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Edinburgh v Ospreys - Capital Punishment

The Ospreys made the long trip north to the Scottish capital to face Edinburgh at the DAM Health Stadium on Saturday evening. The Ospreys selected as strong a squad as they had available but were without Tipuric, Morgan, Giles, Watkin, and Cuthbert. Tom Botha was making his 100th appearance for the Ospreys. Edinburgh also named one of their strongest squads of the season.

Edinburgh kicked off and won back possession immediately and went through several phases before a knock-on stopped their advance up the pitch. The scrum resulted in an Ospreys penalty, and they were able to clear to touch. From the lineout, the Ospreys went through the phases only for a loose pass to be snapped up by the Edinburgh scrumhalf and he raced away for the opening try of the game. The try was converted and after just 5 minutes, Edinburgh led 7-0.

Things did not get any better for the Ospreys when Edinburgh broke into the Ospreys 22. They recycled possession before their outside half offloaded out of a tackle to his supporting player and he had the easy job of falling over the line for the second try of the game. This was also converted, and Edinburgh led 14-0 after almost 9 minutes.

The Ospreys had a chance when Luke Morgan collected his own kick and raced for the line, but the covering defender ushered him into touch. The lineout ball was turned over by AWJ and Webb threw a long pass to Kieran Williams who got the Ospreys over the advantage line and on the front foot. He almost scored but maintained possession and Webb was on hand to pass to Dewi Lake who crashed over from 1 metre for the Ospreys’ first try of the match. Owen Williams converted and after 12 minutes it was 14-7.

In the 17th minute, Edinburgh were battering away at the Ospreys line and eventually the pressure told as their second rower forced his way over the line for another converted try – 21-7.

A clever restart from O Williams saw North take the ball in stride but he was tackled into touch with the last touch coming off an Edinburgh player. The Ospreys tried to drive the maul, but it was stopped so they looked to go wide, and George North threw a wide, missed pass. Most people saw the interception coming as soon as the ball left North’s hands but by then it was too late as the Edinburgh fullback caught the pass and raced away, untouched from 70 metres for the Bonus Point try after just 19 minutes. The try was converted, and Edinburgh led 28-7.

In the 23rd minute, Rhys Davies was on the receiving end of a tip clear out and the referee awarded the Ospreys a penalty and showed the Edinburgh player a yellow card, however, the Ospreys were unable to make the extra man count for the duration of the yellow card period.

The Ospreys won a penalty that O Williams kicked to the corner, but the lack of urgency cost them as Edinburgh were able to welcome back their player and they managed to turn over possession at the lineout. The Ospreys won another penalty that O Williams kicked to the corner but as the Ospreys looked to move the ball infield, L Morgan was stripped of the ball and the Edinburgh winger chipped ahead. R Davies attempted to charge down the kick as the diminutive winger collided with him. The referee saw this as a medium danger head contact with no mitigation and showed Davies a yellow card. It was awfully hard to see where Rhys was supposed to go when the winger ran straight into him and shows the arbitrary nature of how the game is being officiated and the ineptness of World Rugby in implementing a common sense and consistent solution to the issue of head contact.

Edinburgh won a penalty as the half was about to expire and they went to the corner where their driving maul outfought the Ospreys’ defence, and their flanker scored their 5th try of the match. This try was converted and at half time, Edinburgh led 35-7.

The Ospreys kicked off the second half, knowing that a much better performance was required but they struggled to break down a well-coached Edinburgh defence. The Ospreys won a penalty and kicked to the corner where a well-worked driving maul allowed Lake to cross for his and the Ospreys’ second try of the game. O Williams converted and after 48 minutes it was 35-14.

The Ospreys looked to have the edge at the scrums, but the referee decided otherwise. One such scrum led to a penalty that Edinburgh kicked to the corner and looked to set up a driving maul, only for an Ospreys’ early drive to end things. The referee showed Morgan Morris a yellow card and again the Ospreys were down to 14.

In the 58th minute, and after several phases, the Edinburgh winger ran through several really poor Ospreys’ attempted tackles and crossed for their 6th try. The conversion was wide, but Edinburgh now led 40-14.

The game got a bit scrappy as both teams looked to their benches but in the 71st minute, a clever tap penalty by the Edinburgh outside half caught the Ospreys napping and their winger crossed for his second and their 7th try. This try was not converted and Edinburgh led 45-14.

This was a really disappointing loss for the Ospreys who looked ill-prepared for a fast-paced game on a flat, artificial pitch in glorious sunshine. It always looked a strange selection for the conditions, with three locks and a blindside at 7 in the back five. It is hard to comprehend how Deaves and Roots were not starting along with the two best jackalling props given the surface condition and game plan of the opposition The selection was made to look even more hard to fathom with the decision to try and attack wide in the early stages and hand the opposition 14 points through open field mistakes.

The current squad is well equipped to grind sides down through the set piece and close driving play but beyond this the attacking structure looks poorly constructed and laboured. The attack structures and phase play employed by middling URC teams like Benetton and Connacht looked light years ahead of ours. If the concentration going forward is to be on younger players with more footspeed then the Ospreys are going to have to look long and hard at how they combine an excellent set piece and maul with far better handling skills and more coordinated phase play so that the players at least start to look as if they understand how they are meant to attack to complement their set piece and not become so easily isolated and outnumbered in the open field.

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