Henson helps Ospreys punish Castres errors

Neath-Swansea 20 - Castres 11
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The Independent Online

The defence of their home turf was more that of scrapyard dogs than elegant birds of prey but the Neath-Swansea Ospreys - long in name, short in history - fought tooth and claw, or beak and talon, to frustrate Castres' Heineken Cup hopes.

"We came here thinking not just that we were going to win, but to get a try-scoring bonus point," said Paul Volley, who emigrated to the continent from Wasps last season. "We really wanted to qualify. But this is a very hard place to come to and win. It's very sad to have been knocked out, because the reason I came to Castres was that they had qualified for Europe this season. It was a big thing for me; I really love this competition."

He could have had his wish had Castres not committed so many errors. They had the possession for much of the game, and looked as though they knew what they were going to do with the ball until someone would drop it, knock it on or turn it over.

They also had their chances, never more so than when the home scrum-half Richard Rees had a sly tug at the shirt of Nicolas Raffault when the left wing was going for the ball. Rees, the scorer of the Ospreys' opening try, spent 10 minutes on the sidelines. Although the resultant penalty saw Castres steal into a slender lead, the redoubtable home guard mustered their collective will.

Rees, a semi-professional with Neath drafted into the regional team because of injury, had crossed for the opening try and the Wales centre Gavin Henson, who converted it, had added the first of his two penalties. After the interval, with Rees still in the sin bin, Henson thumped over another penalty from 50 metres out on the right-hand touchline.

Kicking from hand, Henson was able to send the ball hurtling prodigious distances upfield. Towards the end, with Castres trying to wrest victory from home hands, he kicked the last vestiges of resistance out of the French side to send them scuttling back deep into their own half.

And on the one occasion that Henson did not put the boot in, Elvis Seveali'i scooped up a poor bit of interpassing between the scrum-half Alexandre Albouy and right wing Ugo Mola and sprinted 70 metres for the line. Henson, inevitably, supplied the conversion.

Castres must now concentrate on their domestic championship. They are currently fourth and must use that as their passport into Europe's blue riband event next season.

Neath-Swansea: Tries Rees, Seveali'i; Conversions Henson 2; Penalties Henson 2. Castres: Try Galasso; Penalties Marticorena 2.

Neath-Swansea: S Terblanche; E Seveali'i, D Bishop, D Tiueti (M Jones, 66), S Williams; G Henson, R Rees (A Durston, 78); P James (C Griffiths, 75), B Williams (capt), A Jones (A Millward, 63), A Newman, J Thomas, A Lloyd (L Bateman, 72), R Jones (R Hibbard, 80), S Tandy (R Pugh, 71).

Castres Olympique: G Metcalfe; U Mola, L Marticorena (R Dourthe, 67), M Denney, N Raffault (D Bory, 59); Y Delaigue (capt), A Albouy; M Reggiardo, R Vigneaux (G Argenese, 72), A Galasso, L Nallet, N Spanghero, R Froment (G Bernad, 55), R Capo Ortega, P Volley (J Deen, 66).

Referee: A Spreadbury (England).