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Ospreys Out of European Challenge Cup

Ospreys 21-25 Stade Francais

It was quarter-final heartbreak once again for the Ospreys as they lost to Stade Francais at Principality Stadium on Sunday evening.

  • Matavesi and Ardron score tries and Biggar kicks 10 but Ospreys lose at Principality Stadium
  • The defeat means Ospreys have now lost four out of four European knockout matches and are still waiting for a semi-final appearance
  • Ospreys dominate territory and possession but are unable to turn it into points despite playing half the game against 14 men
  • Next up for the Ospreys is a PRO12 crunch game against leaders Leinster at the Liberty next Saturday (3pm KO) 
  • The loss means the Ospreys are still waiting for a European knockout win, this their fourth defeat in the last eight, seven years after their previous defeat at this stage.

They trailed by two points at the end of a first half they had dominated, their three point lead just shy of the half hour mark scant reward for their efforts to that point, Stade snatching the lead against the run of play.

The Ospreys took the lead early in the second half, courtesy of a Josh Matavesi try and the boot of Dan Biggar, but they were unable to hold on to the lead, despite a numerical advantage following a red card to Stade winger Josaia Raisuqe in the 52nd minute.

The French side scored two quick fire tries despite being a man short and the Ospreys trailed by 11 going into the final quarter. They huffed and puffed to find a way back but, although Tyler Ardron grabbed a try with three minutes to go, they were unable to turn it around, and are still looking for a first ever European quarter-final victory.

It had been a positive from the Ospreys, attacking from the off, looking to make the post of the big Principality Stadium field. Twice in the opening minutes they almost found a way through, first via a sniping Rhys Webb run from halfway and then through Sam Davies, cutting a great angle from full back but unable to free Keelan Giles.

A lineout on the right then provided a platform to attack, Rory Thornton giving quick ball, and both Nicky Smith and Matavesi were stopped short of the line before Stade flanker, Paul Gabrillagues, was able to read Webb’s pass from the base of the ruck to intercept, allowing Jules Plisson to clear.

It was 3-0 with 12 minutes played, Biggar slotting over a simple penalty, and the Ospreys thought they’d extended the lead straight from the restart with a wonderful length of the field break.

Dan Baker, Webb and Biggar were all involved in the build up as the Ospreys ran it straight back from deep, before Giles beat his man and stepped infield to feed his outside half for a run-in. However, it was referred upstairs to the TMO, who ruled out the score for a forward pass by Giles, despite the suspicion that it had come off a Stade hand.

The game was being played out entirely in the French side’s half as the Ospreys kept the ball alive, trying to move the big opposition pack around. 

There was a lengthy stoppage in the 20th minute as the officials checked an incident of foul play, Stade winger Josia Raisuqe eventually sinbinned for a stamp on Giles.

From the resulting penalty the Ospreys went to the corner and although the pack rumbled their way over the line with Scott Baldwin in possession, the referee ruled he had been held up and prevented from grounding.

Despite the Ospreys’ almost total dominance, Stade leveled in the 27th minute from their first meaningful venture into opposition territory, Plisson with a simple three points.

Then, with Raisuqe standing on the touchline waiting to return to the action, the Principality Stadium crowd was stunned as Stade snatched the lead. 

The Ospreys will be disappointed to have conceded from a position where they had a lineout on the Stade 22 but after the TMO’s intervention saw a penalty awarded to the French side for a late challenge by Webb on Plisson, the visitors put the ball up the other end. 

Antoine Burban was able to come away from the maul with the ball in his hand and, with two men over on the left, loose head prop Zurani Zhvania was left with a simple finish to score the first try of the evening.

Plisson was off target with the conversion attempt, so Stade’s lead was five, but Biggar was on target again a minute later at the other end to reduce that to two points.

Stade really should have extended the lead a minute before the break, Plisson’s attempt from in front of the posts inexplicably missing the target. 

With just 45 seconds left on the clock there was still time for the Ospreys to work their way upfield and, when Stade were penalised for not rolling away, Biggar had the chance to send his team back down the tunnel with a one-point lead but his kick struck the right hand post.

HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 6 STADE FRANCAIS 8

Plisson extended Stade’s lead back to the five points, just four minutes after the restart, after an Osprey hand was spotted playing the ball back in the scrum.

The response from the Ospreys was instant and it was impressive, forwards and backs combining to work the team upfield into striking distance. After an incredible pick-up by Justin Tipuric it was Webb whose miss pass released Matavesi on the left wing, the centre diving over for a score confirmed by the TMO.

Biggar pushed his conversion across the face of the posts and wide, so it was level at 11-11 with 46 minutes played.

With 52 minutes on the clock it seems as though momentum had swung entirely the Ospreys way when, after Biggar had been hauled down short of the line, Raisuqe was penalised for offside, leaving the ref little option but to award the penalty and a yellow card, shortly followed by a red, following his first half sin binning.

Biggar give the Ospreys the lead from the resulting penalty, and the hosts were playing 14 men for the remainder of the game.

Any thoughts of a walkover with the extra man were immediately removed as Stade retook the lead from the next play, the forwards drawing in defenders before Plisson’s cross kick caught out Giles, the bounce favouring Raphael Lakafia who gathered acrobatically to score in the corner, Plisson adding the extras.

It got worse just minutes later after the Ospreys played themselves into trouble where there had seemed none, running it back from deep only for Hugh Pyle to intercept a Davies pass and race to the line where he found Julien Aria who crashed over. The crowd and Ospreys players were convinced Pyle was in an offside position, Stade skipper Serge Parisse argued his case and, eventually, the try was awarded, the officials deciding that Pyle had made enough of an effort to retreat. Plisson converted and Stade led by 11 going into the final quarter.

There was still time for the Ospreys to find a way back and they kept going, looking to use their extra man to find their way through the Stade defence. 

Patient play got the ball to Giles on the right but he couldn’t squeeze his way over, stepping into touch as he tried to get through.

They finally grabbed their second try with just four minutes remaining, phase after phase of pressure ending with Ardron stretching over to score, Biggar’s conversion meaning they trailed by just four points.

After another spell of concerted pressure as they searched for the winning try, deep into over time, the ball was lost inside the Stade 22, allowing them to clear into touch to bring the contest to an end, and it is the French side who now face Bath in the last four in three weeks time.

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