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European Challenge Cup: Ospreys 23-15 Sale - hosts win to set up Gloucester trip

Morgan Morris dives in for the first try
Morgan Morris dives in for the first try for Ospreys [Huw Evans picture agency]

European Challenge Cup last 16

Ospreys (8) 23

Tries: Morris, Giles, Morgan-Williams Con: O Williams Pens: O Williams 2

Sale Sharks (3) 15

Tries: Reed, Taylor Con: Du Preez Pen: Du Preez

Ospreys defeated Sale in Bridgend to set up a European Challenge Cup quarter-final trip to face Gloucester next weekend.

Tries from Morgan Morris, Keelan Giles and Reuben Morgan-Williams clinched victory and kept up Welsh interest in European competition.

A much-changed Sale launched a late revival with tries from Aaron Reed and Tommy Taylor.

However, Ospreys held on for their first-ever European knockout victory.

The date and time of the last-eight encounter at Kingsholm will be officially announced on Sunday, with the match expected to take place on Friday evening.

The victory is a welcome boost for Welsh men's rugby in a season where Wales finished bottom of the Six Nations and in which Ospreys are the only side battling to finish in the top half of the United Rugby Championship.

Sale will be left to concentrate on trying to reach the Premiership play-offs - and wonder whether they should have made so many changes to the side that defeated Exeter 41-5 in the league last Sunday.

Venue change pays off

Ospreys chose to stage the game at the smaller Brewery Field, in the first European match to be held in Bridgend since the long-defunct Celtic Warriors beat Perpignan 16-15 in January 2004.

The Ospreys' usual home, the Swansea.com Stadium, has a 20,500 capacity and was available to host Sale with football landlords Swansea City playing away this weekend.

Ospreys beat Cardiff 27-21 at the 8,000-capacity Bridgend ground in the URC on 1 January in horrendous conditions.

This time the venue faced the challenges of the wind and rain of the incoming Storm Kathleen and an uninviting, late Saturday night kick-off time.

A crowd of 4,225 was announced, although it sounded like more.

The atmosphere was much more lively than in Swansea, where Ospreys had attracted crowds of around 4,000 for their last two home matches.

Ospreys are planning to move to a new permanent home ground, with Bridgend an option alongside St Helen's in Swansea and the Gnoll in Neath.

Home coach Toby Booth had insisted this weekend's venue switch was not designed to disrupt Sale. Visiting head coach Alex Sanderson had warned his players they were travelling to an "inhospitable" environment after being used to better stadiums and surfaces.

Sanderson included only four starters from the side that hammered Exeter, with England duo George Ford and Manu Tuilagi among those rested.

Ospreys were already missing injured internationals Jac Morgan, Dewi Lake, George North, Alex Cuthbert and Rhys Davies.

They appeared to have suffered a late blow when hooker Sam Parry was ruled with a hamstring problem, but Lewis Lloyd seamlessly stepped in to start.

Strong Sale start

Reuben Morgan-Williams of Ospreys is tackled by JL du Preez of Sale
Reuben Morgan-Williams of Ospreys tries to make a break [Huw Evans picture agency]

Sale started strongly as they aimed to silence the hostile crowd and Robert du Preez slotted over an early penalty.

With the wind at his back, Williams attempted to level the scores with a kick from the halfway line but his effort fell short.

Ospreys' scrum was proving dominant, winning a series of penalties, with Williams levelling the scores.

The home side produced the one moment of first-half quality in testing conditions, with captain Justin Tipuric setting up a move that included tip passes from Owen Williams and Jack Walsh.

They released centre Owen Watkin, whose long pass found number eight Morris to score with a spectacular dive.

Flanker Harri Deaves was outstanding at the breakdown and snuffed out a Sale attack before Ospreys were denied a second try by some stubborn defence.

Wing Giles then lit up the Brewery Field with a try after half-time as he expertly exchanged passes with fly-half Williams.

Scrum-half Morgan-Williams followed up with another moment of magic as he intercepted Du Preez's pass and sprinted away to score under the posts. His half-back partner Williams converted.

Sale finally sprung into life with an arcing run from wing Reed outflanking the Ospreys defence. The revival continued seven minutes later with replacement hooker Taylor driven over.

Ospreys regrouped with Williams slotting over a penalty to take the home side two scores clear and send the Bridgend crowd wild.​

Ospreys head coach Toby Booth:

"We talk about finding a way. Sale were very good opposition, very streetwise. They taught us a few lessons about playing in difficult conditions but our character came through and we're through.

"It's the first time the Ospreys won a knockout game in Europe. We're really proud of that, but we want to continue and push. Gloucester's going to be a very tough challenge away but we're looking forward to that.

"We'll prepare well, dust ourselves off and enjoy some time with the fans. It's great to see such a great atmosphere and it justified bringing the game here."

Ospreys: Jack Walsh; Luke Morgan, Keiran Williams, Owen Watkin, Keelan Giles; Owen Williams, Reuben Morgan-Williams; Gareth Thomas, Lewis Lloyd, Tom Botha, James Ratti, Adam Beard, Harri Deaves, Justin Tipuric (capt), Morgan Morris.

Replacements: Chris Moore, Nicky Smith, Rhys Henry, Huw Sutton, Morgan Morse, Luke Davies, Dan Edwards, Max Nagy.

Sale: Telusa Veainu; Arron Reed, Sam James, Rekeiti Ma'asi-White, Tom O'Flaherty; Rob du Preez, Raffi Quirke; Ross Harrison, Agustin Creevy, Asher Opoku-Fordjour, Ben Bamber, Hyron Andrews, Ben Curry (capt), Sam Dugdale, JL du Preez.

Replacements: Tommy Taylor, Simon McIntyre, James Harper, Tom Ellis, Cam Neild, Nye Thomas, Connor Doherty, Alex Wills.

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)

Assistant referees: Vivian Praderie (FRA) and Jonathan Gasnier (France)

TMO: Thomas Charabas (France)