Clarke reflects on Zebre defeat

“it’s been a valuable experience for us that we will learn a lot from” said interim Head Coach Allen Clarke after an experimental Ospreys line-up was defeated by Zebre on Saturday.

Travelling to Parma for the rearranged Guinness PRO14 Round 17 clash with the Italians, postponed due to snow last month, the Ospreys' opponents secured a try bonus in just 23 minutes as they took advantage of an unfamiliar looking Ospreys team, the game finishing 37-14.

The sluggish start meant the Ospreys gave themselves a mountain to climb, the Italians using their greater experience well.

“We didn’t start well at all” acknowledged Clarke.

“We gave the opposition far too much respect in the early stages and our error count was high. Whilst we were trying to play some football we didn’t manage either side of the ball well in that first half.

“We conceded the gain line, to be fair, to a Zebre team that had 13 current internationals in it, and they took their chances well. They had their platform to play off, they were on the front foot. They came through us and they went around us.”

After that early burst from Zebre, the Ospreys were able to claw their way back into the contest, a Sam Cross try giving them some hope but, despite a much improved second half showing, they were unable to turn around the deficit, a late Reuben Morgan-Williams try all they had for their efforts. 

Nevertheless, regardless of the outcome, Clarke emphasised how important the evening had been, with plenty to be satisfied about: 

“We came back into it, we scored a good try, and I thought we came out for the second half looking much better, there was a much better spirit. Overall it’s disappointing for us but in the longer term there’s lots we can get out of this, good and bad. 

“There are boys made their Ospreys debuts tonight, boys who made their first PRO14 appearance, first starts, right though the 23. There was a little bit of nervousness about us in those opening stages and Zebre, credit to them, took full advantage.

“We know that we were, on the whole, nowhere near where we needed to be tonight though. There were some stand out individual performances, some really good effort, but rugby is a team game and it’s not about the individual it’s the collective, and, together, we have to be better. 

“The scoreboard tells the story of the game, there’s no denying that. However, in the greater scale of things, it’s really important for us that we are seeing these players. We know what we have in terms of squad depth and in terms of where we need to recruit, and we’ve had a good look at individuals, some very young, others less so, in a competitive environment where real questions have been asked of them. 

“That’s important for us in the long term. We mustn’t lose sight of the bigger picture, it’s not just about this one game. In that respect, it’s been a valuable experience for us that we will learn a lot from.”