The Ospreys suffered late heartbreak as a Paul Sackey try with just two minutes remaining condemned the region to defeat in their Heineken Cup opener in Toulon.
A Shane Williams try and three Dan Biggar penalties had seen the Ospreys take a five point lead into the final 10 minutes, only for Sackey, and the boot of Jonny Wilkinson, to break their hearts at the death.
With the sun shining down on Stade Mayol and a fresh breeze blowing in off the Mediterranean Sea just a stones throw away, the pre-match atmosphere was built up ahead of kick-off by a rendition of the Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, closely followed by the regional Provencal anthem, before the two teams entered the field to a raucous welcome.
The Ospreys enjoyed the perfect start, winning a penalty straight from the kick-off for hands in the ruck, allowing Biggar the chance to give his team the lead with less than 70 seconds on the clock.
The men in black enjoyed the better of the early exchanges, but Biggar was off target with a long range drop goal attempt a few minutes later, after the Ospreys had opted for a three man lineout at the first opportunity, and he had a similar outcome with a penalty effort from the same position.
Tommy Bowe then had to be alert in order to come across and ground the bouncing wall after a clever chip and chase from Wilkinson as Toulon launched their first attack in the 10th minute.
With 14 minutes on the clock, points machine Wilkinson was handed his first opportunity, which he duly accepted, after the Ospreys were caught offside. He proved he was only a human a couple of minutes later though, missing with an attempt from inside the Toulon half.
The French team’s game plan was clear – keep it tight and allow the forwards to gain the hard yards, and the match quickly became something of an arm wrestle between the two sets of forwards, trying to gain dominance.
Wilkinson was again off target in the 25th minute with a long range drop goal attempt after a typical Toulon move, rumbling up the field through numerous phases to tee up the fly-half.
It was Bowe tidying up once again after Rory Lamont had hacked a loose ball upfield, before, uncharacteristically, Wilkinson missed again after Shane Williams was guilty of not releasing as the Ospreys looked to run from deep.
With the clock passing the half hour mark, the Englishman made no mistake from a central position 11m inside Ospreys territory after Jonathan Thomas entered a ruck from the side.
Biggar then had the chance to level, opting to kick for goal from inside his own half, but although his attempt had the length it didn’t have the direction.
With the first half in over time, he had more luck, slotting over a penalty from the Ospreys 10m line after some outstanding work at the ruck by Marty Holah to level it at the break.
HALF TIME: TOULON 6 OSPREYS 6
The hosts wasted no time in regaining the lead, Wilksinson slotting over the simplest of kicks just 90 seconds after the restart.
The Ospreys responded well, working their way upfield and enjoying a spell of pressure, Bowe and Andrew Bishop both making inroads, without making it tell.
Biggar levelled things in the 53rd minute after Toulon were guilty of engaging early at a twice reset scrum on halfway.
Having then been forced to absorb a spell of considerable pressure, with Toulon again rumbling forward inch by inch, Biggar was able to clear Ospreys lines, much to the delight of the travelling support who were making themselves heard loud and clear.
With their tails up, the Ospreys took the lead on the hour with the first try of the afternoon through Shane Williams. It came in bizarre circumstances, with the Ospreys looking to attack from a scrum they moved the ball left, right and then back to the left. There looked to be a Toulon knock-on that was missed by the officials, and as the home team looked to clear their lines, Williams was able to simply pick the ball at the foot of the ruck and race through unchallenged to score, Biggar missing with the conversion.
The Ospreys were in full flight, enjoying their best spell of the game, and Biggar was just off target with a penalty attempt after Toulon were penalised for holding on in their 22 close to the touchline.
The game was a thoroughly gripping contest and back came Toulon, looking to regain the lead, testing the Ospreys defence from every angle, but wave after wave of Toulon attack was met by a black wall, forcing the hosts to resort to the boot of Wilkinson, his rushed attempt at a drop goal not even reaching the posts.
Toulon did finally find a gap, Paul Sackey with the original break before skipper Lobbe charged forward, Jerry Collins halting his progress 5m short with a crunching tackle, only to be penalised for not rolling away after an extended advantage came to nothing. Wilkinson didn’t miss, bringing his team back to within two points with six to play.
Toulon sniffed victory, and the crucial score duly came with time almost up, the influential Wilkinson breaking before his long pass to Sackey, in plenty of space near the touchline, allowed his compatriot to score, the extras taking Toulon five points clear.
The Ospreys were unable to secure ball at the restart, allowing Toulon to close out the game, meaning that the visitors had to settle for a for a losing bonus point.