Ospreys 13 Saints 26: Tom Vickers' review

Learning has been the buzzword for Saints during pre-season.

Monday, 13th August 2018, 1:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th September 2018, 3:22 am
Saints were subjected to torrential rain at Brewery Field (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

So it is apt that they are spending the first week under the full-time tuition of new boss Chris Boyd at Swansea University.There is a back-to-school vibe about preparations for the forthcoming campaign with the Saints squad occupying single beds on the University campus.It is a world away from the glamour of the trips to the South of France of yesteryear, but at least they might get some cheap drinks in the student union!On a more serious note, it is providing not only an ideal team bonding exercise but a chance to get to know the culture and playing style that Boyd and his coaching staff want to instil.The Kiwi boss arrived at Northampton at the start of pre-season training, educating the squad on what he wants to achieve this season and how he wants to do it.He then headed back to New Zealand to conclude his commitments with Super Rugby side the Hurricanes, who were eliminated at the semi-final stage by eventual champions the Crusaders.And, last Thursday, Boyd finally returned to English soil on a permanent basis.The 60-year-old was in attendance at Brewery Field as Saints got their first match action under their fresh management.And while they were unable to put a lot of what they learned into practice due to the torrential rain, there was still a show of the belief and character they will need this season.Saints had spent seven weeks training under blue skies, but there was nothing other than cloud in Bridgend as the heavens opened and refused to relent.It gave the forwards a chance to bare their teeth and after a tough opening, during which Ospreys took a 6-0 lead, Saints finally found their feet in the slippery conditions.They steadied a scrum that had been overwhelmed early on and they got to grips with the lineout, using it as a perfect platform from which to launch attacks.During the first half, they even managed to play with something of a swagger, with Cobus Reinach buzzing around and James Grayson impressing with his kicking game.Grayson also showcased his creativity, with one long pass off his right hand putting Saints in a dangerous position.It was an illustration of the talent the fledgling fly-half possesses and he is ready to ensure that Dan Biggar, who emerged from the bench at half-time, will not have it all his own way.That is good news for Saints, and so is the fact that they produced a strong showing despite the fact they had men such as Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley sitting in the stands.With those players not involved, others have been given a chance to lay down a marker.And the fact locks David Ribbans, Api Ratuniyarawa and hooker James Fish etched their names on the scoresheet showed the determination of the stand-in players.Ollie Sleightholme also demonstrated his ability with a fine first-half finish that helped Saints to take the lead for the first time in the game.And from there, they never looked back.There is no way of judging the team on one pre-season performance, especially when so many replacements were made and the conditions were so poor.All that the coaches are asking for prior to the big Gallagher Premiership kick-off at Gloucester is progression.They want their players to act as sponges, absorbing all of the information that comes their way.But, most importantly, they want them to get their mentality right.They want them to back themselves, which they certainly did in torrid conditions at Brewery Field.And after passing their first test in Wales, another examination of their credentials will come at Rodney Parade on Friday night as the Dragons look to teach them a lesson.

James Haskell made his first Saints appearance

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Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley were among the players watching on from the stands
Api Ratuniyarawa scored Saints' fourth try against the Ospreys
Chris Boyd saw his new side start with a win in Wales