After watching his team put in a valiant fight despite going down to defeat at the hands of four-times European champions Toulouse on Saturday afternoon, Forwards Coach Jonathan Humphreys remained upbeat, emphasising his pride in the effort and commitment shown by a youthful and inexperienced Ospreys group.
After a torrid opening quarter the region dominated the second, before putting in an incredible defensive effort to keep Toulouse at bay at the start of the second half, sustained pressure finally telling as the hosts pulled away. However, rather than throw in the towel the Ospreys kept going and Humphreys couldn’t hide his delight at the spirit in the group.
“I’m really proud of the effort, extremely proud” he said.
“We can improve on a few things tactically, exiting correctly so that we don’t put ourselves under continued pressure. They had 14 set pieces inside our half in the second half and that told in the end, it allowed them to create a lot of pressure.
“One thing we can’t improve though is the effort. The effort was unbelievable. We are disappointed though because coming in at 12-7 we felt that we should have come in in front. We managed to get a lot of set pieces in their half during the second quarter, we put them under a lot of pressure and they looked very ragged.
“Second half we wanted to get back down there, we wanted to increase that pressure, but we couldn’t do it because we spent so much time in our own half. With that amount of attacking set piece in our half though you’d expect the scoreline to be pretty heavy and although we avoided that I don’t think the final score truly reflects the effort we’ve put in. We came here today and had a crack, and at half-time you would have said that the game could’ve gone anywhere.”
The Ospreys preparations had been far from ideal with a lengthy injury list and a lack of time together for the group following the fourth autumn international last weekend compounded by a horrendous journey to France that saw the team delayed at Bristol Airport for seven hours yesterday.
Asked by the press what impact the problems had on the performance, Humphreys refused to offer up any excuses:
“The injuries we’ve had, the airport delay, are not and cannot be used as excuses” he insisted.
“We were never going to do that. We are never going to offer an excuse up about why we didn’t come here and win. It wasn’t about just coming here and competing, we wanted to come and have a real crack. Half time came a little bit too early for us and if we’d exited correctly and got out of our half to create some pressure in the second half then it could have been a different story.
“Today has been such a positive experience for Ospreys Rugby in terms of the boys coming through. We have to develop from within because we don’t have the money of Toulouse, because we don’t have that big budget. There were six guys making their Heineken Cup debuts and I thought they were outstanding.
“It was such a positive thing to see Lloyd Peers, James King who have come through our system, Sam Lewis, Ross Jones and Eli Walker. People forget that Ashley Beck, Dan Biggar and Ryan Bevington are still young men learning the game, boys that we’ve developed to represent their region.
“They were all outstanding today. There isn’t one player I would say didn’t play well. Like I said, there was a couple of execution problems, a few errors, but do I think we played well? Yes we did.”
With the return game at the Liberty Stadium next weekend, Humphreys says the team will not throw the towel in after two defeats from three games, as he insisted the Ospreys will benefit in the long term from their current position:
“We’ve still got a big say in this tournament, we have. We’ve got Toulouse still to come to the Liberty, and Leicester, so it’s important for us that we do ourselves justice.
“That’s our team, that you’ve seen out there today, there’s nothing more to come in. For us, this week is about recovery, hopefully getting back without any delays, so that we can try and do ourselves justice next weekend. Will we get the benefits of these experiences this year? Maybe not, but we will in the longer term.
“It’s definitely great for our future, seeing how these young men performed today under pressure, supported by some senior old heads who did their bit. The youngsters we’ve got have no fear and they wanted to get out there and give it a go.
“It’s tough to come here at the best of times. Off the back of the preparation we’ve had maybe it’s nigh on impossible with the differences between the two budgets, they have quadruple the income we have and it showed. We had defended excellently to hold them out at the start of the second half, our scrum with Campbell having only arrived this week and had just one and a half sessions with us held up very well until they called for the reinforcements off the bench and that was the big difference.
“I’m very proud today though. As I said, we can improve on a few things but we can’t improve on the effort.”