Having skippered the Ospreys to a crucial PRO12 win over Leinster at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, Jonathan Thomas said he was delighted with the character shown by a team featuring so many youngsters to bounce back from going 10 points behind in the opening eight minutes to not only secure the win but deny their opponents even a losing bonus.
The game was played in sometimes monsoon like conditions, but the Ospreys matched Leinster up front while looking to play attacking rugby at every opportunity, and speaking after the final whistle JT spoke enthusiastically about the manner of the performance.
“It was tough” said the 29-year old Welsh international.
“In conditions like that, what you need is streetwise rugby. The thing I was over the moon with as a captain was the way the young players performed in those conditions.
“The first 20 minutes it was a little bit shaky, we had a bit of inexperience in the starting fifteen, particularly in the front five, so it was satisfying to see the way the guys grew throughout the game. In the second half, it was just a really good performance. We can be really satisfied with the win.
“We had a couple of halfbacks who are outstanding young players but haven’t played a lot of rugby over the last five or six weeks. They controlled the game very well.
“The turning point of the game, for me, was with Duncan off in the sinbin and we’re down to 14 men, we’re on our own line defending a Leinster scrum, four of the front five have hardly played any professional rugby, and to lock that out was an incredible achievement for those boys.
“At that time before we got the try, the game could have gone either way, so it’s very satisfying to get the four points from that position.
“As we’ve seen over the last few years, Leinster know how to win matches. For a young group, particularly after the way we started, to come through and win that game was excellent. I think there was good maturity from the pack, we played in the right areas in terms of picking and going, and I think Matthew stepping up for the drop goal just gave us that bit of breathing space that we needed at a crucial time.”
Young tight head Joe Rees was one of a number who caught the eye, and Thomas was quick to praise the Ospreys front row production line:
“Joe Rees is someone that you may not be too aware of but he’s someone that from within, we are well aware of how good a player he can be. You look at Aaron Jarvis being called up to the Wales squad, someone who a few months ago we all thought would be here during this time to help us out, but Joe has stepped in and produced a performance like that at tight head. I think it’s testimony to the academy here, to keep producing front rowers like we have been. It’s excellent, and the work of Jonathan Humphreys to keep producing players, at that young age as well, is testimony to the system we’ve got here.”
The win saw a season’s high crowd of 9,246 go home happy, and Thomas thanked them for their backing on a dreadful afternoon:
“The crowd were terrific tonight. We’ve got to give them something to cheer about. We didn’t play too well at the start of the season but our form has been good since around the Scarlets and Munster period and that support has been there for us.
“It’s a big old stadium and it can be difficult when you’re not playing well, but on the flipside of that, when you put on a good performance in difficult conditions, the crowd get behind you, and it does lift you.”
Tickets for Friday night's game, against Gloucester in the LV= Cup (KO 7.45pm), are available to buy now from the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office, online at www.ospreysrugby.com/buytickets and via the Ticket Hotline on 0844 815 6665.