Ospreys are not the sum of their parts
SINCE Sunday's defeat at Franklin's Gardens, the Ospreys have said all the right things about fighting to the end to salvage something of their Heineken Cup pool.
But the reality for Steve Tandy's side is that October isn't yet over, but Europe is.
To be honest, I felt they were already gone when they failed to get anything out of the disappointing home defeat to Leinster and without a point to their name from two matches, the Ospreys are making up the numbers in that pool.
A major criticism of the Blues in recent times — up until Saturday's remarkable win over Toulon — has been that they are not a sum of their parts.
And that can also be aimed at the Ospreys, especially up front.
You can't fault their commitment, work-rate or passion, but they are not as effective as a pack as they should be — collectively and individually.
The way that Saints' enforcer Courtney Lawes has been lauded as the star forward on show will have really grated a number of the Ospreys forwards who had enhanced their reputations on the back of impressive performances with the Lions this summer.
And on Sunday, most of them came off second best.
As much as the Ospreys kept themselves in the fight, it just seemed that Northampton had the edge in most areas and never looked like losing the tie.
Saying that, there was a crucial moment just before half-time when the Ospreys had an attacking scrum close to the Saints line.
I was screaming at the TV when I heard referee Alain Rolland telling the Ospreys to 'use it' — he had no right to do that.
The scrum was moving forward and it must have been hugely off-putting to No. 8 Joe Bearman and his scrum-half Tom Habberfield. To me, it was further evidence of Mr Rolland's lack of empathy for the game.
Had the Ospreys scored then, things might have changed, but they can have little argument with the final outcome.
The Ospreys pride themselves on their defence, yet the way home No. 8 Samu Manoa was allowed to jog over for the game's opening try was embarrassing.
I was helping coach Mumbles Youth this week, going through a few eight-nine drills from the back of a scrum and I was telling the boys how rare it is to see a good blindside move in the professional game.
As a defence, you are hugely vulnerable and you have to get your alignment and numbers spot on. The Ospreys didn't and were horribly exposed.
With Europe now gone, the focus will turn to the Pro12 tonight and the visit of Lyn Jones's Dragons to the Liberty.
There is a school of thought that the Men of Gwent can expect a backlash from the home side, but I feel it is a good time for Lyn to be bringing his side to Swansea.
It could be a difficult one for the Ospreys players to get up for and I am sure the message from Lyn will be two-fold: "Go out and to try and match them up front and there is nothing to fear behind the scrum".
While the European flame has been extinguished for the Ospreys, it is still burning bright across the Loughor at the Scarlets.
I can understand there being mixed emotions following the draw with Racing Metro because at 23-10 the Scarlets had put themselves in a great position to go on and win.
I thought the difference in the strength of the respective squads swayed the game in the closing exchanges with Racing able to bring on a strong bench of forwards.
Nevertheless, the Scarlets will be feeling good about themselves, topping their pool after two rounds, and Simon Easterby will hope the last two weeks can provide a springboard for some improved performances in the league.
As for the events at the Arms Park, I don't think anybody saw that coming.
It was an incredible win built on honesty and character, but it also owed a huge amount to the failures of a star-studded Toulon side who just didn't turn up on the day.
Reassuringly, it just shows that in a sporting two-horse race anything is possible, although I don't think the Blues can get carried away just yet.