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Monday Morning Quarterback View

The second and final pre-season match was, as expected, a big step up in the quality and physicality of the opposition from the previous week. Unquestionably, the most important aspect was that Gareth Anscombe got through 35 minutes unscathed. His successful return will be a major factor if the Ospreys are to continue their progression from last season. There was more positivity to be taken from the performance of Matt Protheroe, who took up where he left off last season. He was comfortably the classiest player on the pitch, looking a serious threat with ball in hand and showing incredible defensive intelligence and speed to close down a turnover breakaway with a three man overlap. It was a marked contrast to the general defensive effort we saw from the team as a whole. If he carries on in this vein an international call up may not be far away. Our structured attack was again at best ordinary, relying on flashes of individual quality for our tries. The delivery of the ball from the breakdown remains painfully slow and was compounded by a strangely indecisive and inaccurate Rhys Webb, who has looked nothing like the British Lion who left us for Toulon. In both warmup matches Reuben Morgan- Williams has looked sharper and quicker with his delivery and seems to have stepped up his game considerably from last season. The driving maul, so often our saviour last season, threatened on occasion, but in the main was nullified by the Saints and the upper hand we appeared to have at scrum time was not rewarded by the officials. Another substitute appearance from Max Nagy and another very impressive outing. His long stride, quick feet, good distribution, and siege gun kicking out of hand were clearly evident. If the coaching team wants to improve the attacking threat from the backfield and move away from the sedentary non-threatening kick return game of the past couple of seasons, it is going to be very hard for them to exclude Nagy from the starting line-up, should he continue to perform in this vein. As for the defence it ranged from poor to abysmal at various times throughout the match. As with last season, we are easily opened up in the wider channels, and if there is a defensive structure, we are working on it is not apparent to the naked eye. Front row players are being asked to cover acres of space in the open field against opposition back rowers and backs. Defenders far too often jump out of line or overcommit to create the type of partings rarely seen since Moses cleared a way for his people through the Red Sea. The players seemed to lack any confidence in the system. There was no serious line speed and the numbering up either side of the breakdown seemed haphazard, and the last thing it appeared to be based on was the numbers of attacking players either side of the breakdown. It was surprising given the lack of defensive expertise and experience throughout the coaching group some additional help, even on a consultative basis, was not sought during the off season. We have to hope that Toby Booth will either find it within the building from some of the injured experienced players he has at his disposal, or from an external source. He has two weeks to think about it, but if a pro standard defensive scheme is not put in place relatively quickly, progress from last season may be difficult to achieve.


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