Tom Smith spoke of the pride he has in his team after a young side including eight in the starting line-up with less than 10 senior appearances each to their credit pushed 2011 Heineken Cup finalists Northampton all the way at the Riverside Hardware Brewery Field on Saturday.
The Saints sent a team to Bridgend that was arguably their strongest possible selection featuring a host of players returning to club action after the Rugby World Cup, with all five of their representatives in the England squad making the starting line-up.
By contrast, in addition to the eight up and coming players in the starting line-up, there was a further four Ospreys youngsters on the bench who barely scraped 10 senior appearances between them, highlighting the difference in experience between the two sides.
As he spoke to the press after the game, Smith said that while everyone in the camp would be disappointed at a second defeat in the competition there was no criticism of the effort and endeavour on display:
“We’re really disappointed with the result. I think we showed great endeavour, the effort we put in we probably didn’t deserve a loss, but that’s the way it goes.
“I’m really proud of the guys these last two weeks. We showed great effort against Exeter in a tough game, and then to step up again a week later against a side like Northampton, and the class that they have throughout their squad, really showed what we want to be about. I’m proud of the lads, really, really proud.
“I thought we dealt with the periods where we were down to 14 men very well, especially the time I was off. It doesn’t help, and I’ll put my hand up and apologise to the lads for doing that. It does make a difference to the game and we had to work hard, but the lads showed great spirit. Who knows, if we’d kept 15 men on the park for a full game it may have been a different story. That’s ifs and buts though, you can never tell.
“The future is bright for the Ospreys, I genuinely believe that, and people could see for themselves tonight I’m sure. We had a good run last year in the LV= Cup, narrowly missing out on getting through to the business end of it. This year we’ve looked at it, we made a lot of changes last week. Boys have come in, a lot of youngsters and people winning their first cap for the Ospreys last weekend, again we had people getting their first or second caps today, but we’ve stood toe to toe with one of the best sides in Europe, and certainly one of the most physical, and we didn’t give them an inch.
“There are a lot of positives to take out of the last two games and I hope our supporters are us proud of this young team as I am.”