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Welsh Regions Left To Stew Over Another Blank Weekend In Europe

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By Paul Jones

The Ospreys completed a miserable weekend for the Welsh regions in Europe as they conceded six tries in a 38-5 defeat to Montpellier in the EPCR Challenge Cup.

All four Welsh regions lost in Europe, leaving them with a collective record of two victories from their opening eight matches.

Last season Toby Booth’s Ospreys side completed a notable double over the then French champions in the Champions Cup, but they were no match for the home side in Round 2 of this season’s second tier tournament against the bottom placed side in the Top 14.

“It’s always difficult when you’re away in Europe against a very big and physical Montpellier team. We struggled with the physicality really, there were a lot of youngsters out there and we had some disruption through the week,” said Ospreys head coach, Booth.

“I was really proud of the effort, but if you’re getting physically outmuscled, you’ve got to be accurate. We probably got in the right field positions but couldn’t convert.”

The French side secured a second European victory to take them top of Pool Two, while Ospreys drop to fourth.

Former All Blacks wing George Bridge and Auguste Cadot scored two tries each, while Leo Coly and Vano Karkadze crossed for the others.

It was 19-0 at the break to the home side and the Ospreys finally got on the scoreboard in the 49th minute when scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams scored their only try.

Their cause wasn’t helped by picking up three yellow cards – Morgan Morse (10), George North (31) and Harri Houston (80).

Montpellier were far more clinical and flanker Clement Doumenc was a constant menace at the breakdown.

Head coach Booth also saw Wales loose head prop Nicky Smith leave the game early with a shoulder injury.

Late withdrawals by captain Morgan Morris and wing Keelan Giles made life even more difficult for the visitors, who gave a European start to 18-year-old Wales U20 cap Morse at No 8.

The Dragons temporarily held on to top spot in Pool One of the EPCR Challenge Cup after picking up a bonus point during a last-minute, 24-21 defeat to Pau at Stade du Hameau in the French Pyrenees.

But the Welsh region will be kicking themselves at throwing away a gilt-edged chance for a second victory in this season’s tournament and back-to-back successes at Pau after winning at the ground last term.

Dragons head coach Dai Flanagan said: “It’s a tough result.

“It’s painful losing at any time, especially when you look at the two teams and look at the performance,” he said.

“I thought we were well-rounded – we were a good rugby team tonight.

“It’s just disappointing that the three tries conceded, we were in control of all three and we need to be better.

“Pau are having a great season, especially here at home, so the fact we can come out here and rotate our squad a little bit is pleasing, because boys have earned that opportunity,” he added.

“We’re in the middle of a 14-game run and these boys deserve the opportunity. A lot of them have shown they can keep the jersey on the back of that performance.”

“Our key lesson, and it has been consistent with us, is we won’t solve anything on our own.

“We are a connected group, we are collectively cohesive, but when the pressure comes on there is one little incident when someone comes out of the system or tries to solve it on their own.

“That doesn’t happen in rugby. It’s a 15-man game and there are prime examples all over the world of the best teams, how cohesive and collective they are.

“We’re getting there. It is just disappointing that we aren’t there after working extremely hard to get it.”

Cardiff coach Matt Sherratt insisted there was pride to be taken from his young team’s 39-32 defeat to Bath at the Arms Park, even though they conceded six tries a week after conceding seven tries against Toulouse.

“I’m proud of the players to go toe-to-toe with the best team in the Premiership at the moment. It’s a credit to some of the boys out there,” said Sherratt.

“I knew we were going to get a good emotional response, it was just whether we could put enough quality action on the pitch that added to that emotional response. I think in the end we did. It was a one-score game again.”

Bath head coach Johann van Graan said: “It was like the wild west out there at times. They scored early, we came back and both teams just fired shots the whole team.

“This pitch is so fast and if you conceded a line break, it is so difficult to stop that momentum. I thought it was a very good advert for the competition, two teams going at each other for 80 minutes.

“It was not perfect by any means and I want to give credit to Cardiff because they played very well and I will remember tonight as a massive battle.”

On Friday night, the Scarlets suffered a humiliating 23-7 home defeat to Black Lion from Georgia and were booed off the field.

Dwayne Peel’s team have now lost seven of their nine matches in all competitions this season and the head coach admitted: “it’s been a tough start to the season.

“We are where we are and we have the squad we have, and for us we need to be better in our performances.

“We know we’ve got players out and have injuries and there will be a number of players who will be available over the next couple of weeks and that will add energy and boost the squad no doubt.

“But first we’ll look at the performance and some of the performance was fundamentally poor, that’s the truth tonight.”

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