Alex Morris is a 21 year old, half-Welsh English graduate of Swansea University and Ospreys supporter. He plays at outside half for his local side. He has supported Wales and Ospreys since he took up rugby at the age of 14, when the school team pinned his hands down to stop him signing up for badminton.
Mixed emotions have washed over Ospreys supporters during the opening bout of games in the RaboDirect PRO12. Last year’s champions’ campaign seemed to have struck an iceberg in the opening game. A trip to Treviso was the perfect opportunity to get off to a winning start, but Evans saw red and a 14-man side couldn’t navigate a path to the try-line. The result was a first ever loss to Italian opposition. Criticism started to drizzle down, but a home game against Ulster gave an opportunity to steady the ship. The men in black led for the majority of the game, with Dirksen’s first try of the season fuelling the effort, but Ulster crashed over and pick-pocketed the victory.
It seemed the Ospreys were adrift and taking on water; two bonus points were all they had to show for themselves. Glasgow, however, didn’t even leave them with this consolation in the third game. A shocking and painful, heavy, home defeat elicited cries of “nightmare start” and “pathetic” and the river of criticism broke the banks, leaving Tandy and co. with soggy socks.
It took a derby match to turn things around. They left it late at Parc y Scarlets but two tries in quick succession secured the first victory of the season. Munster then had something to prove, visiting the Liberty, the scene of a sound thrashing in the late stages last year. But it was the Ospreys that did the proving, with a three-try haul denying the visitors a potentially crucial bonus point. It was thus a different frame of mind in which the Ospreys went back to Italy. Biggar the Boot was on top form raking in 24 points on the night in what proved a comfortable win, bringing the victory tally level with defeats and anchoring the Ospreys in the middle of the table at an underachieving sixth.
Crisis averted, then. Lifeboats have been recalled and it’s full steam ahead to the Final (that’s the course plotted anyway!). The form in recent games has been exemplary, the pack has been menacing and the backs have looked threatening; it’s hard to pick a weakness in the side, and harder still to imagine them staying in this uncharted middle-table water, let alone sink back to the depths of last place. The greatest cause for concern, for this spectator anyway, is the chance of getting up too much speed and ending up on the rocks when Wales come calling.
Dan Biggar must be in contention for standoff, and man-of-the-match performances from Richard Hibbard can’t be hurting his chances either. Jones, Evans, Tipuric, Jones, Webb and Beck will almost certainly be on the bus to the Millennium Stadium with them, if not more than that. With more than half of the first team absent, it’s going to require some stellar performances from the remaining crew to stay competitive.
Something of note behind the scenes is the departure of Mike Cuddy. His 10-year stint as managing director ended off the back of a “seven figure” cash injection into the franchise, which, like the other Welsh regions, is struggling financially. This, coupled with the increase in ticket sales on last year spells good news for the Ospreys though, giving them a stable platform from which to launch an assault on the title!
Biggest surprise so far?
Van der Merwe’s try vs. Glasgow Warriors. Against the run of play and demoralising!
Most valuable player so far this season?
Overall season prediction for your side?
Going to be hard, but I think we can do it still!
Ulster in the Final.
Hanno Dirksen as top try scorer (now Visser will be on national duty!)
Who's going to win the RaboDirect PRO12?