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Monday Morning Quarterback View

After the euphoria generated by the surprise Leinster result, and the Champions Cup qualification it brought about, attention turned to a Challenge Cup knockout game. It was a game we were expected to win but ended up as a game that exposed serious weaknesses that will need to be corrected when we face Champions Cup standard opposition next year.

In fairness to Booth and his team they could not have expected EPCR to hand the whistle to a random Frenchman, who appeared to have more in common with Inspector Clouseau than a professional referee. Nor could they have expected penny pinching on local assistant referees, with a couple of guys who seemed out of their depth.

The officiating was quite abysmal. An Ospreys try was rightly called back 60 yards for a forward pass yet, rather inconsistently, blatant crossing for the Newcastle third try, again 60 yards back, was not recalled. Two yellow cards were also issued for what appeared to the naked eye to be manufactured offences, by an officiating team who seemed to be making it up as they went along.

Despite the officiating issues the Ospreys demonstrated that they are not yet a good enough team to beat bad officiating, even when facing an inferior team.

We again started brightly and looked as if we could hurt them with North and Giles outside, but we simply could not sustain or build any pressure. There were three very obvious reasons for this. The line out throwing was inaccurate, and we lost numerous line outs in good positions. The right-hand side of the scrum was under severe pressure right up to the decision to replace Fia with Botha. We continually gave away unnecessary penalties surrendering field position to a team that only looked likely to score if they could camp themselves close to our line and power over.

Once they had taken the lead it was an uphill struggle and our lack of pace at 10 and 15 continues to hamper us. The decision not to introduce Protheroe from the bench at 15 was mystifying. Father time seems to have caught up with the legs of that great servant Dan Evans and he no longer offers any run back threat when kicked to.

Despite the disappointment of defeat, the coaching team can take great credit for what they have achieved with a team that last season struggled to win a game. Rhys Davies, Matt Protheroe, and Stephen Myler have all been excellent signings. Players, such as Kieran Williams, Ifan Phillips, Gareth Thomas, Morgan Morris, and Will Griffiths have become key players. Also, Dewi Lake, Garyn Phillips, Joe Hawkins, and Harri Morgan all have shown flashes of being players with very high ceilings.

There Is still a long way to go if we are going to be seriously competitive in the next couple of years. Some of our obvious weaknesses have been addressed through recruitment. Tomas Francis should solidify the right side of the scrum. Jac Morgan should add explosion to a back row pool that currently lacks quality depth. Rumours abound of quality player signings that would certainly improve the impact and dynamism of the team. The back-three though still looks incredibly thin and there is a lot riding on Anscombe's ability to return to what he was before his knee injury and for Matt Protheroe to successfully take over the 15 shirt.

The Rainbow Cup will be played on harder, faster surfaces which will be another challenge for Booth. The lack of foot speed in large elements of the squad could be exposed. It might be the time to see what players such as Josh Thomas Scott Otten Harri Morgan James Fender and the recently signed pair of Ethan Roots and Will Hickey can bring to the party.

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