Ospreys 42 Benetton Treviso 7: Three talking points
Three talking points as the Welsh region hammer Italians to open their Champions Cup campaign and remain unbeaten this season
Deadly Webb continues to snare results
Wales scrum-half Rhys Webb continued his superb start to the season with his sixth try in seven matches as the Ospreys cruised to victory against Italian whipping boys Benetton Treviso in Swansea. With Wales head coach Warren Gatland again in the stands and set to name his squad for next month’s autumn internationals on Tuesday, Webb is a shoo-in to be included, but questions remain over whether the Kiwi will make Webb his first-choice. With fellow dynamic scrum-half Gareth Davies currently injured, Webb is by far the form 9 available to Wales, but Gatland may opt to return to Racing Metro’s Mike Phillips – a decision which will certainly anger the Welsh rugby public, and not just in Ospreylia. Webb has been one of the stand-out players in the Guinness PRO12 through the opening six rounds and he rightly deserves the plaudits for the way he ignites games with his all-round play and deadly sniping around rucks in the opposition 22 while his brilliant half-back partnership with Dan Biggar show no signs of breaking down.
Treviso are not an elite club
They may have qualified for the European Rugby Champions Cup, but there is nothing about Treviso that justifies their participation in this competition, aside from the fact they just finished above fellow professional Italian club Zebre last season. They may have put in plenty of effort against the Ospreys, but it was a third hammering in as many trips to Swansea this calendar year (75-7 in February and 44-13 in September). Former Worcester and Wasps outside-half Joe Carlisle continues to be one of their best players in attack, but it was Italy international wing Ludovico Nitoglia who got their only score when the game was already dead, although he also had two tries ruled out by the French officials. In the context of this pool, they’ll do well to pick up any losing bonus points, and one of the three best runners-up spots for the quarter-finals will surely come from Pool 5 with Racing Metro and Northampton Saints also in the mix. The only hope for the Italians is that they can take advantage of playing Aviva Premiership league leaders Saints home and away straight after the autumn internationals, but even a second-string Saints side should blow away a full-strength Treviso. The reality is that they are nowhere near good enough for this level of competition.
Baker’s stock continues to rise
Ospreys Number 8 Dan Baker had another impressive performance ahead of next week’s Wales squad announcement, driving to the line in the build up to Webb’s try before scoring their fourth try to secure the bonus point. Baker has been one of the in-form back-rowers in Welsh rugby in helping the South Wales region to seven games unbeaten this season and his progress has been impressive. Expected to be included in Wales squad on Tuesday, Gatland would have been concerned to see 22-year-old stretchered off in the second half wearing a neck brace after a collision with a rogue knee as he dropped his shoulder just six minutes after his try. While the aftermath looked dramatic as the former Swansea player was treated for almost 10 minutes before leaving the field, it is another sign of the care and attention given to head and neck injuries in the sport, and the Ospreys were taking no chances. The good news for the unbeaten club and Gatland is that the early news is that Baker’s trip to hospital was a precaution and, despite neck pain, they are hopeful of further positive news after tests. Ospreys backs coach Gruff Rees confirmed after the match that “we are getting pretty healthy reports on Dan…it probably looks a bit worse than it is.”