Ospreys 22 Borders 18: Touch of class puts Henson back into Wales reckoning

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The Independent Online

Welsh rugby is still reeling from the shock departure of Mike Ruddock and the subsequent blame game that has engulfed a baffled nation. Yet amid a theatre of conspiracy theories, back-stabbing and treason, one of the game's genuine stars returned to the stage.

Henson returned from his seven-week ban for elbowing Leicester's Alex Moreno and ultimately proved the difference between the teams, kicking a perfect five out of five, and providing the few sparks of inspiration in an otherwise dour match. Wales caretaker coach Scott Johnson was among the interested spectators at the Liberty Stadium with his first official team selection looming ahead of the match with Ireland next Sunday.

Whether or not Henson did enough to gain a place remains to be seen. This was, after all, only his fourth game since the British Lions tour last summer and Johnson has a winning team at his mercy. Plus there is the inevitable baggage that sadly accompanies the talented playmaker.

Prior to last night's match, Henson's regional coach Lyn Jones told any Wales team members still carrying a grudge against the player to "grow up" and "get on with the business" at hand. That was certainly what Henson did last night, albeit against far weaker opposition than he might face next weekend. While he may have missed the best part of two months, it took less than four minutes for him to get on the scoresheet with a penalty struck with confidence.

Indeed Henson, starting at full-back, certainly looked comfortable with the ball in hand, gliding past three defenders with a step off his left and then right feet early on, and returned any high kicks with telling thrusts.

A second penalty followed before half-time as the Ospreys led an otherwise low-key affair 9-6 at the interval - Shaun Connor added a drop goal while Charlie Hore put over the sticks twice for the visitors.

Henson made his most telling contribution as the Ospreys finally cut loose after the break. His counterattack from a well taken catch over his shoulder led to a third penalty before delivering the scoring pass in the game's key moment.

The Ospreys pack strung a series of passes together after the prop Andrew Millward pinched possession from a Borders lineout. The attack shifted to the backs where Henson injected pace before slipping the pass inside for Andrew Bishop to score the game's opening try.

Borders hit back twice in injury time with two Ospreys in the sin bin. It was hardly enough to inspire the crowd on a desperately poor night of rugby, but it may have got Henson a ticket to Dublin next week.

Ospreys: Try Bishop; Conversion Henson; Penalties Henson 4; Drop goal Connor.

Borders: Tries Western, MacRae; Conversion Hore; Penalties Hore 2.

Ospreys: Henson; Terblanche (Cashmore, 53), Parker, Bishop (Karauna, 76), Mustoe; Connor, Spice (Rees, 77); Griffiths, Bennett (Hibbard, 76), Millward, Newman (Wyn-Jones, 77), Bateman, Bater (capt, Dillon, 58), Thomas, Pugh.

Borders: MacRae; Moffat, MacDougall, Law, Walker; Hore, McKercher (Western, 52); Thomson (capt), Scott, Cross, MacLeod, Palepoi, Brown, Rennick (Dalziel, 44), Miller.

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).