Exeter Chiefs came out on top in a nine-try thriller at Sandy Park, beating the Ospreys 36-22 with hooker Lloyd Cowan-Dickie crossing twice in an impressive performance.
The Chiefs scored five-tries in all to claim the bonus point and give themselves hope of qualifying for the next round of the competition from Pool 2.
Both sides struggled to cope with a strong wind early on, with the ball repeatedly kicked out on the full. After the Chiefs were caught offside the Ospreys set up an attacking lineout and Rhodri Hughes claimed the ball and set up a maul.
They were held up three metres out but the ball was popped up to Dafydd Howells who burrowed his way over the line at the second attempt after some poor defending from the Chiefs, although Matthew Morgan missed with his conversion attempt.
A tremendous run from Fetu’u Vainikolo saw the winger fend off three tackles and recycle the ball, winning his side a penalty and giving Ceri Sweeney a kick to the corner, 12 metres from the Ospreys’ try-line.
And from the resulting set-piece Cowan-Dickie emerged from the bottom of the maul to touch the ball down over the line and level the scores. Sweeney’s shot at the posts narrowly missed the target as it was caught in the wind.
Exeter then failed to deal with a grubber kick that bounced away from scrum-half Stuart Townsend and the Ospreys took advantage, Tom Grabham pouncing to set up a try for Morgan Allen. Morgan again failed to add the extras as the wind played a part.
The Chiefs rumbled upfield into the Ospreys 22, with the assault on the line led by Carl Rimmer and Cowan-Dickie with referee Ben Whitehouse producing a yellow card for Ospreys flanker Arthur Ellis after some desperate defending. Sweeney stepped up to slot the resulting three-pointer from close range to make it 10-8 to the visitors.
Morgan sent his re-start straight out of play and the Exeter forwards won a penalty at the scrum that Sweeney kicked to touch. Exeter closed on the Ospreys line before spraying the ball wide to Sweeney who was bundled into touch by hooker Matthew Dwyer in the corner.
Then a brilliant break by No.9 Tom Habberfield found winger Grabham who cut inside forcing Tom James into a try-saving tackle.
But Exeter lost Cowan-Dickie to the sin bin for killing the ball five-metres from the line, forcing them to bring on replacement hooker Greg Bateman for flanker Will Carrick-Smith.
Just before half-time Exeter got a shove on and the Ospreys were pinged for pulling down the maul with Sweeney kicking to touch.
In time added-on the lineout was fed to the forwards who closed on the line. With the players celebrating a try referee Whitehouse ruled they had not touched the ball down and sent the teams off for half-time.
Exeter made a crucial breakthrough shortly after the break when James Scaysbrook scored a rare try, taking the ball from Sireli Naqelevuki on the cut back and putting his head down and galloping clear. Sweeney converted the try to make it 15-10 with 35 minutes to play.
Exeter sensed blood and began to batter the Ospreys line, Cowan-Dickie forcing his way over for the second time after returning from the sin bin, Sweeney slotting the conversion.
Just when it looked like Exeter might run away with it the Ospreys came back, Cowan-Dickie overthrowing the ball at the lineout with the Ospreys quickly recycling to Matthew Jenkins who charged over the line, Morgan successful with his shot at the sticks.
And almost immediately they levelled the scores, working the ball from the lineout across the pitch to Grabham who dived over the line to make it 22-22. Morgan missed the posts with a tricky conversion and it was all to play for with 25 minutes left on the clock.
However they couldn’t maintain the momentum, which swung back towards the home side as No.8 James Phillips burst through to score, Sweeney producing a magnificent conversion to make it a seven-point gap.
With the sides having scored four tries apiece to secure a bonus point it was all about who could seal the victory, and Exeter looked to have it in the bag when James Phillips carried the ball to within five metres of the line.
The Exeter forwards took it on and Don Armand claimed the try, Sweeney adding the extras to make it 36-22. And despite late Ospreys pressure Exeter confidently saw out the rest of the game to secure an impressive victory.