It was almost a case of a game of two halves on Judgement Day at the Millennium Stadium as the Ospreys enjoyed the better of the opening 40, going in 10 points to the good at the break, before a stuttering, stop-start second half where they failed to really build on their lead.
Nevertheless, it was a crucial win for the Ospreys that keeps them just ahead of their nearest rivals the Scarlets in the race for the play-offs, and completed a clean sweep for the region against their Welsh counterparts in the PRO12 this season, the win making it six out of six in 2012/13 and eight consecutive league wins over Welsh opposition.
Reflecting on the win, Backs Coach Gruff Rees admitted the overwhelming feeling was one of disappointment.
“We’re pleased to get four points, we didn’t underestimate the Blues challenge and the certainly fronted up today” he said before acknowledging that the second half had seen standards dropping.
“However, we’re disappointed with our performance. We set our own standards really, we’re asking the boys to get better every week and we didn’t achieve that today. Last week we had a good balance between speed and control. Today, there were some pleasing moments in the first half but then we had barely any control in what we were doing the more the game went on.
“Our kicking game was erratic, and there were too many flaws in what we try to do on a weekly basis.”
The Ospreys dominance up front failed to reap the rewards that may have been expected and when asked Rees gave credit to the opposition for their disruption work. He commented:
“That’s to their credit but, again, it’s another part of our frustration. We know we’ve got a power base from our set-piece and we can be imposing but we didn’t hammer that home as a collective. We need to examine if there were some communication issues there, or it was just some individual moments. It’s really frustrating, Blues fronted up, made life difficult for us and put us on the back foot as well, but it’s about us, and we are disappointed.
“We produced some good speed of ball and some good moments first half, and we felt we could really hammer that home in the second half but it didn’t happen for us. We kicked without structure and Leigh Halfpenny gobbled it up, which meant that field position was compromised for a large share of that second half. We had to defend for large periods.”
Looking ahead to the final three fixtures, against Treviso at the Liberty on Saturday 13th April and then on the road to the top two, Glasgow and Leinster, Rees said there’s a lot of hard work to be done if the Ospreys are to maintain their proud 100 per cent record of reaching the play-offs each year since their introduction.
“There’s no margin for error” said Rees.
“Every game is knock out rugby almost, but we’re about trying to improve every week. We didn’t do that today and that’s a bit of a reality check. We lacked a bit of energy which is perhaps understandable given the programme a lot of the players have had. We are going to have to up the ante against Treviso, who’ve beaten us twice this year, and then we’ve got two monumental challenges away from home. It excites us, but we are going to have to look at our game and get better for those matches.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for what Treviso have done. They’ve been together a long time as a group and picked up some really good wins this year. They enjoy playing us, they enjoy the physical challenge, so we’ve got to make sure we prepare for them in the right manner. Forget what comes after that, we’ve just got to get our house in order for Treviso and then we can consider where we are for the away challenges.”
Rees also confirmed that the early departure of second row Ian Evans was “precautionary”, saying:
“Speaking to the physios over the radio and then after the game when he was being assessed, it looked just a innocuous bump on the hip. It was precautionary more than anything at this stage. We were comfortable putting James King back up where he’s been so accomplished this year. We’ll manage that carefully over the next couple of weeks.”