Friday night saw the Ospreys secure ninth bonus point win of the Guinness PRO12 season, defeating Zebre 40-10 in Parma, but in Steve Tandy’s opinion it was very much a case of “must do better”.
After falling behind early on at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi the Ospreys struggled to get any real foothold in the game throughout the opening 40 and trailed 10-0 going into the final minute of the first half, when an Ashley Beck try narrowed the gap before a much improved second half showing saw them run in a further five tries, including a seven minute Dan Evans hat-trick that secured the bonus point inside 10 minutes of the restart.
It was a win that keeps the Ospreys in second place, hot on the heels of leaders Munster who are just one point ahead.
Reflecting on the performance shortly after the final whistle, Tandy was under no illusions about the need to improve before the Irish side arrives at the Liberty Stadium for a mouth-watering top of the table clash next weekend.
“The first half was very frustrating” said Tandy.
“We were our own worst enemy, we turned the ball over too many times. I thought our shape was decent but a couple of errors at the start of the game meant we found ourselves 10 points down before we’d even got started.
“In fairness to the boys, although they weren’t getting any change from Zebre they were relentless in what they were trying to do and they kept going. I thought it was a brave call at the end of the first half to kick to the corner instead of taking three points with it being the last play. They got the score, which was what they deserved from the first half, and it meant we were going in at half-time only three behind.
“We kept the ball much better in the second half and blew Zebre away in that first 10 minutes. They never recovered from that.”
Tandy paid credit to the way the team stepped up a gear after half-time to ensure there was no upset in Parma, admitting there had been some straight talking at the break.
“There was a little bit of frustration in there” he continued.
“Not only from the coaches, the boys were frustrated with themselves. The standard wasn’t what we expect. I think the first seven or eight sets we turned the ball over five times. We want to play football but we don’t want to be that loose that we are giving the opposition ins that they don’t have to work for.
“Their try came from a turnover and we knew that if we could tighten up our possession we could pull away. The boys took on the messages we gave them, we changed one or two things, subtly, and they came back out and delivered. They got the job done.
“The first 10 minutes of the second half we were ruthless and took the game away from Zebre. We scored early, then went the length of the field to score again straight after. We built the pressure on them and that started to result in indiscipline and yellow cards, and then scores.
“There was a lot of good in the second half, but we are well aware that we need to improve in some areas. We seem to be having to come from behind a lot and, while that speaks volumes for our character, we have to be more ruthless. However, teams like Munster, who we play next week, will punish us heavily if we allow them to, like they did out there in November.”
Friday’s victory was the 13th in a row for the Ospreys in all competitions and the 6th on the bounce in the PRO12 but, while delighted at the run, Tandy repeated his warning of tougher times ahead, saying:
“It’s a good run but we’re all aware that we are going to have to be better than we were tonight. We’ve got a lot of boys missing, nearly 30 players unavailable tonight, but we’ve come here, had a tough evening and we go home with the job done, five points in the bag.
“We’ll be straight home, the boys will sleep in their own beds have a couple of days rest then we’ve got a good week’s prep for Munster at the Liberty. We know that will be a tough game, they are on a great run themselves, but we are home, we’ve got a good record at the Liberty that we are proud of.
“First things first, we’ve got to have a good working week and really get into the detail, starting on Monday morning."