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Monday Morning Quarterback View

After a positive showing against the Bulls, the Ospreys remained in South Africa for the short turnaround match against the Cell C Sharks who were strengthened by some of their returning Springboks. None of the Ospreys’ Welsh internationals flew out to bolster the young squad, and a very disconcerting sickness outbreak in the camp further decimated the squad. With the team/squad named on Thursday, Friday’s news was that starting nine and captain, Rhys Webb, and reserve nine RMW were out of the match having caught the sickness bug. Only three nines had travelled so that meant the Ospreys would start the match with just one fit scrumhalf.

Things were made even worse when starting centre Michael Collins was withdrawn before the kick-off and star winger Keelan Giles was unlikely to be able to last the full duration of the match. Young centre, Tom Florence came into the starting line-up for his Ospreys debut with Mat Protheroe coming onto the bench.

The first half was a very close affair with the young Ospreys team giving a good account of themselves. The Sharks did score two penalties to lead 6-0 at the break.

It was the second half where things really took off. The Ospreys scored the first try of the match after a break from Giles and several close quarter carries from the pack. The try came after the Sharks ran out of defenders and Luke Morgan scored in the corner. Jack Walsh was unable to convert, and it was 6-5. It is said that you are at your most vulnerable just after you score and that proved to be the case when the Ospreys conceded a try almost straight from the restart. The try went unconverted and after 58 minutes it was 11-5.

The next score came from the Ospreys after a strong driving maul was driven close to the try line before Morgan Morris crashed over from short range. Again, with the wind causing difficulties, Walsh could not convert so it was 11-10. The Ospreys then conceded a penalty and from some fifty-five metres the Sharks indicated a shot at goal. Playing against the wind, this was a shot to nothing at best and the ball missed by a considerable distance. However, the Ospreys could not really clear the ball and the Sharks won another penalty.

This was kicked to touch, allowing the Sharks to set up a driving maul that the Ospreys defence did really well to stop but the Sharks maintained possession and their outside half skipped around a tiring defence and scored under the posts, setting up a simple and successful conversion. This was harsh on the Ospreys who had battled gamely but the score was now 18-10 with just two minutes left to play. Could the Ospreys muster the losing Bonus Point that their efforts deserved?

A great tap back from Harri Deaves won back possession for the Ospreys from the restart but a loose piece of play put them under pressure, and they conceded a penalty. The kick to touch was missed so the Ospreys attempted to run the ball back in search of the score they needed but they were caught out again at the breakdown and the Sharks won another penalty that was kicked to the corner.

With thirty seconds left, the Sharks pressed home their advantage and looked to have scored a try. Personally, I felt the ball was held up, but the TMO felt that a try had been scored and awarded the try. With the final kick of the match, the try was converted, and the Sharks had won 25-10.

The final score line really flattered the much stronger Sharks who had toiled away without much success until the very final minutes of the match. The young Ospreys had given everything in a losing cause. The URC takes a break now as the Ospreys, the only Welsh team in the competition, open their HCC campaign with the visit of the Leicester Tigers to the stadium next Sunday.

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