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Hook steers Ospreys to Cup glory

12 Apr 2008
Hook steers Ospreys to Cup glory

James Hook produced another brilliant Twickenham performance as the Ospreys lifted the EDF Energy Cup with victory over Leicester.

Two months ago, Hook took home the man-of-the-match champagne after Wales staged a remarkable second-half comeback to beat England in what proved to be the first leg of their RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam triumph.
And today the 22-year-old was a central figure at HQ once again, providing the scoring pass for both Ospreys tries and kicking 13 points himself.

Leicester, the defending champions, had taken an early lead with a penalty and drop goal from Andy Goode before Hook, Marty Holah, Filo Tiatia and the Ospreys took charge.

Andrew Bishop and Alun-Wyn Jones scored either side of half-time as Wales' glamour region buried the disappointment of last weekend's Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat at Saracens.

The Ospreys, who lost to Leicester in last year's final, became the first Welsh side to win the EDF Energy Cup.

They were without Gavin Henson but still featured 11 of the Wales side that beat England in early February.

The Tigers also came into the match on the back of a defeat, at home to Wasps in the league, but they had a weekend off and started stronger.

Their urgency and physicality at the breakdown made it hard for the Ospreys to settle and after Goode missed a long-range kick from his own half he pushed Leicester 6-0 ahead with a penalty and a drop goal.

The Tigers could have been further ahead after marching to within inches of the try-line but the Ospreys' defence stood firm as Leicester first tried to pummel their way over through the forwards.

And when captain Martin Corry, forced backwards in a huge tackle from Hook, offloaded to Danny Hipkiss the England centre spilled the ball and the chance was gone.

Hook missed two of this three goal attempts in the first half but with the ball in hand he was a constant threat.

He showed a searing turn of pace to launch the Ospreys' first real foray into Leicester territory and then pushed a clever kick into the corner to pile on the pressure.

Hook was promising to conjure something special and it almost came from a scything break through the broken Leicester defence.

With Shane Williams outside on the overlap the try was on but Leicester scrum-half Harry Ellis produced a desperate, brilliant tackle to haul Hook down from behind.

The Ospreys, though, did not have long to wait for the opening try as Hook found Bishop on the switch ball.

The Wales Under-21 international powered through tackles from Goode and George Chuter and had enough momentum to hold off Aaron Mauger and Tuilagi to score by the posts.

The try changed the momentum of the game and the Ospreys dominated for the remainder of the opening half, with full-back Lee Byrne an increasing threat.

One of the standout performers in Wales' Grand Slam campaign, Byrne was confident under the high ball and attacked dangerously.

Hook tried to tighten the Ospreys' grip just before the interval after latching onto an offload from Williams but his kick forward was just too strong and the ball skidded out.

The Ospreys continued in the same vein after the restart with another break from Byrne splitting the Leicester defence and Hook sent Alun-Wyn Jones plundering over for the second try.

Hook's conversion from wide right was masterful and he followed that with a brilliant penalty from a similar position to open an 11-point lead their invention deserved.

The Ospreys kept the pace high and were in complete control, with Hook, Tiatia and Williams leaving Leicester chasing shadows.

Leicester needed to secure a foothold and Ellis provided it, snaffling a turnover from Tiatia at the base of an Ospreys scrum in the shadow of the Tigers posts.

Leicester marauded upfield as Jordan Crane galloped into the 22 and earned a close-range penalty but Corry opted for the scrum instead of a shot at goal.

And it proved to be the wrong move. The Ospreys defended valiantly for six minutes, holding up a Leicester drive over the line before clearing their lines and Hook applied the killer blow with his second penalty.

The Ospreys remained heavily on the front foot and almost finished with a third try for replacement Gareth Owen, only for referee Alain Rolland to call play back for a forward pass.


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