Ospreys 32 Gloucester 15: Gatland treated to an Ospreys masterclass

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The Independent Online

They arrived as Premiership leaders and topped the Heineken Cup Pool Two table, but Gloucester skulked out of Wales yesterday after being thoroughly out-played, out-thought and out-fought by a far superior Ospreys side.

And that spelled good news for new Wales coach Warren Gatland, watching from the stands as Ospreys mastered the conditions and the opposition. Gatland names his first Wales squad today and must have been heartened by what he saw.

Ospreys' man of the match, Justin Marshall, the former New Zealand All Blacks scrum-half was unstinting in his praise. "The Wales players in the forward pack really stood up, and in the backs Gavin Henson and James Hook showed discipline. It is not only good for us but also good for Wales," he said.

It is now imperative that Gloucester beat Ulster in the final Pool Two match on Friday if they are to guarantee a home quarter-final tie. Ospreys too could qualify and could even end up meeting the Cherry and Whites at Kingsholm.

The Welsh region's pack subjugated the Gloucester forwards, denying them possession, while Ospreys' front five dominated the line-out and comfortably won the battle on the floor.

When the ball did come Gloucester's way there was a distinct lack of appetite on the part of the players to contest the possession. A Henson high ball that eluded the Gloucester defenders led indirectly to Ospreys opening try and set the pattern for the match. The Cherry and Whites' two tries were frustrating, merely reminding their fans what they could do when they got it all together.

Gloucester were on the back foot for most of the match and on the rare occasion they did manage to get off it they found themselves back in their own 22 again.

They were not helped by three yellow cards, and at one stage towards the end they found themselves reduced to 10 men after Luke Narraway was sent off for allegedly swearing and Olivier Azam was sent to the sin bin for foul play.

Narraway denied that he had sworn at the referee, saying: "I didn't swear directly at the referee. One of their players killed the ball and I said 'Get him off the fucking ball'.

"I don't think it was a binnable offence, at most maybe a penalty, but I think the ref was getting a little bit annoyed and he obviously thought enough was enough."

But even if Gloucester had maintained their discipline they would not have won. They did not have the direction and determination of their opponents. Henson, back after a six-week lay-off, looked to have returned to something approaching his best and his partnership with Hook in midfield looks rich in ideas.

There was little for Dean Ryan to feel happy about and Gloucester's disgruntled head coach now has to prepare his team to take on Ulster. It just gets harder.

Ospreys: Tries S Williams, Hibbard; Conversions Hook 2; Penalties Hook 6. Gloucester: Tries Lawson, Lamb; Conversion Paterson; Penalty Lamb.

Ospreys: L Byrne; N Walker, S Parker (M Taylor, 75), G Henson, S Williams (J Vaughton 75); J Hook, J Marshall (M Phillips, 73); D Jones, H Bennett (R Hibbard, 73), Adam Jones(P James, 73), I Gough (I Evans, 69), A Wyn Jones, R Jones (capt), M Holah, F Tiatia (J Thomas, 73).

Gloucester: I Balshaw; J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall, A Allen, L Lloyd (C Paterson, 48); R Lamb, G Cooper (R Lawson, 52); C Califano (P Collazo, 62), A Titterrell (O Azam, 44), C Nieto, M Bortolami (capt), A Brown (A Strokosch, 12), P Buxton, A Qera (L Narraway, 65), G Delve.

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).