Ospreys 28 Biarritz 21
Dan Biggar kicked 23 points as the Ospreys got their Heineken Cup campaign off to a winning start at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Tommy Bowe scored the region’s only try as they extended their unbeaten home run in the competition to 17 games, their last defeat at the Liberty in the competition coming against Leicester back in December 2005.
An early penalty against Adam Jones for incorrect binding at the scrum gave Biarritz a chance to opening the scoring but Argentine centre Marcelo Bosch was off target from close to touch on the 10m line.
The French side did manage to get themselves onto the scoreboard just 60 seconds later, Damian Traille slotting over a drop goal from in front of the posts after referee Andrew Small had played a penalty advantage when the Ospreys were guilty of not rolling away.
Biarritz were showing their willingness to run the ball at every opportunity and were testing the Ospreys defence, winning another penalty at the breakdown. This time the hosts survived as Bosch’s kick struck the right upright, Dan Biggar and Ashley Beck cleaning up to clear the danger on their own line as Biarritz looked to pounce as the ball bounced around dangerously.
Having absorbed early pressure the Ospreys began to enjoy some possession, a Dan Biggar burst at a lineout on the Biarritz 22 creating some momentum as the hosts looked threatening for the first time.
With the halfway mark of the first period approaching a Beck up and under troubled the defence, and when Erik Lund was guilty of going off his feet as Biarritz looked to secure the ball Biggar made no mistake, levelling the score at 3-3.
Unforced errors on both sides were preventing any real momentum or pattern to the game, but it was the boot of Biggar that was proving consistent, his long-range penalty putting his team ahead in the 28th minute.
It may have been low on any real opportunities but it was never less than gripping, with neither side able to take control as the interval came with no change to the score.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 6 BIARRITZ 3
The Ospreys started the second period positively, another three points from Biggar following a Biarritz offside stretching the lead.
Aggressive defence from the hosts then saw Tommy Bowe putting pressure on Iain Balshaw as he looked to deal with a Biggar up and under, the former England and Lions wing pinged for holding on as he found himself isolated, the young fly-half making no mistake with a tricky kick from close to the touchline.
A penalty against Duncan Jones allowed Biarritz to strike back straight away, Bosch successful from 45m to bring the hosts back to within six points.
From the restart, a great kick by Biggar allowed Shane Williams to chase, forcing Dimitri Yashvili into the mistake, his wayward pass going dead, resulting in a scrum five in the Ospreys favour. Jonathan Thomas’s pick and go led him nowhere, Andrew Bishop tried to jink his way through before, eventually, hands in the ruck from skipper Imanol Harinordoquy resulted in an Ospreys penalty, Biggar putting over his fifth of the afternoon with 50 minutes gone.
Back came the French side, and although the Ospreys thought they had won good turnover ball underneath their own posts, Mr Small thought otherwise leaving Bosch with the simplest of kicks to keep his team in touch.
A powerful drive from the lineout took the Ospreys deep into the Biarritz 22 before quick hands allowed them to move it out wide, but with the line beckoning, Bishop’s pass to Williams went astray. However, the ref had seen a Biarritz offence and awarded the penalty, Biggar again successful.
Biarritz then laid siege to the Ospreys line, going through multiple phases as they worked it left, then right, then back again, eventually stretching the defence far enough to create space out wide, the long pass finding Balshaw hugging the touchline, who gathered despite the best efforts of Bowe to intercept, going over to score the first try of the game in the corner. Bosch missed the conversion, leaving it 18-14 with 20 minutes to go.
The Ospreys response was emphatic, an up and under from Kahn Fotuali’i causing panic in the Biarritz defence, allowing Bowe to gather and force his way, eventually sliding over the line for the score. Again, the impressive Biggar made no mistake with his kick, ensuring the full seven points.
The Liberty Stadium crowd were enjoying what was building to be another special Heineken Cup occasion, and a Biarritz offside saw another penalty going the Ospreys way, dissent from the French seeing it being moved forward 10m into the 22, allowing Biggar to take his team two converted tries clear.
Just as they were looking to make the game safe the Ospreys hit the self destruct button, a good counter attacking move that saw them move up from their own 22 to halfway, with several players carrying well, was ended when Bishop telegraphed his pass, Yashivili intercepting before feeding Balshaw who raced clear to score his second try. Bosch’s conversion made it 28-21, ensuring a nervous final 10 minutes for the hosts.
Fotuali’i then went close with an unorthodox drop goal effort as he looked to give his team some breathing space as the clock ticked down.
As you would expect, Biarritz threw everything at the Ospreys in the final minutes, including the kitchen sink, and they almost managed to snatch the draw, Balshaw pulled back by the referee’s whistle as he looked set to go over for his hat-trick, television replays revealing that the touch judge’s call of a knock-on against Benoit Baby following a big hit from Alun Wyn Jones in the build-up was the correct one.
Scare over, the Ospreys were able to work their way upfield and play out time, sending their fans home happy