Leinster 30-31 Ospreys, RaboDirect PRO12 final
Shane Williams delights in victorious farewell
May 27, 2012
Ospreys' Paul James and Shane Williams celebrate with the PRO12 silverware © PA Photos
Two-try hero Shane Williams was delighted to end his Ospreys career on a winning note with victory over Leinster in the RaboDirect PRO12 season finale.
The Swansea-based region snatched their second title in three years thanks largely to Williams' brace - the second two minutes from time and converted to clinch a dramatic 31-30 triumph over their Irish rivals. Williams, who also bowed out of the international stage in dramatic fashion, was thrilled to be retiring on a winning note after a glittering 15-year professional career.
"I enjoy success of course like anybody else. The one you remember is the latest one and this for me is a great way for me to finish," admitted the 35-year-old winger. "I am very proud of the fact that I am associated with the Ospreys. We have worked very hard this season, we have had our ups and downs and there has been a lot of change in the ranks, with a lot of players leaving the region.
"For us to stick at it the way we have this season it's a compliment to the guys. I will never forget this day."
The victory seemed to be getting away from the Ospreys when Heineken Cup champions Leinster took a 17-9 half-time lead and Isa Nacewa's second try then pushed them 30-21 in front. But the Welsh outfit, who finished second in the table, bounced back superbly to stun the RDS crowd with a 10-point spurt in the final 10 minutes.
They had done the double over both Leinster and Munster during the regular season and beat the Irish pair in the play-offs, coming to the boil at just the right time. It was young out-half Dan Biggar who took on the mantle of match winner as having already kicked 14 points, he coolly converted Williams' 78th-minute try to edge the Ospreys home.
Their head coach Steve Tandy praised his players' character and fighting spirit to hold out until the final whistle despite Leinster threatening to hit back in injury-time. "I think it is testament to the team - the whole group and backroom staff and everyone involved in the organisation, but especially the team," he said afterwards.
"The team have been fantastic since I have taken over and in fairness the boys were relentless. We probably thought we were out of the game today, but the guys dug deep. Some things were a bit frantic out there, but we stuck with what we were trying to achieve. I think it is great for the Ospreys and what a great way to finish the season."
Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt was understandably disappointed by the manner of the defeat which comes just eight days after they retained the Heineken Cup. Yellow cards for Heinke van der Merwe and Nathan White, along with an early injury to fellow prop Mike Ross, hampered the Irish province as they fell to their third successive league final defeat.
"It wasn't for the lack of effort," said Schmidt. "I am pretty gutted obviously. We knew that it was going to be tough and we had to be in front in the back half of the game," said Schmidt. "There was going to be a little bit of fatigue, and I think you get more fatigue when you are down to 14 men twice in the half.
"That means you have to overwork a little bit. We fell off a couple of tight tackles and maybe just didn't have things bounce our way. I thought it was a superb kick by Dan Biggar from the edge and it was pretty much the same thing he did to us last time to get a one-point win (here back in March)."
His skipper Leo Cullen was left a little frustrated by the performance of referee Romain Poite. "You pick up the award for getting the least number of yellow cards in the season and then pick up two in the final," he said. "There were a lot of things today that left me scratching my head. They gave us that eight- or nine- or 10-point lead and it was frustrating that we let them back into the game.
"It's one of those games where when I look back I'll be scratching my head as to why we lost. In the past I've never had an issue with Romain. It was just today he didn't really want to talk. That's his prerogative.
"Losing three (league) finals is not ideal. Today 10 minutes to go and eight or nine points ahead . . . that's not ideal. But that's life. That's sport," he added.
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