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Dublin: 16 °C Tuesday 2 September, 2014

‘We weren’t intimidated’: Williams hails Ospreys’ fighting spirit

What happened to good manners? The Ospreys crashed the party at the RDS, drank all the beer and took home the silverware.

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

THEY WERE THE guests that just would not leave quietly.

They came only with intentions of ruining the party and they persevered and persisted until they got their way.

When Leinster strode out into a nine point lead, it looked as if the door would be locked shut, but Ospreys would not be cowed, they would not take the hint.

Post match, Alun Wyn Jones spent most of the interview unwrapping tape from his legs. He had no need for niceties now. He took an intermittent swig from a can of cider and flung off his boots.

His team had come roaring back, twice. And it was fitting that the man to steal the show, to mark the end of an era was Shane Williams.

“Two more years?” asked Jones as he passed the can Williams’ way. Exhausted, dehydrated; he couldn’t even force a smile by way of reply.

“We weren’t intimidated by Leinster” the legendary winger told the mournful press , “we think they are a fantastic side. Their success has shown that, but we think we’re a good side aswell.

“To play right until the 80th minute – and we had to play right until the 80th minute – was a credit to the guys. You could see how much we wanted it.”

Both coach Steve Tandy and Williams himself have said that even after retirement he will not be far away from the first team squad. He may not yet be considering a move into coaching, but Williams did not hesitate to critique the title winning display.

“It wasn’t our best performance of the season by a long shot, but (it was) commendable they way we played to the end.”

In searing hot conditions, the Pro12 final was a simply awesome advert for the game. The best team in Europe against the only team who has been able to live with them all season.

As much as Wales currently have the measure of Ireland, the team from Neath and Swansea have a hex over Ireland’s eastern province. The conditions made Leinster’s task – rising from Heineken Cup victory to another final within eight days – doubly difficult.

Williams, iconic enough to be known only by his first name in Wales, dismissed the theory that their week off was an asset, rather he suggested that it made them much slower out of the traps.

©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

“We knew we could finish stronger because we didn’t play particularly well in the first half,” he said sharply, “we took our time to get involved, which is frustrating in a final because you haven’t got much time to get back into a game.”

In the end, it was Leinster who ran out of time and ran out of options as Romain Poite all-too-quickly ran out of patience with the home side.

As the dream of an unprecedented double was put into cold storage, Joe Schmidt said he was ‘gutted’. Save for a grumble here and there, he couldn’t muster much more to express his disappointment, he has been emotionally spent.

His opposite number had been through the ringer too. Tandy is younger than many players who took the field yesterday. He was the surprise choice when cost-cutting measures installed him in charge of this group in February. A little over three months after becoming a coach, the 32-year-old is a champion.

“It’s been a turbulent time,” says Tandy playing down his input in the success, “I just wanted to come in and settle things down, first and foremost. We’ve cut and changed a few things, but we still finished second in the league. And for us it was just about consolidating.

“With the group we’ve got, the fantastic players, the fantastic back room staff – it’s testament to these guys – we were always capable of doing things if we steadied the ship a little bit, which I feel we’ve done.”

Ship steadied, party crashed. Tandy and Jones rose from their seats, the lock tossing his can and his strappings at the wall as he picked up his boots.

“Two more years!” He shouted at WIlliams a second time, but Shane’s mind is made up.

The job has been done.

The one that got away: Joe Schmidt left ‘bemused’ by referee’s decisions

As it happened: Leinster v Ospreys, Pro12 final

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