It’s still early days, but the Ospreys and the Blues were both able to back up their impressive home wins in round 1 with a win apiece in Ireland – Ospreys ultimately proving too strong for defending champions Connacht, winning 32-11, while Blues had to fight back and then hold on for a superb 24-23 victory over Munster.
I can’t help but feel there is cause for optimism at the two Welsh regions. Even at this early stage of the season, it’s really pleasing to see both Blues and Ospreys playing with some real passion, endeavour and intent. Ospreys have notched an incredible 12 tries in two games, while Blues – who have arguably faced cagier opposition in the opening rounds – have scored seven. The manner of these early victories seem to point to some excellent planning during pre-season: Blues have been tactically spot-on so far, utilising the bench excellently and adapting personnel to the challenges posed by the opposition.
Take this week’s team selection, for example. Nick Williams is named on the bench for the Glasgow game, with Sam Warburton, Ellis Jenkins and the superb Josh Navidi starting in the back row. Williams will surely be an imposing figure when he is introduced late in the game – just the sort of replacement you’d hope for against a physical side like Glasgow. Starting the game with three open-side flankers means Blues will be hoping to play a fast and open game, to match that which Glasgow are likely to bring. This could well be the pick of the games this weekend (sadly I can’t make it to the Arms Park this week!)
Matthew Morgan also starts at full-back in the place of the injured Dan Fish. The live-wire Welsh international put in a star turn last week as he collected a high ball and set up Fish for the decisive score. Rey Lee-Lo and Tom James will also want to take their rich form into Friday night’s match.
Ospreys have also been really impressive so far in their ability to stick to a game plan, even when the structure of the game has unravelled. Players like Rhys Webb and Justin Tipuric thrive in broken play, and both had a big impact against reigning champions Connacht. The Irishmen are currently bottom of the Pro12 after an abysmal start to this campaign.
Elsewhere in the Pro 12, Scarlets are still looking for their first win of the season after losing in Edinburgh, while Dragons laboured to an 11-6 victory over Zebre at Rodney Parade.
In local news, Nantymoel suffered a 47-0 defeat away against Penlan RFC, but return home against Resolven this Saturday. Meanwhile, Bridgend Athletic overcame Builth Wells 15-13 to make it two wins from two.
Bridgend Ravens notched up their first win of the season, defeating Cross Keys 29-16 at the Brewery Field. In one of several changes to the Welsh Premiership this season, the league will split into two conferences at the mid-way point this year based on league position. Every team will be fighting tooth and nail to reach the Christmas period in the top half of the overall table, in a bid to avoid battling out the second half of the season for the secondary trophy.