Ospreys 19 Racing Metro 19: Three talking points
Three talking points as the Welsh region snatch a draw in the European Champions Cup
Best and worse of Dan Biggar
He may be the premier outside-half in Wales right now, but the Ospreys star will have plenty of grovelling to do to everyone in Ospreylia after a streak of cockiness, which saw an easy penalty attempt rushed and missed, deflecting wide off the right post just after the restart while trailing by 13 points. With the Ospreys coming from 16-6 behind to secure a 19-19 draw, the error ultimately proved costly. Despite that, and a couple of poor tactical kicking decisions in the first half, the Wales playmaker was typically influential for the Welsh region, landing 14 points off the tee from four penalties and the conversion for Josh Matavesi’s try five minutes from time, earning him another man of the match award. The Ospreys will be disappointed not to have secured a much-needed home win to keep pace with pool leaders Northampton Saints, and Biggar’s mistake could cost them the chance of being in the mix for one of the two best runners-up spots for the Champions Cup quarter-finals.
Parisians powered by South African grunt
Ireland talisman Johnny Sexton may have been absent from the Racing squad, but his South African stand-in at outside-half was especially impressive early doors despite his poor kicking record in the Top 14. A few extra kicking sessions with Munster and Ireland hero Ronan O’Gara had obviously paid off. While Goosen made the most of his chances for shots at goal from Ospreys infringements as they failed to deal with a driving maul then had issues at the scrum, it was Springboks colleagues François van der Merwe and Juandre Kruger, who were causing havoc in taking the game to the Welsh region, with van der Merwe powering his way through three defensive bodies to score the opening try after 18 minutes in a great attacking move sparked by Goosen. Like the Ospreys, Les ciels et blancs will be disappointed not to have come away with more than two points after looking comfortable for much of the encounter as the Ospreys took their time to get into the game, and Goosen landed a superb drop-goal effort on 73 minutes to give the French side a seven point lead. After three rounds they are level on points with Northampton Saints, who they face in the final match in January on the same weekend the Ospreys will be hoping for another five-pointer from their trip to Treviso and with Sexton and Wales centre Jamie Roberts still to return, there is still more to come from the Parisians.
Young Ospreys continue to grow
The Ospreys family spirit is something many rugby clubs could learn a great deal from. Aside from a small number of Welsh internationals, there aren’t many big names at the Ospreys, and even the likes of captain Alun Wyn Jones and half-back duo Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb aren’t put up on a pedestal to be knocked down if they have an off day — they’re just senior cogs in a bigger machine. Biggar and Jones more than played their parts in leading their side back into the game, while Webb and flanker Justin Tipuric orchestrated the superb late try for Fijian international Matavesi. From being written off at the start of the season to being lauded across Europe for winning their opening seven matches in the Guinness PRO12, Steve Tandy’s youngsters continued to show a maturity beyond the years against more established opposition. With an average age of just 24, the Ospreys have the youngest squad in Europe and had replacements Marc Thomas, Gareth Thomas and Sam Parry all making their European debuts as a consequence of a sizeable injury list which has seen the region down to their fourth and fifth choice loosehead props. While young wing Eli Walker, back from his latest time on the sidelines with injury, showed glimpses of the fearsome speed he has as the game opened up. Had they started the first half as they played for much of the second half, the Ospreys would be hailing a great win over one of rugby union’s richest clubs, but they can at least be content at holding up their record of never having lost to a French club at the Liberty and keeping alive their dreams of reaching the quarter-finals.