Ospreys 62 Edinburgh 13: Three talking points from Biggar & Webb show
Ospreys 62 Edinburgh 13: Three talking points as Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb impress
Ospreys soar to PRO12 summit
Before the season had begun, the Ospreys were instantly written off as a club going backwards. The loss of experienced internationals Ryan Jones, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones and Ian Evans part of the reasons given, as well as a policy of blooding young players. It’s something the club have largely ignored and where they have not, they have used it as extra motivation. The Ospreys have a habit of blowing holes in PRO12 defences, famously scoring 11 tries in a 75-7 win over Treviso seven months ago. Today’s performance was equally emphatic, as they found their way to nine tries. Three tries inside 33 minutes was a solid start with Wales half-back duo Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar influential, the former’s opening gambit a stunning 50-metre try as they bust through and evaded tackles as he went under the posts. Only 24-10 at the interval, there was still hope for Edinburgh, especially as they scored first in the second half, but then the wheels really did fall off despite a numerical advantage as Justin Tipuric was yellow carded. Three games into the season and the Ospreys are unbeaten and sitting top of the Guinness PRO12 with 14 points out of a possible 15. With a trip to Limerick to take on Munster next up for Steve Tandy and his team, tougher tests will undoubtedly arrive quickly, but the Ospreys have been relentless in despatching Treviso and Edinburgh. Confidence in the squad is deservedly high, but they know they can still play better, so there is still more to come.
Leaderless Edinburgh outgunned
Any belief that Edinburgh could challenge for the PRO12’s top six after their shock win at Munster on the opening weekend of the season was quickly dispelled in Swansea as Alan Solomons’ team were handed their worst result in the Celtic League era. It may only be round three of a 22-match regular season, but there is very little to suggest that the Gunners have what it takes defensively to really stake a claim for European Rugby Champions Cup qualification and it doesn’t look like improving, no matter how much they work on their defensive systems in training. If their narrow defeat last weekend to Connacht at home was disappointing, today’s result was a humiliating, calamitous display that goes beyond their dismal 55-12 defeat to Munster towards the end of last season. The loss of club captain Mike Coman before kick-off was a disappointment, but the lack of leadership on the pitch at times and an inability to get organised was all too apparent and capitalised on ruthlessly despite the presence of experienced players in the starting XV like Al Dickinson, Cornell du Preez, Andries Strauss and Tim Visser. It doesn’t get any easier for Solomons and Edinburgh with the free-scoring Scarlets travelling to BT Murrayfield Stadium on Friday. A similar defensive display after a short turnaround could yield another very heavy defeat.
The Biggar and Webb show
Welsh rugby has seen decades of debate over who should be first-choice 10 for the national team, something which shows no sign of relenting 12 months out from a Rugby World Cup year with Gareth Anscombe being flown in from New Zealand to add another name to Dan Biggar, Rhys Priestland, Rhys Patchell, Owen Williams (of the Leicester Tigers variety) and James Hook. The scrum-half position is another which is heading that way with the experienced Mike Phillips seeing a jersey he has owned for some time come under threat from across the Welsh regions. From Rhys Webb at the Ospreys to Lloyd Williams and Lewis Jones at Cardiff Blues to Gareth Davies and Rhodri Jones at the Scarlets. However, Webb’s performance today for the Ospreys further highlights that he is, undoubtedly, the most exciting scrum-half that Wales has right now and he will always be first choice for his region when fit and not being game managed, while the others will rotate more often with some not even featuring regularly. Phillips can still offer a lot to Wales, but he needs to be playing regularly. Something not guaranteed in the Top 14 at Racing Metro. More importantly, it is Webb’s almost telepathic understanding with Biggar that makes him an even more attractive option at international level. Today was just the latest in a string of performances which show that there are few more dangerous half-back partnerships in the PRO12 or wider European rugby. Webb’s quick thinking and running ability can open up games from anywhere on the field, while Biggar’s kicking accuracy and creativity can also help the national side deviate from its often too obvious game plans. It remains to be seen whether Anscombe can play outside-half regularly rather than as a full-back who can cover at 10. The Blues are already paving that road by moving Patchell to 15 in preparation of Anscombe’s arrival. Overnight results aren’t likely, so Warren Gatland must start all four autumn internationals with the Ospreys duo at half-back. The big question is can he avoid another serious injury which has so far blighted his career?