After watching his team bow out of the PRO12 play-offs in heartbreaking fashion at Thomond Park, Steve Tandy spoke of his pride at the way his young Ospreys team had fought to the bitter end.
With an average age on the field at kick off of just 24, and Alun Wyn Jones the oldest player on matchday duty at 29, the youthfulness of the Ospreys squad has been well documented. As has been the case all season though, they weren’t fazed by the challenge of going to one of European rugby’s real fortresses and they went toe-to-toe with Munster right to the final whistle, believing they’d landed the knockout blow to seal an incredible comeback having trailed by 13 points.
Tandy hailed the spirit of the group when he spoke post match, saying:
“It would have been so easy to throw the towel in on so many occasions. But we just kept fighting, we kept scoring and getting back in the game and ultimately we were a fine margin from stealing victory and being the first team to win an away semi-final in the Pro12.
“You have got to stay in the fight when you are away from home. It’s easy to throw the towel in, but we kept fighting. It would have been huge for us to get to the final. I am obviously biased and I think our boys deserved a little bit more.
“It’s congratulations to Munster for getting to the final, but I’m immensely proud of the group and where they have come from since the start of the season. It's a TMO's decision the fact that we wouldn't be the first team to win an away semi.
“We are totally gutted. We are all a bit raw. It’s gut wrenching that we are not going to Belfast for the final. There’s disappointment going round, but I think the over-riding thing is how proud we are of our group and how they battled back.”
Reflecting on that final play and the TMO ruling, Tandy kept a brave face on it, saying:
“The initial thought was that we’d done it as you saw Josh go in, but you could see there was a rumpus going on and I could see Nigel going straight back.
“You usually see the TMOs being played out and played out, but you didn’t get that and the decision was made pretty quickly.
“We are disappointed to lose the game. I don’t know if it’s the right decision or not, but that’s not something I’m prepared to comment on now. I will have to look at it. Ultimately, the decision has been made. We aren’t going to change anything.”
With the team having confounded expectations all season, Tandy admitted to excitement at the prospect of what the squad could do over the coming seasons as they grow and mature together.
"It's pretty exciting the side we're putting together. We've got to keep that team together. There were real fine margins in and around the game. Errors from us cost us but when you look back at it and how the group kept coming back, kept fighting and they missed one or two kicks - it's a fine margin.
“I think there’s still more in our team and that’s the exciting part around it. It’s a tight group. You can see there’s a lot of pain, but there’s a lot of satisfaction in how proud they are of their mates and how they kept fighting and digging in and ultimately weren’t far away from getting an away win.
“It was an amazing experience for the group to play in a match like that at Thomond Park. We have got to bottle this up and keep on coming back.
“To come away from home and put in a pretty reasonable performance in what is a high stakes game is something to be proud of, but ultimately it’s bitter disappointment.
“It’s not just about now though, it’s how we kick on. We can always look back but I'd rather look at today, coming away and playing a pretty experienced team and how we fought and stuck in the game.
"Ultimately we weren't far away from getting victory."