Former Heineken Cup champions Northampton Saints bounced back from an opening defeat by Castres to beat Ospreys 27-16 on Sunday in their second pool match.
The Saints — European champions in 2000 and finalists in 2011 — moved to within a point of three-time winners Leinster, who defeated Castres on Saturday, and whom they will face in a double-header when the competition resumes in December.
Defeat for Welsh outfit Ospreys leaves them pointless after two games and struggling to reach the quarter-finals, despite possessing the talents of Wales stars George North, Alun-Wyn Jones and Dan Biggar.
It was flyhalf Biggar who got Ospreys back into the match early in the second half, scoring a try that he converted to leave them trailing by just 17-14.
However, the hosts replied with their second try of the game — the first being scored by lock Christian Day in the first half — through England fullback Ben Foden, who was at the end of a move that saw Lee Dickson provide the decisive pass for his 14th try in the competition.
Stephen Myler converted for 24-16, before both he and Biggar exchanged penalties, although Saints may come to rue not grabbing a bonus point as Dan Pisi was held up yards short of the line.
Man-of-the-match Courtney Lawes said that they had been highly motivated to get a win on the board after the opening loss to Castres.
“The boys came out with a great attitude and we replicated that in the way we played,” he said. “Twenty tackles from me, I’ll take that. Just happens a lot of people ran into me.”
Ospreys captain Jones said his side had improved on their performance from the opening home defeat against Leinster.
“This week it was a case of a little chat and more work,” he said. “The result didn’t go our way but I’m proud of the guys. We have to be candid and admit there is a mountain to climb to qualify, but we won’t give up.”
French sides Clermont and Perpignan also bounced back after opening defeats, beating Harlequins (23-16) and Edinburgh (31-14) respectively.
Clermont, beaten finalists last season, looked like they would rack up a huge score when they ran in three tries in the first 26 minutes.
However, Clermont’s Welsh star Lee Byrne’s sin-binning two minutes after that handed the initiative to the English side and they hammered that home with a try on the half-time whistle as Tom Williams went over.
The second half was a scrappy affair and Nick Evans may have grabbed what turns out to be a vital bonus point for Harlequins with a last minute drop-goal, but it was not enough to stop Clermont extending their unbeaten home record to 65 matches.
Byrne, who scored one of their tries, said he and his teammates had to put away their chances if they are to finally land the trophy, especially as this might be the last year of its existence with French and English clubs planning a breakaway tournament.
“After losing to Toulon in the final last season we have come back more determined than ever to set matters right, it is very important to us,” the Welsh fullback said.
Perpignan, who lost to Gloucester in the opening game, lead Munster by a point, as the former champions rebounded from their opening defeat to beat Gloucester 26-10 in Limerick, Ireland, on Saturday.
Also on Sunday in Pool 2, Glasgow edged Exeter 20-16.
Additional reporting by staff writer