Record four-time Celtic League winners the Ospreys saw their chances in the European Cup almost certainly ended on Friday with a 9-15 defeat against French champions Castres.
With three defeats from three and just one bonus point, the Ospreys would need a lot to go in their favor to progress.
In a dour affair, four penalties from South African scrum-half Rory Kockott and one from his second-half replacement Geoffrey Palis was enough to give Castres their second win in three Pool 1 matches.
Their failure to earn a bonus point in a group featuring Leinster and Northampton, who were to meet at Franklin’s Gardens yesterday, could be crucial.
The Ospreys’ nine points came from Wales fly-half Dan Biggar.
They did not play like a side resigned to their fate in the first half, taking the lead through Biggar.
Kockott missed his first two kicks at goal, but finally landed the third while the Ospreys’ Fiji wing Aisea Natoga sat in the sin-bin.
Biggar and Kockott exchanged penalties again before half-time and the South African added another at the start of the second period.
Castres knew they might need a bonus point for their competition hopes and went in search of tries, but Paul Bonnefond spilled the ball 5m from the try-line.
Romain Cabannes was next to blow a try-scoring opportunity with a horrible wayward and forward pass.
Replacement Ospreys flanker Sam Lewis was yellow-carded and Kockott extended the hosts’ lead.
Two more penalties, one for each side, left Castres leading by six points with time running out.
Palis and Seremaia Bai were sin-binned in the final minute giving the French champions a nervy last few moments holding out on their own line with just 13 men.
The Cardiff Blues took charge of Pool 2 with a 29-20 win over Glasgow. Reigning champions Toulon were to travel to Exeter yesterday in another Pool 2 match.
Cardiff scored tries through Rhys Patchell and Alex Cuthbert with Glasgow replying with two of their own by Sean Maitland and Leone Nakarawa, but it was Leigh Halfpenny’s kicking — he scored 16 points — that made the difference.
Glasgow were under early pressure, already down by a penalty each for Halfpenny and Patchell, with Cuthbert causing havoc on several rampaging runs.
Pinned down almost on their own line, scrum-half Nikola Matawalu passed to fly-half Duncan Weir who spilled the ball in his own end zone.
From the resultant scrum, Cuthbert again battered away at the defense before Patchell wriggled over for the game’s opening try.
Halfpenny converted and added another penalty to put Cardiff 16-0 ahead, but Glasgow’s New Zealand-born Scotland wing Maitland scythed past two tackles just before half-time.
Weir’s conversion made it 16-7 at the break.
Halfpenny and Weir swapped a pair of penalties each before Cuthbert intercepted a pass deep inside his own half and sprinted almost the length of the field to break Glasgow’s resistance.