Long way to go for more of the same for Ospreys
ANOTHER continent, another defeat for the Ospreys, with Steve Tandy’s team unable to chase away their troubles as they fell to defeat against the Cheetahs.
Travel is said to be an escape and the head coach and his players were close on 6,000 miles from home.
But the win they have been seeking since the opening day of the season once again proved elusive.
They performed better in the opening half here, scoring tries through Rhys Webb and Kieron Fonotia and leading 17-15 at one stage.
But rugby is played over 80 minutes and the second half saw the Ospreys’ challenge disintegrate amid a blizzard of forced passes, needless errors and poor execution of basic skills.
The Cheetahs were able to run in six touchdowns through doubles from Torsten van Jaarsveld and Makazole Mapimpi and one apiece from Paul Schoeman and Francois Venter.
It was a deflating evening on the Highveld for the Welsh side then.
They have now lost nine of their last 11 matches in Guinness PRO14 rugby, with league champions the Scarlets to face in Swansea next weekend. After that, Clermont Auvergne and Saracens provide the opposition in Europe.
How difficult might those three fixtures be? Think a middleweight boxer running up against Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler on consecutive weekends in the 1980s.
A serious test of character awaits then.
The Ospreys had a terrible run in the opening season of league rugby, one that saw them come unstuck in 10 consecutive games in all competitions. Their skipper at the time, Scott Gibbs, retired from playing and for a match with Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup just 1,822 watchers were scattered around St Helen’s. So things could always be worse. But that won’t be much consolation. Tandy had welcomed back Alun Wyn Jones to the line-up and also fielded Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar in an attempt to succeed where Leinster had failed so calamitously the previous weekend.
But the changes couldn’t arrest the region’s slump.
They were 22-17 down at the break, after an entertaining opening 40 minutes.
The Cheetahs bristled with intent from the first whistle and looked menacing every time they attacked, with the ball carrier often having support on each shoulder.
But the first try was a soft one from an Ospreys’ perspective.
A short-range line-out was driven forward and the hooker van Jaarsveld stole away to touch down, taking advantage of an alarming gap.
The visitors couldn’t get in the game, with the Cheetahs executing their plays at pace and with no little skill. Their second try was a gem.
Wing Mapimpi broke sharply down the left and found William Small-Smith in support, the centre transferring the ball to Jaarsveld and the No. 2 did the rest.
The Ospreys looked shell shocked, but they suddenly pulled themselves together, inspired by Lions half-backs Webb and Biggar.
First, Webb snipped his way across after a period of pressure had forced the hosts back. It was a classic scrum-half score by a player who looked threatening throughout the opening half.
Then Biggar, seemingly prompted by a call from James Hook, put in a deft, low kick behind the defence which allowed the impressive Fonotia to dab down.
Biggar’s penalty close to half-time put the Ospreys ahead, only for Mapimpi to score in the corner after the Ospreys messed up a restart.
Dan Evans goes over for the Ospreys