Backs Coach Gruff Rees admitted that the Ospreys had failed to reach their usual high standards during Friday night's victory over Zebre at the Liberty Stadium but insisted that the team will use the next week to ensure they realise their full potential when they return to action against Leicester Tigers next weekend.
After a busy festive period that saw the Ospreys win three from three in nine days, there is now a nine day wait until the big Heineken Cup clash at the Liberty, and as he reflected on Friday game at the post-match press conference, Rees spoke honestly about the performance.
“It was disappointing” acknowledged Rees.
“There’s no getting away from the fact we were poor in the majority aspects of our game. I’m slightly numb as a coach. We’re a power based team and when we do things really well, tactically and efficiently in terms of building on our power up front and just putting ourselves in the right areas, we do squeeze and strangle sides.
“Tonight we got caught between two stools, we just loosened up and played a game that was a bit unnatural to us. I know we wanted more ball in play but it certainly wasn’t the style we were looking for tonight.
“The changes we made shouldn’t make that much difference. We’ve spoken through the last six weeks that we do have faith in the squad. We’re trying to develop players who can pull that shirt on and just run exactly what we need per position. I wouldn’t necessarily say that disrupted us, it was more a culmination of three tough games in a short period of time and trying to manage a squad through the different physical demands that presents, looking at two tough games on the back of this, and also complementing the opposition.
“They made it hard for us at the breakdown and they then filled the field effectively and caused us to play where we shouldn’t have been playing really. That’s to their credit and obviously our frustration as coaches and players alike. You look at a side that hasn’t won a game but I know the characters there. We spoke about trying to get on top early otherwise they could grow into the game. We didn’t do that and then you could see a lot of their physical boys started to get a bit of encouragement around the tackle area.
“We also saw they have some decent quality players there. They took their tries well and they caused us defensive problems. We have a proud defensive record but they’ve caused us real problems, more so than a lot of sides.
“Our game is built on real substance and being a tactically efficient side, so off the back of tonight’s game it presents a real coaching challenge for us going into Leicester next weekend. It’s nice to get back to a normal working week for us after three games in nine days. There’ll be four training sessions leading into Leicester. We’ve had a good look at them as a coaching group so we’ve got a few ideas where we want to be, but a lot of it is getting more precise at what we do, and trying to build a power game in the right areas. You have got to go toe-to-toe with Leicester and we are going to have to take our chances when they arrive.
“Once we sit down in a day or so and review the Christmas period, just think of the Rabo as a whole, we’ll be reasonably satisfied.
“We’re playing catch-up after a disasterous start, but I think we’ve put a decent run together to get us up the league. We want to defend this championship. It means a lot to us, it’s really important to us. There’s still a hell of a lot to do. There’s only three home league games left and there’s six tough away games so we’re still going to have to work our damnedest to retain our crown.”