“Character Beats Talent” – Ospreys Provide Mission Statement

If ever there was a statement that needs to be a badge of honour for Welsh rugby this season, it was that given by Toby Booth after a mixed weekend.

The Ospreys were the only Welsh team to win in Europe – but what a win.

Their 38-28 victory over the Lions in Johannesburg in the EPCR Challenge Cup not only secured them a home tie against Sale Sharks in the knockout stages, but it also summed up the attitude required at a difficult time for the game in Wales.

“Character beats talent,” said Booth, three words that the four regional sides and the national team should consider their mission.

“It makes me a little bit emotional thinking about it,” added the Ospreys head coach after their first win on South African soil against one of that country’s big four teams.

“We’ve always talked about how strong we are and the things we take pride in and how the cultural stuff gets us through,” said Booth.

Although both sides had already qualified for the knockout phase, there was a home tie up for grabs and Booth’s side hit back from an 18-14 interval deficit to notch a famous victory that set-up a home clash with Sale in the next round on the weekend of 5-7 April.

The only downside for Booth, and Wales head coach Warren Gatland, was the sight of George North leaving the field with a shoulder injury.

“George is a bit sore; he has a neural element in his shoulder which has shut down a little bit,” said Booth.

“He has got a bit of recovery time before he gets back, and we will hand over all the information to try and treat him and get him back up and running as soon as possible.

Dragons coach Dai Flanagan admitted his team had missed a real opportunity as a slump in home form saw them slide out of Europe.


Dragons denied

The Dragons were unable to make it four wins in a row at Rodney Parade as they conceded five tries in a 29-9 defeat to the Sharks that saw them crash out of the EPCR Challenge Cup.

All their points came from the boot of Wales Six Nations Squad member Cai Evans with three penalties.

“We’re disappointed. It’s been a long block of 13 games where these young guys are learning week to week under pressure,” admitted Flanagan.

“We started superbly into the wind, but the missed try was massive. It changed the mood and the atmosphere, and when they scored before half-time, momentum swung, and we struggled to recover.

“Their power game was massive, but we gave them soft penalties. We have lots to work on over the break.”


Cardiff miss out

On Saturday, Cardiff bowed out of the Investec Champions Cup, although they went down fighting.

Their 48-26 defeat to Top14 leaders Racing 92 at La Defense Arena in Paris was full of spirit, but it was a chance lost to reach either the Round of 16 in the Champions Cup or Challenge Cup.

Outscored by seven tries to four, Cardiff ended bottom of their pool with a -113 point difference having conceded 28 tries in their four fixtures.

“We wanted to show fight and give people a good match to watch, and we did both of those things. I can’t be prouder of the players’ efforts,” said head coach Matt Sherratt.

“They were up against it, they showed a lot of courage and scored four cracking tries. There’s a tinge of disappointment.

“We’ve got to get better at certain things. We’re giving teams too many easy scores and we’ve got to get that out of our game.


Scarlets suffer

The Scarlets were also left without a victory in the European campaign on Friday night when they bowed out of the Challenge Cup after a 31-19 home defeat to Edinburgh.

Their latest defeat left the Scarlets anchored to the bottom of Pool 3 as they were outgunned by five tries to three.

In doing so they became the first Welsh region to fail to register a point in a European campaign.

“I was disappointed with the first half; we gave them too many soft points. Physically they dominated the middle of the field, and we couldn’t get speed of ball,” admitted Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel.

“That ultimately hurt us, although when we did get speed of ball we got to the edges. The likes of Joe Roberts looked threatening, and Tomi Lewis is coming on as well.”

The four regions now take a four-week break as the Six Nations grabs centre stage.