As the 'old man' of the team on Saturday evening, Jonathan Thomas led by example, crossing for the only try of the game as a youthful Ospreys side almost secured the win at Rodney Parade against a more experienced Dragons team.
An Ospreys ‘original’ from 2003 it was JT’s 180th appearance for the region, which sees him join Paul James in second place on the overall list behind Andrew Bishop, a month after celebrating his 30th birthday.
Speaking after the game on Saturday night, he said that he had enjoyed the experience of being a part of such a young line-up:
“It was a pleasure to be involved out there with this young group. I think with the amount of youngsters and so little experience in the team we made a bit of a statement. It wasn’t the same for the Dragons, they had more old heads in the side and a lot more experience throughout the team, and I just the way we came together was excellent.
“The game understanding the boys showed, for the little experience they’ve got at this level, was outstanding. We’ve lost the game, which is very disappointing, but the effort, determination and the resolve was great.
“It’s a fine line isn’t it? A few decisions went against us, and there were one or two wrong decisions, and ultimately they cost us but, overall, I’m just really chuffed as a senior player to see how these boys have coped tonight.
“It was a full blooded encounter. The point was made before the game that no matter who wears the Ospreys jersey it’s important that we front up, play well and are physical. The boys did that today by the bucketload.”
Thomas pointed to some of the youngsters who have used previous LV= Cup campaigns as a springboard to bigger things with the Ospreys and Wales, highlighting what those involved at Rodney Parade can hope to achieve over the coming seasons.
“It bodes well for the future, massively” said JT.
“I think we’ve seen how important this competition is over the years, boys getting LV experience. We’ve seen players like Eli, Tips and Kingy, boys like that coming through, and it’s great that we are making a real statement about development and giving these youngsters the exposure.
“At the end of the day what they learn from playing at this level is invaluable. Just chatting to a few of them in there, they noticed a real step-up in intensity and tempo, but I’m sure, a few more games at this level and they’ll be well used to it. Hopefully they’ll kick on like the boys have done before them.
“There’s a lot of talent in this group.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s game against in-form Harlequins at the Riverside Hardware Brewery Field, Thomas is hoping to see a good turnout from the Bridgend rugby public.
Speaking about the challenge from the Quins, he said:
“They are on fire at the moment, they’ve got a very good squad with a lot of depth to it, and it’s going to be a very good test for us. It’s really exciting. Speaking personally, from the point of view of a senior player, it’s really refreshing to be part of this group, playing with a young squad who are eager to learn.
“I’m looking forward to next Sunday and hopefully being involved with them again. There’s the added thing of playing in Bridgend, where there’s always a good atmosphere, and a lot of locals come out in numbers to support their region.
“If this game is anything to go by there’s going to be a lot of Bridgend players involved which gives them even more reason to come along and support the Ospreys. It’s an occasion for us all to really look forward to, players, coaches and supporters.”