After marking his 28th birthday on Monday with a try against the Scarlets, Jonathan Thomas has identified the high intensity that the Ospreys took into the game following the Munster double-header as being a key factor in the derby win.
After picking up a losing bonus point in a fierce 22-16 defeat at Thomond Park, the Ospreys bounced back to secure a 19-15 win in the return game a week later thanks to a huge physical effort up front to keep their Heineken Cup hopes alive. That was followed on Monday by the delayed West Wales derby, where the Ospreys racked up seven tries in a 60-17 victory over their local rivals at the Liberty Stadium.
Speaking after the game, Thomas, who recently signed a new deal that runs until 2014, said that the Scarlets result owed a lot to the experience of the previous two weeks:
“We came into this one off the back of two massive games against Munster that were really high intensity and high pressure, and the most pleasing thing is that we carried that intensity over into the Scarlets game. We didn’t ease off at all. Sometimes in the past maybe we’ve been guilty of raising our game for Europe and perhaps easing off slightly afterwards, but we are learning and growing as a team and I think we showed that we are heading in the right direction.
“The Scarlets have been playing really well and we knew they’d pose a big challenge so the manner of the win is very pleasing. We didn’t get everything right, there are still things to work on, but you’ve got to take a great deal of satisfaction from such a big win.
“It was won up front. We’ve made strides this season as a forward unit. We are certainly not the finished article and you could see some of the rough edges out there but the level of performance among the forwards has been good lately and that gives the backs a platform. I’m sure they would say that they were pleased with the ball they had.”
Thomas would have been hoping for a day off to celebrate his birthday, but the Boxing Day postponement meant that he marked the special day with only his 10th try in 138 appearances for the region, and he says it’s one he enjoyed: “Obviously it’s great to get a try, but I think any of the boys would tell you that you’d rather the win than you score personally. Nevertheless, it’s nice to get over for one, I don’t score that many of them so I’ll make sure I enjoy it. Being my birthday as well, I suppose that makes it more memorable.”
More than 18,000 fans turned up at the Liberty Stadium for the Scarlets match despite the inconvenience of the late postponement on Boxing Day, and Thomas was quick to praise them for their efforts:“It was all a bit of an anti climax on Boxing Day, for players and spectators. Everyone was up for the game, looking forward to it, and everyone ended up bitterly disappointed. It was great that it could go ahead on Monday though.
“I must admit I didn’t think that as many fans would turn up as they did with the inconvenience of the cancellation and everything, people coming from a long way, but it was great that so many turned up. It was a pleasure to play in front of so many fans in such a great atmosphere.
“We’ve got some big away games between now and then, but the next home game is Toulon and we definitely want them back here. As a team we can’t afford to take our eye off the three games before that one, we need to stay focused, but we want our supporters to start thinking about the Toulon game as it’s going to be important that they are here in numbers that day. We’ve seen good ticket sales the last two games but the weather has meant that some couldn’t turn up which is a real shame.
“I think the big thing is that the level of our performance has been good in recent weeks and it’s nice to see that the fans are perhaps identifying with that, seeing that we are trying to play some good rugby, and it’s nice that they are coming out to support us. We’ve got a lot of work to do before that game, including getting a result in London Irish, but we desperately need their support against Toulon, where hopefully, together we can do the blackout on them.”