Leicester 30 Ospreys 12: Tigers give Henson a tough time as Ospreys flatter to deceive

The long-awaited presence of Gavin Henson could not stop Leicester from establishing a two-point lead at the top of Pool Three, but it could have been different if Henson had not been so ring rusty. In the third minute the Ospreys centre broke clear with a devastating change of pace, sliced out towards the right wing and looked certain to score.

Then, inexplicably, the silver-booted darling of Wales stepped off his right foot, straight into the arms of the waiting Leicester defence. Danger over.

"I don't know what I was thinking," said Henson, who has spent the best part of six months on the sidelines with a nagging groin injury. "I messed it up. But I'll get it out of my system. It was my first rugby for five and a half months. And I only got back into full training last week."

As glaring a mistake as it was, Henson was soon making up for it with a classy reverse pass to Sonny Parker, who cut a cute angle to open up the Leicester defence for the Ospreys' first try, in the 24th minute.

Henson made numerous other breaks and put in some telling kicks including an attempted drop goal from 60 metres. The ball went dead, but the referee Joel Jutge, of France, clearly confused, ruled a scrum from where the kick was taken rather than giving Leicester a 22m drop-out.

Naturally enough Henson was never given a great deal of space or time, but he has a knack of uncovering gaps or parting defences in a nanosecond of blistering pace. On those occasions when he could break clear, however, he was invariably clobbered hard in the end.

There was some over enthusiastic rucking of him too, with an opposition boot getting perilously close to his head on one occasion. On another he was taken out late after passing the ball. But both incidents went unnoticed.

Little wonder that at the end he admitted: " I am sore all over - neck, shoulders, face, hips, knees, ankles and toes. But the groin is fine.

"It is such a difficult injury, one that just needs rest, but every morning for four months I would wake up, having rested it, and it would still be sore. There were moments during that time when I didn't think I'd play rugby again."

He did. Unfortunately neither he or the Ospreys played enough. As well as they did in the first half, which ended with them half a dozen points ahead, in the second Leicester moved up a couple of gears, to the extent that the Welsh side were outscored by 24-0.

The Tigers' forwards were immense, rumbling over and through the flagging Ospreys pack.

"We did well in the first half," said Henson, "but in the second half we started to lose our set-piece and position, and once Leicester get into your 22 they are hard to get rid of."

"Tigerish" might be the word Henson was looking for. The blind-side flanker Brett Deacon, scrum-half Harry Ellis, hooker George Chuter and replacement back Austin Healey all benefited from the hard graft of the front five as they crossed for the tries which earned Leicester a valuable bonus point and a distinct edge in this first of two crucial meetings.

But the Ospreys are no mugs, particularly on their home turf. They did enough in that first half to suggest that they will offer a lot more next Sunday. Perhaps yesterday they merely fluttered to deceive.

Leicester: Tries B Deacon, Ellis, Chuter, Healey; Conversions Goode 2; Penalties Goode 2. Ospreys: Tries Parker, Cashmore; Conversion Connor.

Leicester: S Vesty; L Lloyd (A Healey, 51), O Smith, M Cornwell, G Murphy; A Goode (R Broadfoot, 80), H Ellis (D Hipkiss, 76); A Moreno, G Chuter, D Morris (M Holford, 72), L Deacon, B Kay, B Deacon, S Jennings, M Corry (capt).

Ospreys: A Cashmore (S Williams, 65); S Terblanche, S Parker, G Henson, R Mustoe; S Connor (M Jones 4-12; 75), J Spice; D Jones, B Williams (capt; H Bennett, 66) A Jones (A Millward, 70), A Newman, I Evans, J Bater, J Thomas, S Tandy.

Referee: J Jutge (France).

l Biarritz stormed to the top of Pool Four, ahead of Ulster and Saracens, after shrugging the Italian champions Treviso aside by 34-7 at the Parc des Sports Aguilera, scoring five tries. Treviso's Australian winger Brendan Williams scored a scintillating solo try in response.

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