Frustrated Rees reflects on Ulster loss

Backs Coach Gruff Rees has told the players they need to keep their composure in the heat of battle and start building sustained periods of pressure if they are going to kick-start their season after two defeats from two.

He cut a frustrated figure after watching Ulster overturn a 10-point deficit in the second half at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday evening, but speaking to the press post-match he was offering no excuses as he described the Ospreys as “architects of our own downfall”.

“Again, we showed glimpses and patches of where we want to get to but it was too fleeting for our liking” he said.

‘We couldn’t sustain pressure for long periods. We were 13-6 up and just couldn’t put the game away from there. There were a few key moments at that time, 13-6, 13-9, a couple of big set-piece moments that went against us that we’ll have to look at. Ulster have got decent squad depth and they brought decent players on but there are perhaps other issues around those scrums that we need to look at again in terms of that call that’s been made. Those incidents aside though, in many ways we were architects of our own downfall. We were pressurising in their 22 and didn’t come away with points.

“Ulster were scratchy themselves tonight, both teams had long error strewn periods, but they obviously came back into it then. A bit of looseness on our part saw them sneak it with a try in the last five minutes and we couldn’t come back from that.”

The Ospreys had deservedly led going into the last 10 minutes and there was plenty for Rees and his colleagues on the coaching team to be content with but ultimately the team’s lack of accuracy and cohesion at key moments proved fatal as the Ulstermen maintained their 100 per cent record at the region’s expense.

Asked where the Ospreys had fallen short Rees explained:

“We want to create a mindset similar to where we were at the back end of last season with an intent to play good rugby but with control - we certainly haven’t got that balance right at the moment. We didn’t build enough sustained pressure for long periods, through our kicking game or our running game. We’re not doing either at the moment.

“A lot of the group, individually as players, they are doing some nice things, but collectively we know there are issues where we aren’t pulling through as a team. The backs and forwards aren’t integrating as we’d like and building a platform, to build phases, and likewise when the ball does slow down, how we can pressure sides better with a more effective kicking game.

“There are some technical issues there, things that we have to address in terms of mindset. Yes, we want to play good rugby but sometimes that message of playing good rugby can be misinterpreted and too much looseness comes from it. Also, as the game went on I think nervousness crept in and a lot of the mistakes were from trying to force something that wasn’t there and perhaps allowing the scoreboard to dictate things whereas we were strong mentally at the end of last year as good teams tend to be, when you just play in that moment and keep a bit of composure about what you do. We know that we haven’t got that balance right. We’re creating chances. There are opportunities there, we’ve seen that, but there are reasons why we’re not taking them.

“Let’s make no mistake, we’ve lost two but we could have won two. Don’t get me wrong our performance is nowhere near where we need it to be but it’s about us taking stock. We’re trying to manage this block of games for the good of the season as a whole and in a lot of cases for the long-term development of a lot of players.

“When you look at the first two weeks of the season, we’ve lost two games we could have won. Ulster have won both and they are admitting themselves that they are a bit scratchy in their performance. It’s very fine margins.”