were still looking dangerous with ball in hand, and after moving upfield through several phases of possession, Fabien Barcella was caught coming in from the side Biggar was able to cut the deficit to five points.
It was a breathtaking match that more than lived up to the billing, and there was a close shave for the Ospreys when the bounce beat Ngwenya as he chased a Julien Peyrelongue kick to the corner, before some magical running from Bowe saw him take the Ospreys almost the length of the pitch, only for Jonathan Thomas' pass to go astray as they looked to move the ball.
As the hour point came, Biarritz nudged further ahead, Traille completing a hat-trick of drop goals. Biggar had an opportunity to take the difference down to five with 12 minutes remaining, but his attempt drifted to the left, with his drop goal attempt shortly after going the same way.
With time running out the Ospreys were looking to find their way back into the game, and a strong run from Mike Phillips proved crucial as Walker was able to go over under the posts, Biggar's conversion making it 29-28 with just five minutes to go.
Biarritz looked to run down the clock, keeping the ball tight among the forwards, but a penalty offence allowed the Ospreys to clear deep into the home 22. The Ospreys were looking to set up a drop goal attempt for Biggar when the man in the middle George Clancy appeared to be indicating advantage to the Ospreys for an offside offence. Biggar tried his luck with a drop goal that missed the target, and with the visitors anticipating a penalty, Mr Clancy blew for time, bringing to an end the Ospreys European campaign.