Quins kicked out by Henson

Neath-Swansea Ospreys 24 - Harlequins 7
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The Independent Online

Gavin Henson kicked Harlequins out of the Heineken Cup yesterday while simultaneously injecting some life back into the Neath-Swansea Ospreys' Pool Four campaign.

The Wales international scored all his side's points with a haul of eight penalties out of nine attempts at St Helens. The only disappointment was that the Ospreys failed to score a try, despite their absolute territorial domination.

"Not scoring a try is a concern to us," admitted Henson, who added that he was also personally disappointed not to have maintained a faultless goal-kicking sequence, after landing 14 out of 14 for Wales against Japan last week.

Mark Evans, the Harlequins head coach, said: "That was our poorest performance since the beginning of October." But he promised: "We won't play like that again in the return match at The Stoop next week."

Neath were caught by a sucker punch after 62 seconds when the Harlequins full-back Tom Williams hacked, then chased, the ball fully 40 metres. The Ospreys right wing Stefan Terblanche gathered the ball and hesitated for a nano-second before attempting a clearance kick. The oncoming Williams charged it down, picked up the ball and touched down. Jeremy Staunton converted.

Thereafter Harlequins found themselves on the receiving end. The lively Ospreys flanker Richard Pugh - the embodiment of a young Neil Back - displayed scorching speed to the breakdown and a thunderous tackle. The blind-side James Bater was a useful third jumper in the line-out and he too tackled like a demon, while the No 8 Ryan Jones proved a fine ball carrier.

As for Henson, he was appearing at inside-centre, his international position, for the first time this season for the Ospreys and he was in masterful mode. His passing was outrageously timed and deftly executed. He dictated passage after passage of play, and when not doing that he kicked commandingly out of hand to ensure his team field position.

The Ospreys still had to wait until Harlequins were down to 14 men, the flanker Nick Easter having been sent to the sin-bin for joining a ruck illegally, before they could begin to peck away at the Harlequins advantage.

Then the Henson penalty barrage began. He thumped over some long-range kicks, the fourth of which was a monster from inside his own half on the stroke of half-time. But in terms of scoring a try, casual handling and careless decision-making cost the Ospreys dear, despite the fact that they spent most of the time in the Quins half.

Neath-Swansea Ospreys: Penalties Henson 8. Harlequins: Try Williams; Conversion Staunton.

Neath-Swansea Ospreys: A Durston; S Terblanche, S Parker, G Henson, S Williams; M Jones, J Spice; D Jones, B Williams (capt; M Davies, 78), A Jones, A Newman, J Thomas, J Bater, R Jones, R Pugh.

Harlequins: T Williams (G Duffy, 62); G Harder, W Greenwood, D James, S Keogh; J Staunton (A Dunne, 51), S So'oialo; M Worsley, T Fuga, C Jones, R Winters (K Rudzki, 63), S Miall, N Easter, T Diprose (L Sherriff, 63), A Vos (capt).

Referee: F Maciello (France).