HUMILIATION IN SWANSEA
Neathswanseaospreys: 62 (24) Edinburgh Rugby: 13 (10)
Many years ago, I worked in a place run by an aggressively incompetent boss. Their failures affected folk differently. One day, one of my milder mannered colleagues - the sort who would not say boo to a goose - was so frustrated by his latest unwarranted dressing down that he punched a hole in the partition wall in the corridor on the way back to his desk. It stayed there for ages as a concrete example of upward feedback. There are times when one feels a similar urge to bang one's head off the wall, throw one's hat on the floor and jump on it repeatedly or pull what's left of one's hair out. This is such a time.
Embra have just been annihilated. The Ospreys put nine tries past them, or perhaps it was ten, without coming anywhere near hitting top gear. Both sides made pre-season-style errors throughout, but the home team tightened up when the chances came and had a bit of fun in the last quarter, when they played some great stuff. As a result, they'd had the game won at the break and simply cantered off into the South Walian sunset in the second.
At times, there were some promising flashes on the part of a few individuals in the Embra side. Tom Heathcote looks like he has the potential to be the most complete stand-off Edinburgh have had for some years. SHC had a bustling outing at scrum half, albeit without really threatening with ball in hand as his opposite number, Man of the Match Rhys Webb, did, not least with a brace of classic tries in the opening quarter sniping round the fringes. And Hamish Watson, supporting Visser superbly, showed great pace for his try just before half time, but even that score was a freak. Visser's fly hack from SHC's clearance was a bit of a hail Mary and he got a fortunate bounce to put him away. But his pop up to Watson and the openside's clever angle of run were heads-up rugby of a variety that was rarely seen from the Embramen this afternoon.
After two solid pre-season outings and a great victory in Limerick, the Gunners went backwards last week and today accelerated into freefall. It seems to be a combination of confidence and gameplan. The passes are not going to hand, the combinations at lineout and in open play are not working. They are not taking control of a match and, paradoxically for a side that is playing with little ambition, they often seem to be forcing things too much. The Ospreys' best tries came off quick ball, often from Embra turnovers. They played with pace and width, which paid off handsomely. By contrast, the Gunners were desperately predictable, not only in the two pass, hit up routine, but also in their habit of giving the ball away in good attacking positions. At least twice, Hilterbrand overthrew at dangerous attacking lineouts. But it was clear last season that this is a hooker who consistently struggles to hit his man, so it was little surprise.
Webb's first touchdown came after a series of aimless tactical kicks. He picked up at the breakdown, noticed there was no-one guarding the fringes and simply scooted through the hole and he sailed down the park to score under the posts on two minutes. Although Heathcote pulled a penalty back soon after, Webb's second score was another textbook effort. Picking up at a ruck on the enemy try line, he noticed that Cuthbert had moved out a little, leaving another inviting gap, and pounced. 14-3 after twelve minutes and already a mountain to climb for the visitors.
There ws a bit of a respite before Baker scored off a rolling maul with the clock ticking down to the oranges. Watson's try made it 21-10 to the home side at the break. In truth, the Embramen were fortunate still to be this close.
Heathcote rounded off the afternoon's scoring for the visitors with an early penalty in the second half, but it was all one way traffic from then on in. Biggar secured the bonus point with a try before the Welsh side's Canuck winger Hasseler picked up an Edinburgh knock on in an attacking position and ran virtually the length of the field to score.
Even when Tipuric was carded for an offence at an Edinburgh tap penalty deep in the Ospreys' 22, the Gunners could not take advantage. Indeed, the short-handed Welshmen scored another try instead. The eccentrically named trio of Hanno Dirkson, Tom Grabham and Tyler Ardron completed the rout with tries of their own, the latter two scored pretty highly on artistic merit. Dirkson's, however, involved the winger strolling past several non-tackles - a feature of the afternoon - to score a criminally easy try under the posts.
A performance like this makes one fear that Embra have a lot of work to do simply to get to the level of 'clueless', let alone 'competent'. There were no redeeming factors, no crumbs of comfort today.
It is going to be a long season.