Long way to go for more of the same for Ospreys

South Wales Echo - - SPORTS -

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

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