Ospreys fall just short against Clermont Auvergne
Clermont Auvergne overcame a ferocious Ospreys fightback to retain their proud European home record with a bonus-point 34-29 win in Pool Two of the Champions Cup.
David Strettle was the hero for the French side, scoring two brilliant tries, with centres Aurelien Rougerie and Wesley Fofana also getting over the line.
Fly-half Camille Lopez kicked 10 points while Morgan Para added two conversions. But the visitors registered tries through Justin Tipuric, Eli Walker, Sam Parry and Tom Habberfield, with Dan Biggar slotting three conversions and a penalty, to pick up two valuable bonus points.
The Ospreys had won just one of their 14 games across the Channel and few gave them any hope of improving that record against a Clermont side unbeaten at their Stade Marcel-Michelin home in European competition since a defeat to Sale in 2008.
However, the Welsh side started positively and should have had the first try in the 13th minute.
A lovely line-out move involving Brendon Leonard and Scott Baldwin would have sent prop Dmitri Arhip over the line had Clermont flanker Alexandre Lapandry not tackled him before the scoring pass arrived.
Lapandry was sent to the sin bin, but referee George Clancy opted not to award a penalty try, although it seemed certain Arhip would have scored without the illegal tackle.
Biggar did at least put them ahead with a well-taken drop goal in the 17th minute, only for the Wales international to blot his copybook by misjudging an aerial challenge on Fritz Lee that allowed Lopez to level the scores with a penalty.
Clermont were beginning to assert their authority and two big charges from lock Sebastien Vahaamahina put them in a promising position.
The Ospreys scrambled the ball clear but Nick Abendanon made them pay for the loose clearance as he linked with Strettle, who broke the line and brilliantly beat full-back Dan Evans to score, with Lopez converting.
The visitors were struggling and they looked out of it when Lopez's clever pass sent Rougerie over and Lopez kicked the conversion and a penalty to open up a 17-point lead.
However, the Ospreys roared out of the blocks early in the second half and scored two tries in the space of three minutes.
Firstly, Tipuric was rolled over the line from an excellent maul, with Biggar converting. Clermont had barely digested that score when another followed. Walker kicked ahead and when Tipuric hacked the ball further on the Ospreys wing caught Noa Nakaitaci snoozing to beat him to the touch down.
Biggar's conversion had the Ospreys within three points, but Strettle ultimately sunk their hopes of a famous win with another great finish.
The former Saracens man scooped up a loose ball and left three defenders for dead to race under the posts before Fofana gathered a pinpoint cross-kick for the fourth Clermont try.
The Ospreys bravely rallied. Replacement hooker Parry cantered over and, with the final move off the game, Biggar led a sensational counter that ended with Habberfield racing in from 40 metres for a fourth try of their own.