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Ospreys Break New Ground In South Africa . . . But George North Breaks Down

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By Gareth James

An injury to George North – and therefore a big scare for Wales – was the price paid by Toby Booth’s Ospreys after they won for the first time on South African soil against one of the ‘big four’ provinces.

The Swansea region bagged a home game in the Round of 16 in the EPCR Challenge Cup with a stunning 38-28 win over the Lions in Johannesburg.

Although both sides had already qualified for the knock-out phase, there was a home tie up for grabs and Booth’s side hit back from an 18-14 interval deficit to notch a famous victory that set-up a home clash with Sale Sharks in the next round on the weekend of 5-7 April.

Late tries from Keelan Giles, Cameron Jones and Morgan Morse in a match-winning 21-point spree in the final six minutes sealed the win.

Owen Watkin and George North scored first half tries and there were seven points from the boot of Dan Edwards and six from Jack Walsh.

The only downside for Booth, and Wales head coach Warren Gatland, was the sight of North leaving the field with a shoulder injury.

“George is a bit sore, he has a neural element in his shoulder which has shut down a little bit,” said head coach Booth.

“The Welsh boys are travelling back tonight, so I’m not sure that flight will be the most comfortable.

“He has got a bit of recovery time back before he gets back, and we will hand over all the information to try and treat him and get him back up and running as soon as possible.

“He stayed out there and was tough which was cool to see. He has been very good with the youngsters this week. We wish him a speedy recovery.”

The Lions had three players sin-binned during the game and even though home captain Marius Louw scored two tries, and JC Pretorius and Morne van den Berg also crossed the Ospreys line, the Ospreys refused to buckle.

Hooker PJ Botha was the first person to receive a yellow card when he charged into Deaves without the ball.

Scrum-half Sanele Nohamba opened the scoring with a penalty and ended with eight points.

The hosts conceded a sloppy try when Gianni Lombard’s kick was charged down by recalled Wales centre Watkin, who pounced to score. It was tit-for-tat in a tight first half before the Lions moved into a 28-17 lead in the second half.

Then came the dramatic fight-back to leave the Ospreys as the only Welsh qualifiers for the knockout stages in either the Investec Champions Cup or the EPCR Challenge Cup.

The Ospreys started their fightback with eight minutes left on the clock as replacement outside centre Keiran Williams drove them forward and left wing Keelan Giles scored.

Moments later the visitors came forwards again, resulting in replacement scrum-half Cameron D. Jones dotting down to set the stage for Morse to win it, who intercepted a long pass to race away for the match winning try.

Newcastle Falcons ended a run of 14 successive defeats as they wrapped up their campaign with a 32-23 win at Perpignan.

With both sides already eliminated from the competition there was little to play for but for Falcons players there was the chance to impress incoming consultant director of rugby Steve Diamond.

Louie Johnson kicked Newcastle into a 9-3 lead but it was wiped out by a Lucas Dubois try for Perpignan, who led 13-9 at the break.

Tries from Hugh O’Sullivan and Ben Redshaw put the Falcons in control and the unfaltering boot of Johnson secured a thoroughly deserved win in the south of France.

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