Champions Cup: Five takeaways from Leicester Tigers v Ospreys as Jac Morgan sends message to Wales head coach Warren Gatland

Ospreys celebrate Credit: Alamy
Ospreys celebrate Credit: Alamy

Following a 27-26 win for Ospreys over Leicester Tigers in their Champions Cup fixture, here’s our five takeaways from the match at Welford Road.

The top line

A frenetic last few minutes saw a nail-biter as Jac Morgan’s 89th minute try took Ospreys to a bonus-point win to avenge their home defeat by Leicester in Round Two of the competition.

A full 10 minutes of bluster and bash on Tigers’ line preceded the moment; Ospreys benefiting from a number of home transgressions close to the whitewash, offside on four occasions, a scrum penalty and free-kick maintaining their pressure.

The try was a reward for the pressure Ospreys exerted in defence, where they were absolutely spectacular, and in the set-piece where they dominated.

Fittingly, former Tiger Owen Williams, a Welford Road favourite for five seasons, sealed a famous win and one based upon simplicity, power and a bit of old Welsh ‘hywl’.

The basics

Ospreys’ performances in the simple areas of defence, lineout and scrum were outstanding and at the centre of their spirited performance. Their lineout and maul defence gave Tigers no end of issues with Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Adam Beard each grabbing a steal in crucial positions to keep the visitors in the match. Beard in particular is a force of nature in the maul defence and on several occasions it was his 19 stone bulk that held Leicester at bay, with his colleagues backing him up with some brilliant red zone defence.

The speed of the O’s blitz, led by former Tiger Williams with support from Tipuric, caused no end of issues for Tigers in attack; the Handre Pollard pass that led to Keelan Giles’ 57th minute kick and chase try was a result of the champion 10 having so much pressure in midfield that he looked to go wide early, and threw out a dying pass that hit green and ended up with a 90m rush at the other end of the pitch. Toby Booth will no doubt be happy to have gotten the win he craved, but he’ll be absolutely delighted with how his team executed the basics.

Pollard impact

Pollard is a world class 10 but has had some dismal days due to injury in recent times with ACL and hamstring issues. His first few games for Tigers has seen him ease his way into the team, learning combinations and finding out the skillsets of those around him.

Today he went up a notch to something near his immaculate best, despite his wayward pass for the Giles try. You expect his customary accuracy and range off the tee, you anticipate his range of out of hand kicking – the hallmarks of his game, but the manner with which he interplayed with Dan Kelly, the centre often standing at first receiver or Pollard acting as the dummy carrier showed how he is absorbing the ‘Tigers Way’. A great example was the second half Harry Simmons try; Pollard provides the dummy presence at 10, Kelly loops around and fires a lovely pop pass to the young winger coming in off his wing, but ultimately it wasn’t quite enough from the world champion to see his side home.

Magnificent sevens

To see three of the Welsh flank candidates playing in the same match was something of a treat, whatever your nationality. Morgan the carrier, Tommy Reffell the jackaler and Tipuric, the man who can do just about anything on a rugby pitch. Reffell fired the first shot, a brilliant jackal in the first minute, but struggled thereafter to get much change from the officials, despite a massively disruptive presence. Effort is never in doubt where Reffell is concerned, but reward wasn’t on his side tonight.

Tipuric was massive – a lineout force, a makeshift scrum-half and the consummate link man time and time again, but the real star of the trio was young Morgan, playing out of position at eight but running 11 carries for some 45 thunderous metres, using his low centre of gravity to great effect.

Wales have a cupboard full of riches at seven, but tonight, it was Morgan that was the pick of the bunch.

Round of 16

Both Ospreys and Tigers look sure of progressing to the Round of 16, but will realise they’ve much polishing to do before they move forward.

In Ospreys’ case, it’s a focus on their attack and handling finishing off the possession and chances their set-piece and their defence are creating. For all their possession, they lacked power in midfield or options running off Williams to really make Tigers pay for their subservience in contact and set-piece.

For Tigers, unusually, it’s a case of sorting out the physical and in particular, the set-piece. The huge lock partnership of Jones and Beard give their props an impetus that Tigers lacked and that, coupled with the Ospreys’ blitz will give Richard Wigglesworth a lot of food for thought in the next few weeks.

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