The defeat in Connacht ended any hopes of a Rainbow Cup final but was in many ways the perfect illustration of what Booth has done well in his first season, and what he has not done so well. He has got us to first base, but the question now becomes can he get us to second and third, and how quickly can he do it.
The forward pack now gives us solid set piece play and the scrum and driving maul are becoming effective weapons. We have become good at staying in games right to the end and do not fall away as badly in contact in the latter stages as we did under previous regimes. Our attacking game continues to be plagued by an inability to secure regular quick and well-presented possession from the breakdown, which against pro standard defences will always limit our attacking options.
In terms of moving forward to second base, the limitation in our attacking options could be partially offset if our defence was from the top drawer. However, unfortunately, as we saw on Friday night, and have seen on too many previous occasions, our defence of the outside channels, at times, is not even semi pro standard. It is closer to a schoolboy standard. Our centres and back three looked completely lost in defending space and nobody seemed to understand their combined roles in the system, if indeed there was a system.
This is an important off season for the Ospreys. Booth has got to first base. He has arrested the precipitous decline of the past few seasons. He now needs to get to second base. That is going to require improvement in personnel and improvement in specific aspects of the coaching. Our defence in the open field was so shambolic on Friday night, that it has to be an open question as to whether the personnel in the 15 14 11 and 13 shirts can defend at this level. If you cannot defend space, you cannot win on a regular basis. Adding a pro standard defence to our set piece game will get us to second base. Whether it requires different personnel or different coaching to achieve second base is the answer Booth has to find. If we are to make the jump to third base and build a more multi-dimensional attack it will need Anscombe Webb and Protheroe to have relatively injury free seasons, or quality deputies to emerge for their 10 9 and 15 shirts.