No big rugby match seems complete these days without one side slagging off the other, and Leicester are heading down to Swansea today with accusations of cheating from the Ospreys ringing in their ears.
I suppose it is natural that if teams meet each other a week after a hard-fought encounter complaints will carry over from one game to the next. But the moans mouthed by Gavin Henson and coach Lyn Jones are not quite the same.
Henson took exception to the liberties Leicester took in and around the ruck at Welford Road last Sunday. He called it cheating, but I would not go that far. Leicester are very clever at playing right on the very edge of the rules, and the word for that is gamesmanship. It is only cheating if the referee says that it is. It enabled Leicester to pile through at the rucks and not only win the game in the second half but also to gain a bonus point that could be crucial.
It is no good complaining afterwards. The Ospreys should have done something about it at the time, or at least they should have made sure that the referee knew what was going on.
Coach Jones was upset at the amount of shirt-tugging Leicester indulged in. In his playing days, he said, shirt-tuggers got a smash in the face and didn't do it again. Unfortunately, now the retaliator is more likely to collect the punishment, so it's the same case of ensuring the referee is aware of it.
Defences are so tight these days that teams have to take any opportunity to clear the way for a break. Obstruction, channel-blocking - nothing is sacred, and you have to adapt to the situation or hope the ref is alive to what's happening.
It should be a lot tougher for Leicester in front of a big crowd at the new stadium today, and the Ospreys must fancy their chances. They have picked their game up in the past couple of weeks and their performance in the first half at Leicester was very encouraging.
They should have been further ahead at half-time, and would have been if Henson had not cut inside after making an excellent break. After his long lay-off he probably lacked the confidence to go on the outside, but he played well in his first game back. There's no doubt that he's going to be a great asset.
Jones has been criticised for excluding Shane Williams last weekend in favour of young Richard Mustoe, who has been doing well in Shane's absence on international duty. There is every sense in sticking with a youngster if he is doing well, and Mustoe responded with a good game.
If they win today and then go on to beat Stade Français in the final group match they will want all the on-song players they can get.
When Llanelli Scarlets beat Wasps at Stradey last weekend there were no bitter words, but Llanelli were indignant that they did not get the credit they deserved. Coach Gareth Jenkins feels that English sides travel to Wales expecting to win and when they don't they put it down to underperforming when, in reality, they have found the Welsh style different to what they are used to in the Guinness Premiership.
That is certainly the case, and whereas I have seen Wasps play a lot better, Llanelli were at them from the start.
The Scarlets' forwards played exceptionally well and helped their team control the game. Defensively they were solid and Mark Jones produced a piece of brilliance with his try.
Undoubtedly it is going to be hard for Llanelli in High Wycombe today. On the faster track, revenge will be high on Wasps' agenda, but they will have to work for it. Their chances of qualifying are slim but they will target the next three games to get themselves back into some form. They are still riding high in the Premiership and are in the Powergen Cup semi-finals, but they don't look as invincible as they did and their basic skills are falling short of top level.
They are badly in need of a boost, but they would be wrong to believe that their defeat last weekend was entirely of their own making. Llanelli's performance had a lot to do with it and they are looking more like their old selves once more. It is going to be a very interesting day.Reuse content