Ospreys bag rare Euro win over Saints
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: Ospreys collected their first European Rugby Champions Cup win of the campaign on Saturday with a 43-32 success over Northampton Saints at Franklin's Gardens in an enthralling continental showdown.
The Anglo-Welsh encounter saw 11 tries exchanged and at 43-8 Ospreys would have thought they were home and dry, yet a Northampton Saints fightback saw them come close to completing what would have been a historic comeback.
Northampton Saints flyhalf Stephen Myler broke the deadlock on 17 minutes with a penalty, before his opposite number Sam Davies hit back with a three-pointer of his own; then the Welsh region raced through the gears.
Full-back Dan Evans crossed the whitewash for the first try on match on 26 minutes and scrum-half Tom Habberfield's try, complete with Davies' conversion, ensured the visitors went into the break with a comfortable 17-3 lead in the Midlands.
Shortly after the restart Ospreys winger Jeff Hassler made amends for his first-half sin-binning with a well-worked try, before centre Kieron Fonotia's try pushed the Welsh region's advantage to 31-3.
England captain Dylan Hartley attempted to kickstart a Northampton Saints comeback, but Evans and Hassler completing their braces of tries stretched the Ospreys lead to 38 points.
Northampton Saints scrumhalf Nic Groom slipped through for their second try of the match just after the hour, before the back trio of Rob Horne, Ahsee Tuala and Harry Mallinder all crossed over the course of five minutes as the Franklin's Gardens faithful roared the hosts on in a spirited comeback effort.
As tensions mounted Mallinder and Rob McCusker were both sin-binned reducing both sides to 14 men for the final eight minutes and Ospreys were down to 13 when wing Hanno Dirksen was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle in the 78th minute.
Northampton Saints were unable to make their numerical advantage pay so late on, but victory for Ospreys only draws them to within a point of second-placed Clermont Auvergne, who face Saracens on Sunday in Pool 2.
Tries: Hartley, Groom, Horne, Tuala, Mallinder
Cons: Mallinder 2
Tries: Evans 2, Habberfield, Hassler 2, Fonotia
Cons: Davies 5
Yellow Card: Harry Mallinder (Northampton Saints)
Red Card: Hanno Dirksen (Ospreys)
Northampton: 15 Harry Mallinder, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Christian Day, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Francois van Wyk
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 JP Estelles
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Jeff Hassler, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 James King, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Rowan Jenkins, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Rob McCusker, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Ben John
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
Assistant referees: Thomas Charabas (France), Laurent Cardona (France)
TMO: Éric Briquet Campin (France)