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Monday Morning Quarterback View

The final game of the opening block of fixtures was the toughest so far, against a team that is highly likely to be at the top end of the table come the regular season end and feature heavily in the knockout phases.


The toughest opponents though found themselves up against the best Osprey performance of the season. The defensive organisation and line speed was superb, as was the set piece. The attack whilst still relatively narrow and limited was executed with a fair degree of precision, and ball retention was the best we have seen in all five matches.


Despite missing five Welsh squad members the selection was a better balanced one. It is clear we need one ball carrying wing and we need a 6 who can contribute to the line out and we must have a top-class front-line ball jackal.


The game plan was based around winning collisions, executing the basics, and not making bad decisions, rather than trying to play at any great pace. To win an arm wrestle against Munster, a team we have not beaten for six years, was an achievement that can hopefully act as a springboard for the rest of the season.


The starting and replacement front rows caused mayhem at the scrum, and the starting back five and replacements won more collisions in one match than we have won against the top two Irish teams for the past six years.


Behind the scrum Cuthbert's power was evident throughout and Watkin, although not in his ideal position, shored up the problem 13 channels with a dominant physical display. There was not a single player, however, in the 23 that did not play their role in the game plan effectively.


The first 15 minutes had looked ominous, as Munster played with width and dominated possession and territory. Another very capable officiating team, which again is a revelation for long suffering fans, spotted a clear illegal shift with a player in front of the jumper, and denied Munster an early try. That appeared a big turning point, and once we had battled defensively through the first 15 minutes, we fought back to take a 9-3 interval lead.


The sight of the Munster international standard cavalry warming up on 60 minutes suggested a brave effort would end in ultimate defeat, but the Ospreys bench more than matched them and denied them the win they had clearly expected.


The physical and mental state of the home side was a complete reversal of the Sharks defeat two weeks earlier, and it is clear the same group of players cannot be expected to play with the same intensity week after week, particularly with six and sometimes five-day turnarounds that TV scheduling can create. This is particularly so for international players. Squad improvement therefore remains vital. We may win one off games against top teams, but we will need to continually improve squad depth if we are to compete over the course of a season with the better sides.


If Booth had been offered four wins from five before the season started, he would have rightly snapped up the hand that made the offer. We now are expected to move to some development games, which have yet to be announced, and hopefully we may see some game times for the likes of Giles, Knott, Morgan, and Lake. All high ceiling young players who will add to the athleticism and speed of the squad as we seek to build that crucial depth of quality.


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