Ospreys owe Treviso, says Ashley Beck
IN a memorable episode of The Simpsons, the villainous Sideshow Bob brandishes a gun and tells Homer he's offering "a dish best served cold".
Homer responds: "Is it ice cream?"
Truly, revenge missions don't always go as planned.
But the Ospreys are nonetheless hoping to settle a score this evening when they head for Stadio Monigo to face Treviso. Twice last term Steve Tandy's side came unstuck at the venue, 12-6 in the Pro12 and 17-14 in the Heineken Cup.
Tonight, they are looking for payback.
"We owe Treviso," declared centre Ashley Beck.
"They turned us over twice out there last season.
"On both occasions it was within the last ten minutes when we lost it. But we seem a lot better in training this summer, so hopefully we can go out there and have a different outcome." The Ospreys were not alone in hitting problems in northern Italy last term, with Treviso completing a clean sweep of victories over Welsh opposition. Zebre, Edinburgh and Munster, by 34-10, were also sent packing with defeats.
But the result that made the entire Pro12 sit up and take notice was the 41-17 thrashing Franco Smith's team handed the Scarlets in Llanelli on the final night of the regular season.
Treviso didn't just get the better of the forward exchanges that evening in May, they also displayed a ruthlessness behind that the Scarlets couldn't match.
"They're a good side, especially in Italy," said Beck.
"They seem proud when they play out there and want to make their ground a fortress, so it's a hard place to visit. We always seem to be in the lead with around 20 minutes left, only for the game to slip away. But we've done a lot of fitness, so if we're in a similar position this time, we'll be able to push on and maybe win it." Beck's mission in the months ahead will be to recapture his best form after a stop-start 2012-13 plagued by injuries.
At his best, he is a classy operator who puts his faith in panache as much as power, with his ability to offload and send out sweet passes giving the Ospreys an extra dimension. In an era when there is so much emphasis on midfield explosiveness, he offers something different.
He knows how high the bar is set at national level, though, with Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams all immensely strong centres capable of crashing over the gain-line and giving Wales extra momentum.
Beck can only compete with them by emphasising his qualities rather than trying to copy their wall-demolishing abilities. But his main priority at this point is to cement his place at the Ospreys, where he is part of a pool of centres that includes Andrew Bishop, Jonathan Spratt, Ben John, Tom Isaacs and young Matthew Jenkins.
"I'm not looking too far ahead," said Beck. "It's about being here with the Ospreys and securing a regular spot.
"There are some boys coming through who are really good prospects, while Jonny Spratt did well when he played for Wales in Japan in the summer. He was one of the few boys who did play well out there.
"I just want to perform to the best of my ability here."
One of the youngsters emerging in midfield at the Liberty is Jenkins, a converted back rower. "He's looking good," said Beck.
"I guess it's tough coming from the back row, where you tend not to pass the ball so much — it's more about running over people.
"But Matthew has been sharp in training, with good skills. He's a strong boy who is a good ball carrier and he's deceptively quick, too. If you give him a bit of space you are in trouble. He is one to watch out for."
The Ospreys made a calamitous start to last season, losing their opening three games, but they are determined to move off the blocks more smoothly this term.
"We definitely don't want to open with three defeats, because it ruined us last year," added Beck.
"We had a good run towards the end, but we needed bonus points in every game. Hopefully, we can change things this term and pick up a few more wins early on, so we don't end up panicking in the last three or four weeks of the season."
Meanwhile, the Ospreys' Pro12 match against the Dragons scheduled for Sunday, October 27, has been postponed. Swansea City's Europa League commitments mean their home Premier League game against West Ham has been moved from Saturday, October 26, to the following day.
No new date has yet been set for the Ospreys-Dragons match, but all parties involved were aware this issue could arise and are working on alternative plans.