After watching his team record their biggest ever win over Leinster on the opening day of the new season, Director of Coaching Scott Johnson stressed that while he was pleased with the result the Ospreys were still a long way from the standard expected of them.
Speaking to the media at the Liberty Stadium shortly after the final whistle, Johnno insisted that there was still plenty of room for improvement despite the 27-3 victory, with the discipline in the second half a particular concern.
“It’s fair to say that we’re pretty pleased with the result if not all of the performance” he said.
“We’d have taken the scoreboard at the start of the game but we let ourselves down in some areas of the game in the second half. We can’t look at anyone else except ourselves. We gave away a lot of penalties and we’ll have to look at that. To have a penalty count like that in a game, when you are at home, that’s a very big negative.
“But, saying that, the defence and the camaraderie shown, especially when we only had 14 on the pitch, and not conceding a point, out of a negative there is a positive. At the end of the day we want to be hard judges of where we are and there’s a lot to work on. We are delighted with the result but we still need to strive for better standards as well.
“We displayed some good skills in the first half and they were nicely taken tries. In many ways, they hadn’t been in that position before in big games. Even in the second half we had chances to do that again but it’s new territory for a few of them and it’s a good thing, but we have to make sure everybody understands that it’s game one, not game 20.
“You will go through the year there will be games where you think should have won, or you should have got the bonus point, and there’ll be games where conversely you’ve got things you shouldn’t have, so I think over the year as long as you concentrate on what you do then you’ll get what you deserve generally. Tonight though, we’ll take the win but it’s not where we want to be.”
After being asked a question about the positive performance of half-back pairing Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar, who had a strong influence on all that was good about the Ospreys, Johnno voiced some concerns:
“It frustrates me in this country that there is such a focus on the half back positions. They’re integral to the team, they are, but they usually function well as a result of something else that occurs in the team, you know?
“We’ve got a 10 who’s much maligned in this country and his only crime is the fact he’s young, he wants to lead a team, he plays a position that everyone has an opinion about and he happens to be Welsh. That’s his crime. I’d hate to be a Welsh kid who’s a little different. It’s amazing. That’s his only crime. Trust me, I’ll take his crime nine times out of ten. As for the number nine, he’s shown great maturity. He’s a young man with a young family and if he keeps his head down he’ll really be pushing for a spot, which is good for the national team. The more exposure he gets the better he’ll be.
“But, at the front of him was an exemplary performance by a player who could by all rights be disappointed he’s not in New Zealand now, Jonathan Thomas. I thought he showed great leadership, great poise and great maturity. He was superb today. “
Johnson acknowledged that by the final whistle a number of players were looking heavy legged, but explained that it was to be expected:
“We went in fairly light with pre-season games” he stressed.
“I’ve always taken the view that while pre-season games are necessary, when you have such a long season I struggle with the question why should they play more games? You don’t need to be lumping more games into the equation.
“So, we’ve gone in quite light and as you can see we cramped up a fair bit in the second half, guys hadn’t gone the distance before today. You won’t get body-hardened until a few weeks in. I’ve never played front row in my life but you talk to them and they’ll say that after scrumming for a couple of weeks they get their sea legs so to speak, their scrum legs. It was probably the first big hit out today, they may have had half a game or three quarters of a game before.
"We all approach the start of the season differently. Leinster had I think three matches on the bounce before today. Like us they’ve got a difference in their squad at this time of the season but they’ve dealt with that by having imports in their squad who alleviate some of the damage caused by the national team. We’ve chosen not to go down that road at this moment, just to see what’s in the tank. It’s an important year for the Ospreys as an organisation and we need to know what’s in our kitty
“We had one foreign kid in that starting team and he’s not really a foreigner, he’s going to be eligible for Wales and he’s 20 years of age. I think that’s a pretty good thing that we can be proud of. We’ll be delighted if we can spawn another generation of players.
“We’re pretty proud of where we are headed with this younger group, pretty proud of where we are going with so many Welsh kids playing and very, very proud of the fact that are large contingent of them are local kids. That’s not a bad crime.”