Ospreys 32 Gloucester 15: Henson reigns on Gloucester's parade

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The Independent Online

Ospreys ripped Gloucester's unbeaten Heineken Cup record in Pool Two to shreds in atrocious conditions at a drenched Liberty Stadium last night. The Cherry and Whites were as much victims of their own errors and indiscipline as they were of the altogether sharper, wittier Welsh team, for whom James Hook and Gavin Henson shone.

The fact that Gloucester had three sent to the sin bin in the course of an absorbing match told its own tale. But they still only need to beat Ulster at home on Friday to qualify, and all Ospreys need is victory in Bourgoin next weekend to make it to the knock-out stages.

Henson had needed barely 10 minutes to shake off the rustiness of his six-week lay-off because of a fractured hand. The sometime glamour boy of Welsh rugby took a long pass from Hook and cut inside before sticking a high kick up into the clouds which were throwing down torrents of rain on to the Liberty Stadium.

By the time the ball came down, landing between a statuesque Iain Balshaw and Mike Tindall, Henson was on hand to reclaim it and although Balshaw recovered to get back and make a try-saving tackle on the line, the Ospreys merely worked it back and sent Shane Williams over on the right. Hook converted Williams' try then added a 20th-minute penalty to his opening goal.

Henson's performance should have pleased Wales' new head coach Warren Gatland, who was watching from the stands with one of his assistants, Rob Howley. Henson and Hook showed plenty of imagination and kept Gloucester on the back foot.

Tindall and James Simpson-Daniel did have a dart or two at the Ospreys defence as Gloucester rumbled back upfield following Williams' try, and they were rewarded with a penalty by Ryan Lamb.

But the home side, backed by a vociferous crowd, saw off the threats and then applied severe pressure of their own. Once more the Cherry and Whites cracked and conceded a third penalty to Hook.

Gloucester, who had lost lock Alex Brown in the 12th minute to injury, had had plenty of problems trying to contain an inventive Ospreys, so the needless departure of blindside flanker Peter Buxton in the 36th minute, sent to the sin bin for coming into a ruck from the side with his team-mates desperately defending, did nothing for their cause. Hook landed a fourth goal from the resultant penalty.

Gloucester were soon back on the Ospreys' rack after the interval, Hook landing a further penalty, and the game looked well out of their reach. Replacement scrum-half Rory Lawson did burst clear at the back of a line-out and sprinted over the line untouched for a try which fellow Scot Chris Paterson, another replacement, converted.

But when Gloucester lost two replacements, back row forward Luke Narraway and hooker Olivier Azam, to the sin bin their cause was lost. Richard Hibbard's 78th-minute catch and drive try for Ospreys and Lamb's touchdown in added time were mere sideshows.

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), A Jones, I Gough (I Evans, 69), A Jones (P James, 73), 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).

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