Having been maligned for the first six weeks of the season, the Ospreys are at last showing signs that their campaign might take off. The scenes of elation that followed James Hook's nerveless kick to seal a thrilling 17-16 victory in injury time over the English champions, Sale Sharks, at the Liberty Stadium on Friday night told a story in itself.
Expectations were raised to unprecedented levels following a summer spending spree that captured All Blacks Justin Marshall and Filo Tiatia, the Wales full-back Lee Byrne and the Scotland wing Nikki Walker, and earned the Ospreys the tag of Welsh rugby's "dream team".
An indifferent start put the pressure on their coach, Lyn Jones; until Friday night, when Shane Williams's injury-time try and Hook's conversion proved you can clip an Osprey's wings, but you cannot deny their natural instincts. Williams said: "That was hugely important. Other teams would have thrown in the towel at 16-10 at the end of 80 minutes, but the lads produced a great passage of play right at the end. We never gave up.
"You could see what it meant to the players. Losing our first game at home could have cost us the competition, but this victory will give us great momentum for Stade Français . We beat one of the best sides in Europe without playing that well; it's not often you can say that. There is still another 25 per cent to come and we will need that in Paris."
The Ospreys' victory was all the more remarkable after they had been suffocated by the giant Sale pack and were trailing to the boot of Charlie Hodgson until the 87th minute. Yet just as another season threatened to slip away, the pieces finally fitted into place when it mattered most.
Williams said: "We have got so much potential in this team and it was frustrating not to show it against Sale. With so many new faces and players returning from long-term injuries, we knew it would take time to click, but we know what we are capable of achieving in this competition."
Welsh rugby, starved of dom-estic success since the inception of regional rugby, certainly hopes that happens soon.Reuse content