Friday, February 27, 2015

Preview : Ospreys v Leinster

 

"The Ospreys face an in-form Leinster, who have won three of their last four fixtures in the league." 

Gareth Griffiths, WalesOnline yesterday

Ask me to name Leinster's worst performance since HarpinOnRugby came into existence and I'll go for our visit to the Liberty Stadium in November, 2012 under Joe Schmidt.

Many fans of the boys in blue would take issue with that, I'm sure, particularly on the back of two extremely below-par displays at home against teams in the lower half of the Pro12.  

But what made that particular defeat to the Ospreys stand out for me was that it was so unexpected, especially since we did so well in the first quarter to build a 10-0 lead only to appear to go out of our way to hand the initiative back to those pesky birds.

Well I have to offer my apologies in advance for a large dose of pessimism, but this time around as the lads head to Swansea, my expectation levels are as low as they have ever been going into a Leinster match.

Normally I try to be positive, normally I try to dig out a silver-lining, but on this occasion I gave one of my biggest ever "LOLs" when I saw what Graham Griffiths had to say in his preview.

Now...it IS worth noting that the Ospreys are hardly on sparkling form themselves.  In the space of two rounds they went from top of the league to fifth on the back of defeats to both Scottish clubs.

But every Leinster fan  will know they have the ability to raise their game to play us, at least when it comes in this competition.  Of all the Welsh regions they definitely have the biggest sense of pride when it comes to playing for the jersey and nothing brings that out more than the visit of 3-times European champions.  The likes of Hanno Dirksen, Joe Bearman and Dan Baker have all performed well against us before.

And on top of that, we have the reality of Leinster's form, which couldn't be more opposite than that laid out by Griffiths.  Whether he's trying to raise expectations of his opposition or whether it was just lazy journalism on his part we'll never know...but the evidence from our last two matches suggests that for all the experience in our lineup, there just doesn't seem to be the necessary glue holding them together.

Right the heart of my pessimism are two key combinations....at halfback and centre.  Isaac Boss takes the captain's armband tonight and it is imperative that he and Jimmy Gopperth are on the same page if we are to make any kind of headway against what is bound to be a stubborn home D.  But even if they do tee things up well, we'll need Messrs D'Arcy & Te'o to have a much better understanding than they did last Friday otherwise we won't get the maximum out of our extremely talented back three.

On the positive side of things if you look hard enough you will find something ;-)  I thought our scrum has done well over the past two weeks so there's a chance we can establish a decent platform tonight though there isn't a whole lot of front row experience in reserve.  Then there's the return of Rhys Ruddock to a young backrow which has the ever-eager Dominic Ryan ready to spring from the bench.  We could conceivably match our hosts in the forwards, and for the most part our D should be strong...it's just the area of creating try-scoring chances where I fear we'll struggle.

So as you can see, I'm not holding out much hope, and that is an extremely rare happening in HoR previews.  The bookies have a 2-point win for the home side...I say we'll be lucky to get a losing bonus and my prediction is for an 8-10 defeat.  Sorry!

Now all the boys have to do is go out and prove me totally wrong.  And noone will be happier than me if that's the case.

#COYBIB JLP

OSPREYS : 15 Dan Evans 14 Tom Grabham 13 Jonathan Spratt 12 Josh Matavesi 11 Hanno Dirksen 10 Sam Davies 9 Martin Roberts
1 Ryan Bevington 2 Scott Otten 3 Dmitri Arhip 4 Tevita Cavubati 5 Tyler Ardron>(Capt) 6 Joe Bearman 7 James King 8 Dan Baker
REPLACEMENTS : 16 Matthew Dwyer 17 Marc Thomas 18 Daniel Suter 19 Rhodri Hughes 20 Olly Cracknell 21 Morgan Allen 22 Tom Habberfield 23 Richard Fussell

Guinness Pro 12 - Round 16
At Liberty Stadium, 7.35pm. Live on BBC Wales/TG4 
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU, 42nd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Craig Evans, Chris Williams (both WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Gwyn Bowden (WRU)
TMO: Derek Bevan (WRU)

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