The Ospreys bowed out of Europe at Stade Marcel Michelin on Saturday afternoon and immediately switched their focus to securing a place in next season’s Champions Cup.
After a rollercoaster campaign ended in defeat against last season’s runners-up Clermont Auvergne, a last gasp try from Luke McAllister giving the score line a polish that possibly didn’t reflect the game, Head Coach Steve Tandy admitted it felt like one that got away.
“We are deflated” he said to the press deep inside the stadium post-match.
"It’s been a great effort we've done well in the group and there's real frustration in that we could have made more of the opportunities we did create tonight.
“Looking at it half time we felt, not comfortable, we’d have liked it to have been a little bit closer on the scoreboard, but we did feel there were still points in us. We were creating some line breaks but we could have been a bit cleaner. We missed some opportunities, the turnover rate ultimately was too high, when we got into their half we didn’t really stress them enough.
“At 13-7 we are in the game, Clermont were potentially starting to tire, so it was a disappointing way to finish. We've had ins to the game, but I don't think we've thrown as many punches as we would have liked today.”
After heartbreak in the final round of fixtures the last time they competed in the Champions Cup two years ago, a crazy last day seeing the Ospreys just missing out after defeat down in Exeter, it was almost a case of déjà vu this time around. Ultimately though, there were no complaints from Tandy, just a sense of what might have been.
"There's definitely bitter frustration” he acknowledged.
“We’ve been to France in the past where you’ve come away and you know you’re well beaten. This group believed they could come here and win, really put a performance in, and it's not a disappointment in effort, it's frustration in our inaccuracy around our game.
“In fairness to the group, where we started the season, the challenge of the pool we were in, they’ve been unbelievable. It's a pretty sombre changing room. The last twice we’ve been in the Champions Cup we’ve gone down to the last day but have ended with bitter disappointment, which is hugely frustrating.
“When you look back at rounds one and two, even though we didn’t win games our performances were pretty positive. We’ve started to put some decent form together, in sport you have some ups and downs and we’ve fought our way through it to give ourselves an opportunity to come here today and put a performance in.
“They’ve got an unbelievable squad, you’ve only got to look at their bench. We knew Clermont have firepower but I would have liked us to come here and stretch them a little bit more and the players feel the same way.”
With the Anglo Welsh Cup on the agenda for the next two weeks there’s a chance for the Ospreys to regroup ahead of a big push in the Guinness PRO14 to secure qualification once again for the Champions Cup next season. Tandy said:
“Clearly it’s deflating but some boys will have some time off this week, some are going into international camp, we’ve got to start climbing our PRO14 conference pretty quickly and we’ve got a huge month coming up playing Connacht, Cheetahs, Kings and Zebre. We need to win games to get back into this competition.”