The Ospreys defeated as Perpignan claimed a hard-fought 17-15 victory at Stade Aime-Giral on Saturday.
The hard-running Samoan, Henry Tuilagi's became the architect of Perpignan's success with a typical close-range try before the Ospreys clicked into gear. However, in front of a partisan crowd, the Ospreys did prove why many have dubbed them serious contenders for the coveted silverware as the sheer class of Shane Williams and Tommy Bowe came to the fore in claiming a vital losing bonus point. It was a contest that remained deadlocked fifteen minutes into the game as the impressive away runners' attempted probes on the outside shoulder found little charity from their physical hosts.
And when that early storm was weathered, a long-range Meyer penalty goal seemingly turned the tide with another three points soon doubling their lead to bring the colourful crowd to their feet. Frustration subsequently began to creep into the Ospreys game as precision of passes dropped for a period with promising attacking platforms blown.
Sean Holley's side knew that fellow Pool rivals Leicester were extremely likely of claiming five points at home to Treviso - which would set up a Liberty Stadium finish against the English - so a losing bonus point would not be too shabby in the situation. However, their predicament was made tougher when the scoreline was stretched to 12-0 thanks to Mike Phillips killing the ball with matters looking worrying. An improvement was needed on the turnaround.
That did not come though as Perpignan continued to apply the squeeze with the returning Phillips charged down by impressive youngster Damien Chouly, ultimately earning his side a touch-finding penalty - a signal of intent with three points on offer. And it proved the right decision as Tuilagi's growth into the contest came to the fore with a typically bulldozing finish from close-range to push the Catalans further ahead.
That looked to have ended the Ospreys' effort until they showed why they are one of the best counter-attacking teams in Europe by sparking to life on the hour. First Phillips began the breakout move from his own half before handing on to the supporting Alun-Wyn Jones, who shifted it to wing Williams who announced his side on the board. Was it to be a remarkable comeback? The side certainly sensed that could be a possibility as opportunities continued to come while in good territory. Lock Jones became increasingly involved in proceedings as he joined Phillips and the usual late-game roams from Williams.
And the grandstand finish was created on 68 minutes as sustained pressure and a succession of phases finally told on the French tacklers. Irish wing Tommy Bowe was the architect this time as he attacked the shoulder of a front-row before casually offloading to substitute Jonny Vaughton to cross. Moving into the final ten minutes and the tag of becoming the first Welsh team to leave Perpignan victorious was dangling ever closer after a Hook penalty four minutes from time reduced the lead to just two points, but the Ospreys left it all too late.