An Ospreys team featuring five debutants may have tasted defeat to Gloucester on Friday night but, as Tom Smith pointed out, they certainly went down fighting.
The Ospreys scored led inside the final half hour and scored three well worked tries before ending the game with just 13 men on field as a strong Gloucester side finished with a late flourish to add some gloss to the final score, but Smith was immensely proud of the effort from a youthful squad at one of English rugby’s traditional fortresses.
“It was a very competitive game, for 60 minutes in particular” said Smith.
“You’ve got to take your hat off to a very young group, going out there and going against a fully loaded Gloucester side and not only digging in but being there or thereabouts.
“I think we could have been a little bit smarter, going up against a big heavy side where maybe we could have tried to run them around a little bit more, but I can’t fault the effort.
“We are competitive animals, we never go anywhere to just make the numbers up, but the effort put in was definitely something to be proud of. That’s what we ask from the boys, to keep fighting, be on the front foot and try to win those small battles, and we were definitely competitive even if, in the end, it was a little bit too much to ask.”
Gloucester came racing out of the starting blocks and took a 12-0 lead with two early tries but the Ospreys clung on, tries either side of the break allowing them to snatch the lead. Gloucester powered their way back into the game, taking full advantage of their physical edge and greater experience, not to mention numerical advantage, but Smith insisted that the final outcome took nothing away from his young charges.
“We said before the match that it’s not about just lying down and accepting it” Smith continued.
“We knew that with the side they had they’d try to bury us early on, and the more we stuck in there and took the fight to them, that they’d become frustrated. I thought at the start of the second half we looked really good.
“Maybe, like I said, we could have been a bit smarter in a few areas. We didn’t deal with their threat at the breakdown, interpretation comes in to it, but we didn’t deal with the breakdown.
“A couple of penalties went against us and we’ve given them opportunities into their strong set-piece game. It was always going to be hard for us but 55, 60 minutes I thought we were outstanding. We didn’t have enough to just push it home that last quarter.
“Going down two forwards obviously didn’t help but even in those moments we didn’t give up, going down the other end of the field and scoring a driving lineout with six forwards. I think that epitomises the effort the boys put in.
“You look at how many have made their Ospreys debuts this evening, we’ve got two 17-year olds on there at the end, it’s really exciting to see these boys have an opportunity to play in an environment like this. Hopefully they can back that up next week.”
The Ospreys play Bath at the Liberty Stadium next Friday night in the final game of their Anglo Welsh Cup campaign – CLICK HERE to buy tickets now.