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Monday Morning Quarterback View

The vagaries of the fixture list gave the Ospreys the worst of all worlds. A very winnable home fixture was turned into a hugely difficult match, by losing 23 players, 14 players to Team Wales and 9 to injury, and facing an Irish province with minimal international call ups.

The first 10 minutes saw the Ospreys get off to a dream start with two tries from Huw Sutton and Reuben Morgan Williams, perhaps with a slice of fortune that a potential Luke Morgan knock on was not looked at more closely. The next 20 minutes was dominated by the visitors, helped by another unnecessary yellow card, this time from Ethan Roots. It looked, however, at the half hour mark that the Ospreys had weathered the storm through a combination of some brave defending and Connacht attacking inaccuracies. Unfortunately, the self-destruct button was not far away, when Max Nagy's variable kicking game let him down badly again and high field position was surrendered leading to the opening Connacht score. Worse was to follow when a blatant forward pass from the visitors’ scrum half was ignored by the match officials, and they went to the break with a two-point lead.

The second half could not have started in a worse manner. Morgan Morris again sadly made a game defining unforced error, spilling a ball within yards of the try line and handing Connacht their third try. After that the Ospreys began to dominate possession and showed great individual endeavour, but there were too many occasions when ball carriers got isolated and when Carty dropped a goal it became a two-score game. It looked as if the Ospreys had gained a foothold back in the game when the excellent Sam Parry crashed over for a converted score. Even though there was still 10 minutes to go Connacht were able to shut up shop and with no serious run back game attempted against them, just pinned the home side back and it never looked as if a game winning score was on the cards.

As we reach the end of the first block and reflect on the first part of the season, the overall feeling is one of huge disappointment. We have ended up on the wrong end of the penalty count far too often and individuals making totally unforced errors at key moments has become a regular game defining feature. Take away these crippling individual errors and the URC table may look somewhat different, but league tables rarely lie. The one very obvious change from last season is the decision to move away from physical 12, who can challenge the gain line, and rely on the relatively lightweight Michael Collins, who has played most of his top-level rugby at 13 and 15, and it has changed the whole focus of the attack. One of the more noticeable faults with the attack was how quickly we lost our shape. We have lost the ability to win the gain line in midfield and what is essentially a pack built for the set piece with no real footspeed at 8 and 6 has struggled to be effective in the wider channels. It is as if an attacking game plan was scripted in the off season and despite the fact it does not really fit with the players at our disposal has been slavishly followed.

On the plus side there were some decent performances yesterday. Sutton is a prospect as is Deaves and Kieran Williams gave some go forward from the 12 position. Nobody could be faulted for not fronting up and Sam Parry was quite outstanding in his short cameo. Yet again though the opposition got more players to the breakdown as we seem to run out of ideas very quickly and one up runners are easily turned over.

If there is a silver lining it is that no Welsh side has got significantly ahead of us in the URC table and Toby Booth has a few weeks to rethink his attacking strategy and philosophy for the rest of the season and try and sort out our poor discipline. The South African tour against their two top sides should have very low expectations from supporters, as without our best 14 players, games against teams of that standard should not really be going ahead. The short tour will all be about which back up players stick their hands up for future selection and new contracts. Once the top players return however the coaching team need to start playing to the strengths of the players, they have rather than to the strengths they wish those players had.

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