The Ospreys ran in seven tries at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday afternoon to secure a first ever home European quarter-final, on the day that they set a new record for consecutive wins.
- Bonus point wins means Ospreys progress to the last eight with a match to spare
- Ninth consecutive win across all competitions sets a new Ospreys record
- The Ospreys round off the pool stages with a trip north to Kingston Park, to face Newcastle Falcons next Saturday evening
Although it was pretty convincing in the end, their ninth victory on the bounce in all competitions wasn’t as straightforward as it appeared at the final whistle, Lyon taking the lead in the first quarter, and the Ospreys only going ahead for the first time three minutes before the break.
A four try blitz in the third quarter blew the French side away as the Ospreys made it five bonus point wins from five games in Europe, and an incredible 15 try bonus points from 17 wins in 20 games in total.
Dan Baker and Kieron Fonotia scored the first half tries before man of the match, Hanno Dirksen, James King, Dan Evans, Justin Tipuric and Adam Beard all touched down after the break. Dan Biggar added six conversions.
The Ospreys set the tone for the afternoon with some early pressure, probing the Lyon defence and keeping the ball alive at every opportunity as backs and forwards looked equally comfortable in possession.
Twice in the opening 10 minutes the Ospreys were able to work themselves into an advanced position only for the line-out to misfire on the Lyon line.
However, it was the French who went close to opening the scoring in the 15th minute after an Ospreys offence on the ground allowed Lyon to go upfield. Michael Harris collected his up and under in the 22 and was driven towards the line by his pack at a rate of knots, the Ospreys somehow managing to hold him up under the posts.
The respite was only temporary though as, after a lengthy stoppage for Ma’afu Fia to receive some running repairs, Lyon finished off the job at the resulting scrum, their pack dominant, allowing number eight, Curtis Browning, to go over between the sticks, Harris converting.
That was to be Fia’s final involvement, the tight head exiting the action early to be replaced by Rhodri Jones.
Having started brightly the Ospreys had lost their momentum, but Keelan Giles provided the spark of inspiration needed to bring them back to life with a half break up the left. That led to a prolonged spell of pressure on the Lyon line, hooker Ti’i Paulo shown a yellow card on the half hour for a deliberate knock-on.
The pressure eventually told when Baker was driven over from close range to finally get the scoreboard moving, Biggar’s conversion leveling it.
Giles then limped out of the action five minutes before the break, Sam Davies coming on at full-back with Evans moving to the wing where he had played across the Christmas period.
Despite the reshuffle the Ospreys were able to score again within minutes, a scrum inside the Lyon 22 providing the platform for Fonotia to barge his way across the line, taking a couple of defenders with him, for his first try at the Liberty.
Biggar’s kick was wayward and, although there was still time for Harris to miss with a long-range penalty, awarded for a high tackle, the Ospreys had the lead as the teams headed down the tunnel.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 12 LYON 7
The third try arrived just two minutes after the restart, Dirksen going over in the corner following a lovely arcing run from Davies, to take the Ospreys deep inside the Lyon 22 after Alun Wyn has stolen Lyon’s line-out. It was a memorable score for the South African wing, taking him to joint fifth in the all-time list with Sonny Parker on 29.
Jones then went agonisingly close to the fourth try a couple of minutes later, knocking on as he looked to collect a ball over the line following his charge down of Durand’s attempted clearance five metres from the line.
The bonus point did come shortly after as King went over for try number four, It came following some outstanding interplay up the right between Davies and Dirksen, the former with a wonderful final pass to give the blindside a simple finish. Biggar was on target from the touchline once again.
Lyon were temporarily reduced to 14 once again on 50 minutes, referee Craig Maxwell-Keys showing yellow to Jerome Porical for a tip tackle.
There was no stopping the Ospreys now and they made full advantage of the extra man to grab a lovely try that saw King providing good lineout ball to allow the backs to work the ball along the line at pace, Evans finishing it off to score on the left. Biggar added the extras to take the scoreboard to 33-7.
The tries kept coming and number six went to Tipuric, once again showing sublime footballing skills to dribble the ball home from some 40m out, eventually grounding under the posts, after some good work from Fonotia initially.
Biggar converted but it was the Ospreys who saw yellow almost immediately after, King sent to the sinbin for a late tackle. The visitors went to the corner from where they pounded on the Ospreys line without any success, the trademark defensive resolve eventually holding them up, allowing the hosts to clear from the resulting scrum.
The game became disjointed as the two teams emptied their bench but, to their credit, the Ospreys kept on looking to attack whenever the opportunity presented itself and try number seven came from Adam Beard, going over from close range after a Josh Matavesi charge following a lineout on the right.
Biggar converted to complete the scoring before one last defensive moment summed up the Ospreys effort, Dirksen tracking back some 40m to deny Browning a second, which would have been little more than a consolation.
The Challenge Cup quarter-finals will take place on the weekend of 30th March – 2nd April.