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Ospreys – Dai Howells

Guinness PRO12 Editor

24 Oct 2012


Dai is 26 years old and has been an Osprey ever since the team was formed.

Being both an Ospreys fan and an indefatigable optimist, I’m looking at this season’s start as very much a glass-half-full scenario. Admittedly, being mid-table after suffering as many losses as wins is not ideal (especially considering that this time last season we were six for six), but as is customary with sport, that only tells half the story.

The opener against Treviso was, as many will agree, a deserved – albeit frustrating – loss. Whether it was the depleted first team, post-win hangover or just a bad day at the office, unfortunately all the Ospreys were adept at stringing together were mistakes. This, compounded with Ian Evans’ sending off, made for more of a stumble out of the blocks than a blast.

Disappointment also followed at the Liberty in the game against Ulster, with the visitors snatching victory from a ten-point deficit, albeit amid complaints from Tandy and his men of dubious play around scrumtime. Furthermore, perennial under-achievers Glasgow took all the spoils from their visit to the Liberty, continuing a run against the Ospreys which hasn’t seen the Swansea boys victorious since March 2011.

Which brought us to Parc y Scarlets, where top of the table played (as good as) bottom; either side seeing polar opposite season beginnings. Furthermore, this same fixture last year – played on a frosty Boxing Day afternoon – saw the men in red comfortably crowned winners.

Things were not looking up.

But then, Ospreys managed to start the process of turning their campaign around. The scrum, which has always been a formidable part of the Ospreys game but had been relatively weak in recent games, began to click into place. So too did the outfield gruntwork, with the pack showing just why an international first-team eight could be picked from Swansea alone.

The ferociously forward-dominated game saw plenty of handbags, as well as enough tension to fill around three fixtures more, with the teams locked at 9-9 after 72 minutes. Then, with just eight to go, the game burst into life, seeing three tries scored before the final whistle, culminating in Scarlets winger George North again showing his experienced head to tap down a bonus-point-scoring try that had even the most ardent of rule-followers scratching their heads.

With the Ospreys of old back in force, and a team sheet starting to look a little fuller, victories over Munster and Zebre followed, with each displaying a much more healthy picture of the Ospreys and their title defence chances.

Yes, the table may attest to only a 50 per cent hitrate, but that doesn’t tell all the story. Adam Jones is now back to the fold and showing why he was so missed, while Dan Biggar – worryingly quiet during the first few matches – has found his metronomic form once more, hitting laser-sighted penalties like he’s just practising down the park. Furthermore, the number 10 is playing exemplary outfield as well, with a maturity there to look up before hoofing exemplary kicks downfield or into touch.

So 2012/13 is unquestionably a less promising a start than last year, but on recent form, the glass is certainly half full.

Biggest surprise so far –Leinster have been weak on the road and swung wildly from the shoddy to the sublime. Joe Schmidt will want to iron this out quickly, especially with European matches on the horizon.

Most valuable player so far this season – For the Ospreys, few could argue that Dan Biggar is, despite his young age, already set to go down in the team’s folklore. Recently he’s supplemented his frighteningly accurate kicking with an intelligent reading of the game too. A shoe-in for the Wales number 10 jersey.

Overall season prediction – I’m sticking with a top four place, despite the wobble.

Other predictions – Mark Anscombe has created a terrific team at Ulster. This year has to be a higher finish than 2011/12’s sixth.

Who’s going to win – Leinster will be hurting and desparate to end their hoodoo. That being said, the likes of Glasgow and Ulster will be spoiling to break hearts, while the Ospreys have the knowledge of how to do so. It’s wide open.