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Monday Morning Quarterback Review

Away wins are difficult in the URC and the Ospreys missed out on one that was there for the taking on Sunday by self-destructing at numerous moments throughout the game.

The game had the perfect start with Jack Walsh putting George North in for an early converted try and adding a penalty to give the visitors a 0-10 start. However, yet again kick-off exits let the visitors down, with Mike Collins dropping an easy ball and the surrendering of field position led to the Dragons first 3 points and getting them into the game. The wind behind them, the Ospreys seemed unable to take advantage. The penalty count kept on racking up against them and with territorial advantage the Dragons eventually broke through a yawning gap in the centre and eventually converted the line break with an unconverted try. When the Ospreys could stop themselves being penalised, they managed to create some territory, and this led to a lineout drive securing an unconverted try. Unfortunately, the final minutes of the half saw a totally unnecessary yellow card penalty being given away by Morgan Morris, when the attack looked well covered. This led to a lineout drive and a penalty try and another yellow card. More importantly, it meant six minutes at the start of the half playing with 13 men. In the blink of an eye the Ospreys faced a 12-point deficit as the home side played with width and pace and ran in two scores against a hapless 13-man defence.

Despite the deficit the Dragons looked to be visibly tiring and at 70 minutes a double yellow card gave the Ospreys a chance of a bonus point win. Inexplicably Jack Walsh kicked towards the flag rather than the 5-yard line, and the advantage was lost. A few minutes later an unnecessary long pass from Nicky Smith was picked off which all but killed the game. There was still time for the Ospreys to show what was possible against 13 men, but at the end of the day the clock ran out on them, and they left Rodney Parade with only a losing bonus point.

It is difficult to sugar coat this performance. The Dragons played with far more energy and urgency, yet they only got footholds in the game because of persistent offending by the Ospreys, culminating in them being reduced to 13 men. Adam Jones is a hugely inconsistent referee whose interpretations are rarely the same for both sides, but the Ospreys knew this when they took the field, and it is hard to understand why their mindset was not far more focused on discipline. To have no discipline with energy and urgency is understandable, but to have no energy and urgency and lack discipline is hard to understand.

The Ospreys now seem to be falling between two stools. The new attacking system introduced by Richard Fussell is bringing more attacking depth and width and resulting in more tries. But in transitioning to this new system, the team seems to have lost the go forward and tightness it had last season when playing off 9. The system is potentially a good one, but the selection seems to be putting square pegs into round holes. There is seemingly a lack of distributors and athletic runners to take advantage of what the system could create, and if the team is to profit from it there needs to be some relatively serious adjustment to the playing squad in the off season. The Ospreys remain a highly competitive wet weather outfit even against top teams, but on dry tracks there is not sufficient foot speed and distribution skills available throughout the squad to be truly competitive.

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