Dan Biggar's bad luck allows Tigers to set up Toulouse showdown

Ospreys 15 Leicester 15

Liberty Stadium

Perhaps Ospreys should feel grateful for their bad luck, for without it they would have no luck at all. Stripped bare by a casualty list of "slasher movie" proportions – no Alyn Wyn Jones or Ian Evans in the boilerhouse of the scrum, no Ashley Beck or Hanno Dirksen out wide – the most accomplished of the four Welsh regional sides hit the European buffers in Swansea today despite giving Leicester an almighty hurry-up.

Dan Biggar, on the brink of a Six Nations call-up, missed five wickedly difficult kicks by the sum total of next to nothing. Fine margins? The margins at the Liberty Stadium were virtually non-existent.

The first thing to say about Biggar is that he should not beat himself up about it, even for a second. Once he hit the bar with a long, acutely-angled penalty shot; twice he hit the post, again from distance. When Jonathan Spratt dived over at the flag for an equalising try in the 76th minute of another gem of a Heineken Cup contest, the outside-half went within a gnat's crotchet of nailing a conversion from the worst possible position on the field, centimetres from the right touchline. All things considered, he did brilliantly to go as close as he did, as often as he did.

But we are in the world of the "if only" here, and "if" is the most useless word in the sporting dictionary. Ospreys, courageously flying the flag for a Welsh domestic game in a more parlous state – politically and financially, as well as competitively – than at any time in the professional era, could have won this game, and probably should have won it. End of. There are no consolation prizes.

By failing to secure full value from their excellent first-half performance, masterminded by the sensational Kahn Fotuali'i (left) at scrum-half, they allowed Leicester to snaffle enough from the game to set up a winner-take-all meeting with Toulouse at Welford Road in six days' time. The victors will finish the round-robin stage on top of Pool 2 and claim a place in the knock-out phase. The losers? Thank you and good night.

"That was a tight one, but we're where we wanted to be at the start of the competition," said Richard Cockerill, the Leicester rugby director. "I suppose we're disappointed that we'll have no chance of a home quarter-final if we get to the last eight, but at least we've set up a real occasion against Toulouse. It should be a classic, and yes, I believe we can win. They're not in the best of form this season and anyway, we always feel we can get a result at our place."

The Tigers, the side all Europe wanted to beat and loved to hate a decade ago but struggling to reassert their Heineken Cup authority these days, looked badly out of sorts in the first half and could easily have been 15 points adrift at the interval. Unable to keep Fotuali'i in his box for more than a few seconds at a time and constantly troubled by quick-witted and deeply committed Ospreys across the field – Richard Hibbard and Joe Bearman amongst the heavy mob, Richard Fussell and Eli Walker in the backs – Leicester fell behind to Biggar's penalty just shy of the half-hour before finding themselves seriously dented three minutes later.

Justin Tipuric, the open-side flanker who fought a battle royal with the highly effective Julian Salvi in the loose, felt he had a reasonable shout for a penalty try when he rubbed shoulders with Mathew Tait after chipping for the line, but even though there was nothing doing as far as the excellent referee John Lacey was concerned, the danger for the visitors was anything but over. Fotuali'i attacked off a clearance kick from Niall Morris, the prop Ryan Bevington made ground down the left and Bearman was on hand to take the flip-up and spin his way to the line for a converted try. Unfortunately for Ospreys, who had lost their wing Ross Jones to a warm-up injury minutes before kick-off and been forced to field the 20-year-old scrum-half Tom Habberfield in his place, there was more orthopaedic hassle just around the corner. Ryan Jones, who had brought his precious experience to bear in the back row, dislocated a thumb – the bone could be seen protruding through the skin – and bade a reluctant farewell. Almost immediately, Leicester reduced the arrears with a routine Toby Flood penalty after paying a rare visit to the enemy red zone.

If it was far from a decisive development, it gave the visitors some much-needed succour. With Marcos Ayerza and Dan Cole slowly establishing governorship in the set-piece, Leicester applied pressure in ever-increasing amounts after the break and were duly rewarded when Ben Youngs touched down round the edge of a ruck after excellent approach work from Flood, Tait and Manu Tuilagi. They capitalised further eight minutes from time when Morris dived over in the right corner after a goal-line siege.

Yet with the intense physicality taking a heavy toll – Tuilagi, generally regarded as indestructible, failed to go the distance, as did Hibbard and Tom Youngs – there was always the possibility of another twist, and it came when Walker, a beautifully balanced runner as well as an unusually rapid one, ripped through a trio of Leicester chasers after fielding a clearance kick near halfway. When the wing was finally brought to earth, Fotuali'i – who else? – was on hand to nurse Spratt over for the leveller, albeit in a part of the field that made Biggar's match-winning task too awkward for words.

"We're disappointed, of course," admitted Steve Tandy, the Ospreys head coach. "It's a solemn dressing room in there. But I've never seen as much fight in a group of players as there is in this team. The way they represent themselves when they pull on the shirt is nothing short of magnificent. We had people dropping like flies – when we told young Tom Habberfield that he was playing out of position, it was quite a bombshell for him – and any other side would have thrown in the towel at 15-10 down. These players? They don't know when they're beaten."

Neither do Leicester, in fairness to them, and that bloody-mindedness should stand them in good stead when the most successful Heineken Cup club of them all cross the water and head into town this weekend. To borrow from Tandy, any other side might have thrown in the towel at 10-0 down. The Tigers have been known to throw a few punches, but towels? Never.

Scorers: Ospreys: Tries Bearman, Spratt; Conversion Biggar; Penalty Biggar. Leicester: Tries B Youngs, Morris; Conversion Flood; Penalty Flood.

Ospreys: R Fussell; T Habberfield (J Spratt 62), T Isaacs, A Bishop, E Walker; D Biggar, K Fotuali'i (capt); R Bevington (D Jones 73), R Hibbard (S Baldwin 59), A Jones, I Gough (S Lewis 73), J King, R Jones (L Peers 33), J Tipuric, J Bearman.

Leicester: M Tait; N Morris, M Tuilagi (M Smith 70), A Allen, A Thompstone; T Flood, B Youngs; M Ayerza (l Mulipola 59), T Youngs (R Hawkins 68), D Cole (M Castrogiovanni 59), L Deacon (capt), G Parling, S Mafi, J Salvi, J Crane (T Waldrom 55).

Referee: J Lacey (Ireland).

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice