A victory over the depleted league leaders, by an even more depleted Ospreys, was the ideal antidote to a difficult European campaign, achieved in the final game in the second block of fixtures that have severely tested squad morale and strength in depth.
Edinburgh dominated the first half. The box kicking of Pyrgos was superb in its variety and the chase excellent. The ball in the air had us in considerable trouble early on, and our inability to construct phases, and to get anywhere with our driving maul from the line out, ensured they dominated possession. A yellow card for a trip, adjudicated with very little evidence and camera angles to support whether it was justified, or bought by the attacker, made matters even more difficult, and in that time two tries were scored. The second try coming after some very weak tackling efforts. The home team was thankful that the selection for this match at least had recovery speed at the back, or the game would have been out of sight. Even then, a 14-3 deficit looked like a mountain to climb for a side that has produced very little attacking momentum for the season to date.
The second half was a different matter altogether. Two excellent tries were constructed, and within a short time the Ospreys had shown incredible will and skill to hit the front. Failure to deal with a kick-off gave Edinburgh immediate field position, which they converted with a try close to the posts, but a vital two points were saved by a great charge down effort. The Ospreys then dug deep, and the power of the scrum and some excellent late defensive line speed managed to keep the visitors at bay.
In many ways the victory shared much in common with the earlier home victories against Ulster, Munster, and Cardiff, where the opposition had dominated the ball in the early part of the match, but as the game advanced, the resolve of the home side aided by its scrum power and accurate goal kicking eventually tipped the balance. All of these victories were a tribute to the attitude and intensity that has been developed. However, it is clear that with so many injuries and the lack of execution in attack allied to the inability to keep the ball for any length of time, such a level of intensity cannot be kept up for eighty minutes on the road. The defensive weaknesses apparent in some of the players in our squad can then be easily exposed by teams that generate quick phase ball, leading to the floodgates opening.
The attitude and resolve that Toby Booth has developed are admirable and have to be seen as a foundation on which to build. Whilst foundations are a necessary requirement, they need to be built upon and completed. There has to be an off-season surgical infusion of all year-round available players, in a number of key positions through the spine of the team. Young players also need to come into the squad from the pathway, at the expense of older declining players, in the middle and bottom of the squad, to increase energy and foot speed levels. The coaching group has to be enlarged, with expertise and experience, to ensure the playing side progresses.
The Ospreys have come a long way from the dark place they found themselves before the new regime arrived. A lot has been done to establish the right foundations by the regime, but foundations have no purpose unless they are built upon. The time for building now starts with the next recruitment and retention round which has no doubt already started behind the scenes.