Ospreys 19-40 Racing 92: Hosts suffer heavy Heineken Champions Cup defeat
|Heineken Champions Cup: Ospreys v Racing 92|
|Ospreys (7) 19|
|Tries: Dirksen, Fia, Davies Cons: McKenzie|
|Racing 92 (28) 40|
|Tries: Baubigny, Thomas (2), Mangene, Chavancy, Penalty Cons: Machenaud 4|
Ospreys' nightmare season plumbed new depths as they had a man sent off less than a minute into their latest loss, at home to Racing 92 in the Heineken Champions Cup.
Full-back Dan Evans saw red after just 37 seconds as his boot made contact with Teddy Thomas' face as he caught a high ball.
The hosts actually took the lead through Hanno Dirksen's try, but that was a false dawn as Racing scored four - including two for Thomas - to lead 28-7 at half-time.
That killed the game as a contest and, despite flickers of an Ospreys revival with tries for Ma'afu Fia and Aled Davies, Racing added two more of their own as they eased to a comfortable victory.
The unbeaten French side stay top of Pool Four, while a third defeat from three Champions Cup fixtures keeps the Ospreys rooted to the bottom of the group.
This defeat was the latest setback in a miserable season for the Welsh region, who have now lost nine out of their 10 competitive fixtures.
On the eve of last weekend's Pro14 defeat by Cheetahs, Ospreys bosses confirmed head coach Allen Clarke is no longer in charge of team affairs.
Assistants Matt Sherratt and Carl Hogg have since taken interim charge of the team, with former Wales boss Mike Ruddock helping on a short-term basis as a consultant.
Ruddock was watching from the stands at a sparsely-populated Liberty Stadium on this occasion and, while he will already have been aware of the Ospreys' plight, this was a sobering evening which laid bare the region's dismal state of affairs on and off the pitch.
Nightmare start for Ospreys
A match against Racing, the wealthy two-time Champions Cup runners-up from Paris, was always likely to prove difficult for the Ospreys, ravaged by injury and shorn of leading Wales internationals such as Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and George North.
Their task was made infinitely more difficult after just 37 seconds when referee Frank Murphy consulted television match official Olly Hodges and sent off Evans after he had jumped to catch the ball and planted his foot into the face of France wing Thomas.
It seemed accidental on Evans' part, but that did not matter as Murphy dealt with the incident to the letter of the law and produced a red card.
Ospreys' initial response was impressive, sending Dirksen over in the corner for a converted try after Racing's Juan Imhoff was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.
But that numerical parity was short-lived as Ospreys centre Scott Williams was also yellow carded and, during his 10 minutes in the bin, Racing hooker Teddy Baubigny and wing Thomas crossed for converted tries.
Things got even worse for the hosts as they were temporarily reduced to 12 players when scrum-half Davies was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on, compounded by the fact referee Murphy then awarded Racing a penalty try.
The away side were already coasting at this point and, when Thomas touched down for his second try and his team's bonus point-securing fourth, Racing had the air of a team gently going through the motions in a training session.
Trailing 28-7, the Ospreys feared a case of deja vu when, 18 seconds into the second half, Murphy turned to Hodges once again to consider potential foul play from Williams.
The Wales centre, yellow carded in the first half, looked like he might be in danger of getting a second - if not a straight red - after leading with his elbow as he braced himself for a tackle from Olivier Klemenczak.
Williams' elbow appeared to strike Klemenczak in the head, but Murphy reprieved the Ospreys player without showing him a card of any colour.
That let-off did not stop the procession from Racing, who extended their lead with a try for replacement Yoan Tanga-Mangene.
To their credit, the Ospreys did not simply unravel. They responded with tries for Ma'afu Fia and scrum-half Davies which reduced their deficit to 33-19.
But those scores never felt like harbingers of a genuine revival.
This game was already beyond them and a sixth try conceded, this time by Racing captain Henry Chavancy, was the final blow of yet another defeat for the Ospreys in a demoralising campaign.
Ospreys forwards coach Carl Hogg said: "It makes it very difficult when you lose a player in the first minute of the game and concede a couple of yellow cards… against one of the best sides in Europe.
"But credit to the players - in the second half they regrouped and showed a huge amount of character and spirit to battle back because it would've been very easy to fold.
"I think it [Dan Evans' red card] was unintentional, but nowadays any contact with the head and the player's going to be in trouble."
Ospreys: D Evans; Dirksen, Watkin, S Williams, L Morgan; McKenzie, A Davies; N Smith, Otten, Fia, Beard, B Davies, Lydiate (capt), Cracknell, Morris.
Replacements: I Phillips, G Thomas, Gajion, Orie, Cross, Venter, Price, Thomas-Wheeler.
Racing 92: Zebo; Thomas, Vakatawa, Henry Chavancy (capt), Imhoff; Russell, Machenaud; Ben Arous, Baubigny, Gomes Sa, Le Roux, Ryan, Lauret, Palu, Claassen.
Replacements: Le Guen, Kolingar, Oz, Sanconnie, Tanga, Iribaren, Volavola, Klemenczak.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistants: Rob O'Sullivan (Ireland), Eddie Hogan O'Connell (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)