Jones hails Ospreys despite 'heartbreaking' loss to Biarritz

Biarritz 29 Ospreys 28
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The Independent Online

When the Ospreys are able to look past the smokescreen of a debatable refereeing blunder, the star-studded Welsh region will reflect on their most painful European exit of the past three seasons.

The now perennial quarter-finalists out-scored Biarritz three tries to two in the Spanish sun, received the perfect dry weather to suit their attacking and expansive running game in San Sebastian and had the tantalising carrot of a home semi-final at the Millennium Stadium to play for. So near yet so far.

Previous humbling last-eight exits to Saracens and Munster highlighted a gulf in class and know-how on Europe's biggest stage but, here in the heartland of Les Biarrots, the Ospreys butchered their chances.

Despite the wastefulness of the "Real Madrid of European rugby" at Estadio Anoeta, if Irish official George Clancy had awarded an injury-time penalty for a deliberate knock-on by Dimitri Yachvili, Wales' hopes of a first Heineken Cup winner would still be alive and kicking. Ospreys' captain Ryan Jones was frustrated. He said: "He [Clancy] said it was a penalty but there was no time. We all saw that it was a deliberate knock-on."

But, following the inquest into the slender and heartbreaking defeat to the French giants, the Ospreys firmly believe they have finally arrived as a mature European superpower.

"We are definitely a force at this end of the competition but we will have to keep working hard and wait for another year," Jones said. "It hurts and I'm heartbroken for my team. We are dejected, disheartened and upset as we possibly deserved to get more."

Jones was one of three try-scorers for the visitors alongside Lee Byrne and Nikki Walker but Biarritz secured a first semi-final appearance since 2006.

Scorers: Biarritz: Tries Ngwenya, Balshaw; Conversions Yachvili 2; Penalties Yachvili 2; Drop Goals Traille 3. Ospreys: Tries R Jones, Byrne, Walker; Conversions Biggar 2; Penalties Biggar 2; Drop Goal Biggar.

Biarritz: I Balshaw (A Mignardi, 53); T Ngwenya, K Hunt, D Traille, I Bolakoro (JB Gobelet, 64); J Peyrelongue, D Yachvili; E Coetzee (F Barcella, 49), B August (R Terrain, 70), C Johnstone, J Thion (capt), M Carizza, W Lauret (F Alexandre, 64), F Faure, I Harinordoquy.

Ospreys: L Byrne, T Bowe, A Bishop (N Walker, 63), J Hook, S Williams; D Biggar, M Phillips; P James, H Bennett (E Shervington, 75), A Jones, AW Jones (I Gough, 63), J Thomas, J Collins, R Jones (capt), M Holah (F Tiatia, 69-73).

Referee: G Clancy (Ire).

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