The Ospreys triumph over the Sale Sharks in a breathless game to finish second in Pool Three, but Leicester's win in Munster means that despite only one defeat they miss out on a quarter-final spot.
The match was billed as one of the ties of the Round and such was the importance for both teams, Sale hosted their best home crowd of 10,662 at Edgeley Park
Not only was this a crucial fixture, but both sides had been savaged by recent injuries and so again, a real test for both sides who needed to secure at least a victory to keep their European Cup Quarter Final hopes alive.
The Ospreys started with a bang and within a matter of minutes scored their first try through Steve Tandy. A clean line out put the three quarters away and when the attack was stopped some direct forward play coupled with some determined ball retention created space for Brent Cockbain, who drove for the line. The ever present Steve Tandy was close at hand and he managed to wrestle the ball over the line for an unconverted try.
The tempo of the game was incredible and following a threatening attack by Sale, the ball eventually fell into the arms of Stefan Terblanche who raced away from the half way line to score a converted try under the posts. What a start!
The Ospreys look set for a bonus point victory having raced to a 15-0 lead after only 15 minutes, but Sale battened down the hatches and reverted to a forward orientated challenge. The encounter was bruising with both sets of players giving their all.
As ever Sales overseas players proved formidable with the bustling Chabal and the dynamic Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe at the heart of their momentum. The Ospreys defence yet again proved stern but despite thwarting Sales attack"â¬â¢s on more than one occasion, Sale eventually broke through following a clever penalty move to score a converted try after 53 minutes through Lobbe. Sale were eventually reduced to 14 men when Chabal was yellow carded for dangerous use of the boot, which was somewhat fortuitous for the Osprey, as Sale had the away team on the wrack.
Again the Ospreys defence was dogged and when Gavin Henson slotted over a penalty, the all important victory looked to be secure.
Although the extra bonus point evaded the team, qualification now lay at the hands of other teams in the competition. All was not lost, as there were still some crucial fixtures to be played. Sadly however, the impressive Leicester performance in Munster shattered our chances and despite having amassed more points than some of the other teams who qualified and only losing once, we were pipped at the post in our best ever European Cup campaing.
Ospreys coach Lyn Jones said:
"We came here to win and we're happy to do that. The defence was quite magnificent throughout the game."
OSPREYS V ULSTER - Scene setter
Today"â¬â¢s fixture promises to be another bruising encounter as the home team look for revenge following last season"â¬â¢s dramatic climax, when Ulster, through the boot of David Humphrey"â¬â¢s secured the Championship title.With both teams affected by the 6 Nations International preparations, today provides an ideal opportunity for the squads to be tested even further. The Ospreys supporters will recall only to well, how this current squad rose to the challenge in the EDF Energy Cup match away to Bath and in that famous victory against the touring Australians and so victory today is not beyond us.
The importance of today"â¬â¢s encounter should not be underestimated as qualification for Europe hinges on our placing in the Magners League but standing in our way are the "â¬ËUlstermen"â¬â¢, themselves looking to secure a victory and salvage some pride following their European Cup exit.