Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Tandy hope Ospreys heed wake-up call

It was just as Steve Tandy had warned last month, not that many were listening.

The Welsh squad’s still fairly new head coach — he was promoted from within after last season’s mid-campaign cull of Sean Holley and Scott Johnson — had reckoned there was a potential fall coming for the beginning of their assault to retain the PRO12 League title at Treviso and, true enough, it happened on a damp and windy night in north eastern Italy.

Tandy had sent out his warning after the Ospreys’ less than inspiring pre-season form — they lost heavily at Clermont and then were frustratingly flat in a home defeat to Bath — and their 12-6 reverse at the Stadio di Monigo on the opening day confirmed his fears with their cause undone after second row Ian Evans was red-carded after only half an hour for a high tackle not long after he had returned from being shown a first yellow.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Dan Biggar’s inaccuracy with the boot also hurt Tandy’s side. The Ospreys management had to look hard to pick any positives from the wreckage but they found something and highlighted the avoidance of conceding any points in the second half and the fact that they still created though missing two clear scoring chances.

It’s very early days, of course, allowing Tandy and his coaching team to stress that this wake-up call will now be heeded. Indeed, this week, much work has been done on both the squad’s discipline and precision with greater “emotional control” being how backs coach Gruff Rees put it when discussing how they would be addressing the fallout from the Treviso misfortune.

It’s all a far cry from how they began and finished last season which turned out to be a rollercoaster both on and off the field for the once cash-flushed and star-studded club.

The Ospreys came steaming out of the blocks last September by seeing off Leinster — they certainly had the Indian sign on Joe Schmidt’s side and beat then all three times they met — and kept going by winning five from their first six league games.

This form was then neatly book-ended by beating all comers in their last seven league outings which included the dramatic PRO12 League final when Shane Williams last-gasp try — and Biggar’s coolly taken touchline conversion — brought the title to south Wales and heartbreakingly de-railed Leinster’s bid at securing a European and league double.

No one really expected Tandy to triumph amid all the turmoil of last season and the fact that he did may well have raised expectations higher than they ought to be in the wake of departed star finishers Williams and Tommy Bowe.

Even so, the core of the Ospreys pack is still around and this is where their challenge will be built from, unless, there are more 'Treviso' performances to come.

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