Ospreys retain edge on unhappy return for Henson


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The Independent Online

Gavin Henson was denied a happy return to the Liberty Stadium and Ospreys continued their home dominance over Cardiff, claiming victory in a scrappy RaboDirect Pro12 encounter yesterday.

Wales and Lions back Henson was making his first appearance in Swansea since January 2009 but, apart from a few bright moments, was unable to prevent his new side slipping to defeat against his former team-mates.

A second-half try from Ireland wing Tommy Bowe was the crucial moment in an error-riddled match, the result keeping Ospreys in second spot in the table and in firm contention for a fourth Celtic title.

It was nip and tuck for most of the game, but the home scrum took control in the closing exchanges and a pair of penalties from replacement fly-half Dan Biggar gave the Ospreys a welcome start to 2012.

Conor O'Shea, Harlequins' director of rugby, lavished praise on "magnificent" Rory Clegg after the fly-half's late penalty claimed the league leaders an 11-9 Premiership victory at Exeter Chiefs on Saturday. Clegg, who had missed five kicks out of six, found his range and slotted home a 30-metre attempt in the 77th minute, just three minutes after Gareth Steenson's penalty had put Exeter ahead at Sandy Park.

"Clegg showed incredible bottle and you have to separate things with a fly-half – his general play bar one or two touch kicks, the way that he marshalled the team and got a pattern going was magnificent," O'Shea said. "He is an 80 per cent-plus goal-kicker – he wasn't today, you have those days."

Elsewhere, Northampton's head coach, Jim Mallinder, revealed he had not ruled out a return to the side for England wing Chris Ashton against Quins on Friday.

"We've not washed our hands of him," Mallinder said, speaking after his team's 32-14 victory at Newcastle reinvigorated their title challenge.