Ospreys boosts Heineken Cup bid with thrilling victory over Montpellier
The goal-kicking of full-back Cai Evans proved decisive as Ospreys took a huge step towards qualifying for the knock-out stages of the Heineken Champions Cup with a thrilling 35-29 win over Montpellier in Swansea.
Ospreys were outscored by five tries to four but Evans succeeded with three penalties and three conversions to leave Ospreys with 10 points in Pool B with a game at Leicester still to come.
Alex Cuthbert scored two tries for Ospreys, Justin Tipuric and Morgan Morris the others but Montpellier were unlucky losers on a great night for rugby.
Paul Willemse crossed twice for the French champions with Bastien Chalureau, Thomas Darmon and Cobus Reinach also on the scoresheet. Leo Coly and Anthony Bouthier each added a conversion.
A full-strength Montpellier made the quicker start but Louis Carbonel was unable to reward their efforts as he missed a 40-metre penalty.
Ospreys then suffered a major blow when their scrum-half Rhys Webb left the field after being shaken up by a thumping tackle.
The tackle exemplified the first quarter, which was an intensely physical affair with defences firmly on top, so it came as no surprise when it finished scoreless.
However, three minutes later came the first try when Cuthbert finished off a period of sustained pressure by forcing his way over.
Montpellier soon responded with a try of their own when skipper Willemse crashed over from close range. Carbonel was again off target though, this time with a straightforward conversion attempt.
The hosts extended their lead when Owen Williams was high tackled by Montpellier hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa, with Evans making no mistake with the resulting penalty.
Montpellier drew level when Willemse showed great strength to grab his second try. There was a hint of a double movement but the officials awarded the try. Coly took over the kicking duties but he too failed to slot over the conversion.
Evans then illustrated how it should be done by kicking his second penalty for Ospreys to give his side a 13-10 lead at the interval.
Three minutes after the restart, Evans succeeded with another three-pointer but Montpellier took the lead for the first time when Chalureau crossed after the home defence had been softened up by a series of powerful forward drives. Coly converted from in front of the posts.
The game was certainly competitive and in the balance but Ospreys produced the best move of the match to reclaim the lead, Cuthbert running strongly to finish it off for his second try.
Evans made it five successes from five attempts with a touchline conversion to give Ospreys a 23-17 advantage going into the final quarter.
Montpellier would not lie down and excellent handling skills created their bonus-point try for Darmon with their third kicker, Bouthier, knocking over the touchline conversion.
Ospreys brought on George North for his first appearance since picking up a facial injury against Leicester in mid-December and it was in time to his side regain the lead when Keelan Giles kicked ahead for the irrepressible Tipuric to win the race to touch down.
Replacement Reinach sneaked over for Montpellier’s fifth try to reward an excellent break from Carbonel and keep his side in contention, but Bouthier missed the extra points which would have put the visitors 31-30 ahead.
And the hosts secured victory when Morris scored the crucial bonus-point try with two minutes to go.
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