“That was one that got away from us”

Allen Clarke praised the intent shown by the Ospreys in Galway on Friday night but was left ruing the errors and ill discipline that meant they left the Sportsground empty handed.

The interim head coach was overseeing his first Guinness PRO14 game, a contest where the Ospreys dominated for long periods but were unable to make it count.

Reflecting on the game shortly after the final whistle, Clarke acknowledged that while the performance had been full of promise, the Ospreys had been very much architects of their own downfall.

“Anybody who knows anything about rugby would see the intent we came here with” said Clarke.

“It’s hugely frustrating to come to Connacht and own possession of the ball and to own field position but to go away without any points to take us up the league. It’s extremely disappointing.

“At times that was down to errors, at times it was down to our discipline. There were key moments in the game, like just before half-time where we’ve gone penalty, penalty and conceded a cheap score. That meant there was a bit of a momentum swing.” 

On several occasions the Ospreys opted to spurn kickable penalties to go for the corner only to see their progress halted by turnovers or penalties conceded. In contrast, man of the match Craig Ronaldson was able to keep the Connacht side of the scoreboard ticking over, kicking 16 points, and Clarke agreed that had been a key factor in the outcome:

““That’s a player decision based on the time of the game, where we are on the field, how they feel the game is going, It’s not the decision that was wrong, it was our inability to capitalise on these chances that cost us. 

“Maybe, on reflection, but I’ll never take that away from the players. We’ve got three big games coming up now. We are not going to take a step back. I don’t want us to be conservative.

“There was a huge amount of honesty in the changing room afterwards with regard to what we can do better. We recognise that was one that got away from us.

“The boys are gutted. They recognise we played some really good rugby at times. They enjoyed it, they used that word, they really enjoyed playing with ball in hand, but we hurt ourselves. We let a game, that in all honesty we should have won, slip away from our grasp.”

It was put to him that the performance showed all the signs of a team full of positive intent but low on confidence? 

“Clearly they are” Clarke agreed. 

“I recognise where they are as a group. If I felt they didn’t care it would be a more concerning world but that’s not the case. We know what we need to do these next three weeks. It’s critically important that we are going back to the Liberty for back-to-back games against the South African sides and we all pull together.

“There are aspects of our game today that need tidying up but we have that intent to play the game with the ball in hand and when we get our opportunities we have to be more ruthless.”