Ospreys suffer Heineken Cup agony against Leinster
Ospreys 9-19 Leinster
AS those freshly discovered Doctor Who tapes from 45 years ago show, it's amazing how things can turn up from out of the blue.
Nine episodes from 1967-68, featuring Patrick Troughton as the intrepid time traveller, were found gathering dust in a remote relay station in Nigeria where they had been sent for overseas transmission.
The search goes on for the Ospreys' form in Europe, though.
The Welsh region have gone three years without reaching the Heineken Cup quarter-finals and after coming unstuck at home against Leinster on Saturday night, it's hard to see that sequence being broken this term.
They chose exactly the wrong game to come up with one of their worst performances of the Steve Tandy era.
The Ospreys had a Bishop and a King in their ranks but lost the game of chess that is at the heart of every European tie, with Leinster out-smarting them throughout. Long before Jimmy Gopperth kicked his final penalty, checkmate had been achieved.
The Ospreys didn't just lack style, as one pass after another went to ground and the alignment behind the scrum frequently went awry.
They also lacked ideas.
Some progress was made through the dynamic ball-carrying of Richard Hibbard and Joe Bearman.
But the hosts invariably lost their way when attempting anything more refined, with play far too lateral and easy to defend against, with usually reliable players making poor decisions.
It said everything that despite having 55 per cent possession and 56 per cent territory the former Pro12 champions created only two serious try chances all game, neither of which they were able to convert.
They lacked punch and while Andrew Bishop made repeated efforts to straighten up the line, the Ospreys are badly missing the penetration of Hanno Dirksen and must be counting the days to his return, scheduled for the end of November.
The irony is the 22-year-old is still learning the game himself, but he is further down the line than others and has the knack of making things happen.
In his private moments, Tandy must truly bemoan the departure of so much back-line talent the season before last.
There again, all the reflecting in the world isn't going to help him sort out his immediate problem, which is to get a result against Northampton at Franklin's Gardens on Sunday.
The Ospreys will need to improve all over the pitch if they are to go to the east Midlands and win.
It will be a major test, and to pass it they will need to show they can fight their way out of a corner, perhaps by swinging the odd metaphorical chair or two above their heads.
For inspiration they should look to the example of Munster a few years ago, when the Irish province went to Perpignan under pressure and stormed to a famous 37-14 bonus-point win.
That is what good sides do.
They don't meekly accept their fate. They shape circumstances to suit themselves and impose their will on opponents, particularly in pressure games that ask questions of character.
Some thought Saturday's game was duller than Alan Shearer explaining the finer detail of the offside law.
It was a fascinating contest between one side who let their thought processes become confused and another who knew how to get the job done.
Leinster handed out a lesson in how to play Heineken Cup rugby.
They were missing leaders in Brian O'Driscoll, Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings but had a know-how about them that the Ospreys lacked and were able to find a way to victory even though they struggled for possession throughout the second half.
They went about their task methodically, soaking up attacks and then striking ruthlessly at the other end. They were quicker in thought and deed than the hosts, ruled the breakdown through Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip and had a fine controller at fly-half in Gopperth.
You couldn't begin to measure the Ospreys' despair when it was all over.
The loss without a bonus point was bad enough, leaving them with a massively difficult challenge if they are to make the last eight. In mountaineering terms, the climb from where they are now is close on vertical.
But there will also be deep concern over their creative game and over the way Ulster and now Leinster have managed to blunt what has traditionally been the region's main attacking weapon, the scrum.
The law changes seem to have hindered the Ospreys' ability to consistently skewer opposition set-pieces, as they have done in the past, and a quarter of their scrums went wrong against Leinster.
There were three key moments when momentum swung dramatically in this tie.
First, an Ospreys raid down the right came to grief when the otherwise excellent Hibbard charged for the line with two men outside him.
If that wasn't enough the hosts then opted for a scrum rather than kick a penalty, only for referee Wayne Barnes to penalise them.
Within minutes they were lining up underneath their own posts as Heaslip robbed Bishop of possession before setting in motion the play that ended with Sean Cronin cutting between Ashley Beck and Ben John to send O'Brien over.
Down 13-9 early in the second half, the Ospreys were still in the game.
But they blew another opportunity when Tito Tebaldi chose to tap a penalty instead of allowing Biggar to have a crack at goal. Minutes later, Gopperth was punishing indiscipline at the other end.
The Ospreys should not want to discourage bold thinking and risk taking, but in a game of few points the golden rule is that penalty opportunities need to be taken.
Positives? Hibbard never stopped trying, backed by Duncan Jones, with James King and Justin Tipuric putting in big tackling shifts, Bearman also working hard and Bishop the pick of the backs.
Dan Biggar may not have had an easy time at fly-half, but he also showed huge courage in defence. None of which was enough with O'Brien in rampaging form and Cronin and Heaslip not far behind, giving Leinster a significant advantage in contact.
Sunday wouldn't be a bad time for some bright Ospreys form in Europe to turn up.
If it doesn't they will be effectively out of the competition before Halloween, which takes some doing, really.