Ospreys pass difficult French test

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The Independent Online

Ospreys assistant coach, Sean Holley, issued a national rallying cry after his side recorded a nervy 28-21 win at Bourgoin to secure their passage to the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, the first time they have reached that stage. He believes the region's impressive form in the competition is timely, given Wales' upcoming Six Nations campaign and said: "We're hoping this achievement gives the Wales squad a boost.

"We've got 14 players in the squad, so hopefully they'll come out of the tournament in good form ahead of the two games against Saracens." The Ospreys take on the Vicarage Road outfit in the Heineken Cup quarter-final in early April – 10 days after meeting them in the EDF Energy Cup semi-finals.

Meanwhile twice losing finalists Stade Français, went out at the pool stage yesterday despite a comprehensive four-try, 31-10 victory at Harlequins.

Runners-up to Leicester in 2001 and Toulouse three years ago, the star-studded French side paid the price for their earlier defeats at Bristol and Cardiff. Needing a bonus-point win to have any chance, Stade knew even that would not be enough if Cardiff won at Bristol. The two runners-up places in the last eight had already been taken by Perpignan and Ospreys.

For Quins it completed a miserable campaign in which their only points came from a home draw with Cardiff in November. But Harlequins director of rugby, Dean Richards, looked on the bright side. "There's a huge amount of positives," he said. "We didn't get the tries we wanted, three times it went to the video referee, and they were all opportunities we should have converted. But if we were not creating I would be far more worried."

Elsewhere Newcastle rattled up a cricket score (97-0) against Cetransa El Salvador to make it a clean sweep of home quarter-finals for English clubs in the European Challenge Cup.

The Falcons scored their bonus-point try after only 17 minutes at Kingston Park and the 15-try win earned them a quarter-final against Castres Olympique. They join Worcester Warriors, Bath and Sale in the top four after the pool stages.

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