The Ospreys bowed out of Europe on a disappointing afternoon in the south of France.
Biarritz took an early lead and never looked back, the Ospreys struggling to make any kind of impact on the game.
It was a frenetic start with neither side seemingly able to either retain possession or find touch from their kicks, the conditions underfoot meaning players on both teams were going to ground.
However, with just five minutes on the clock the home team snatched the lead through USA winger Taku Ngwenya. The catalyst for the score was scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili, scything through the midfield, before Biarritz were able to work it wide out to their right where Ngwenya was the extra man, left with a simple finish. Yachvili’s conversion curled over from the touchline to make it 7-0.
It got worse five minutes later when Ngwenya went over for his second try in the same corner. The Ospreys lost the ball on their own through at a lineout on halfway and the ball was worked wide swiftly. Iain Balshaw came into the line at pace, drawing last man Barry Davies into the tackle before offloading to his wing who raced over to score despite the best efforts of Tommy Bowe, Yachvili again adding the extras.
Biarritz thought they’d scored a third try on the 19 minute mark, good lineout ball on halfway allowing them to break at speed, Marcelo Bosch eventually skpiing past Bowe and looking to race over, only to be brought right back to the 10m line for a forward pass earlier in the move.
A delicate chip over a flat defence then troubled the Ospreys, the bounce just beating Ngwenya as he looked to pounce. Biarritz patiently rebuilt before swinging it out wide when the USA winger looked to force his way over, Eli Walker doing well to halt his progress just a metre short of the line.
As the clock moved past 25 minutes Yachvili made no mistake with a penalty midway inside the Ospreys half after Ian Gough had been pinged at the breakdown, stretching his team’s lead to 17 points.
Biarritz were dominant, the direct running of Balshaw and Ngwenya causing the Ospreys no end of trouble, but it was the boot of Yachvili that almost created a third try, the French international spotting his skipper Imanol Harinordoquy hugging the touchline and putting a carefully weighted cross kick in for him to chase. Thankfully for the Ospreys Dan Biggar was alert to the danger and managed to get to the ball just ahead of the big number eight to boot the ball dead.
As half-time approached the hosts continued to look dangerous, keeping the ball alive at every opportunity and after a penalty against Gough for a dangerous tackle they spurned the three points and opted for the lineout. The Ospreys snuffed out the first threat, a rolling maul, but Biarritz recycled, moving it through the hands until the final pass looked to release Julien Peyrelongue close to the touchline, only for the 10 to be called back for a forward pass with a clear run-in to the line ahead of him.
HALF-TIME: BIARRITZ 17 OSPREYS 0
With Shane Williams having replaced Barry Davies shortly before the break, Tommy Bowe switching to the wing, the Ospreys made three more changes at half-time. Ryan’s Bevington and Jones entered the fray along with Kahn Fotuali’i, Paul James, Tom Smith and Rhys Webb going off.
However, the second half continued in the same vein as the first had been played, with Biarritz on the offensive, and the Ospreys were reduced to 14 men when Fotuali’i was sinbinned for a dangerous tackle on Wenceslas Lauret close to the line just four minutes after coming, Yachvili’s up and under bouncing. awkwardly, taking the scrum-half out of the game.
The Biarritzx pressure was relentless, wave after wave of red, white and green shirts threatening the Ospreys line, and eventually they managed to work an overlap, wing Benoit Baby going over in the corner despite Bowe’s last ditch tackle, the TMO confirming the grounding. Yachvili was off target with his conversion attempt, leaving the score 22-0.
There was no respite for the visitors as Biarritz went for the kill, and turnover ball midway between the Ospreys 22 and 10m lines allowed the French side an opportunity to attack with pace, Balshaw eventually going over despite Williams’ best efforts, the TMO taking just a cursory glance at the replays before awarding the try, which was converted by Yachvili.
To the Ospreys credit they didn’t throw the towel in and they eventually got on the scoreboard just before the hour. Richard Hibbard, on for Huw Bennett, was able to secure scrappy ball at a lineout metres from the Biarritz line and he was driven over by Gough, the conversion attempt off target.
Matthew Morgan, on for Biggar, then provided a moment of inspiration as he chipped out of his own 22, collecting his own kick and racing into the Biarritz half. Walker was in support, and it was moved through hands to Williams, who looked to twist and turn, losing Ngwenya to go under the posts, only for play to be brought back for a forward pass.
Ngwenya then crossed for his hat-trick, cutting inside from the right touchline to beat Jonathan Thomas to score, Yachvili’s conversion taking the Biarritz lead to 31 points.
The early afternoon French sunshine had been replaced by grey skies and drizzle, the weather matching the mood in the Ospreys camp as the final whistle approached.
As the Ospreys looked to get a final score to put a little gloss on the defeat, Beck, Bishop and Williams combined well going forward, but as aggressive defence from Biarritz forced the visitors back, an intercepted pass saw the ball booted up the length of the field. Ryan Jones had to go back to gather on his own line but the Biarritz chase was good, putting pressure on Jones and the supporting Walker. Dane Haylett-Petty contested well, winning the ball and diving over the line but the TMO confirmed he knocked on in the act of scoring and that was that on a bad day for the region.