Ospreys wing Eli Walker feels his team must keep working hard if they are to continue climbing the PRO12 table in what he describes as a “strange season”.
Walker scored what proved to be the matchwinner, racing through to finish off a quick counter-attack from inside the Ospreys half at Parc y Scarlets on Boxing Day, Dan Biggar’s conversion sealing a one-point win over their local rivals.
Reflecting on the win which left the Ospreys just four points off the top six despite their poor start to the campaign, Walker was full of praise for the effort, if not all aspects of the performance.
“It’s a bit of mixed emotions really” he told the Ospreys' official website.
“It was an outstanding effort from the boys to get the win, and in the manner we did it, away to a team top of the league who rarely lost at their place.
“Again, like last week in Bordeaux though, I think we made things hard for ourselves. The positive is that we got the win and that we know what we need to put right.
“We need to keep working hard and putting a similar effort in. Firstly, to stay in contention for the top six and Champions Cup rugby next year and then, beyond that, to be in a position where we can push on for the top four. The only way that we’ll achieve either of those is if we can put in consistent performances, ticking all the boxes, which should then allow us to keep winning.”
Walker is hoping that the nail-biting nature of an action packed derby last weekend will have a positive impact for the New Year’s Day clash with the Dragons at the Liberty.
“It was exciting for the fans I guess, going to the wire like it did, and I suppose that helps in terms of persuading people to come along to the Liberty to support us as we go into a busy run of big games over the next few weeks," he added.
“We’ve got to make sure that we go out on Friday and do our job against the Dragons before we think about anything else though. We know how dangerous they can be and they’ve had some impressive results over the last month so we’re going to have to play well against them if we are going to get anything.
"It’s important that we keep a level of consistency while tweaking where we need to so that we can improve in certain areas.”
A poor start to the PRO12 campaign, with five defeats in the first six weeks games, left the Ospreys playing catch-up on their rivals in the race for the Champions Cup and the play-offs, but with the season seeing so many twists and turns the Ospreys are back in contention after four straight wins, something which most observers wouldn’t have predicted a month or so ago.
“It’s a pretty strange season like that” Walker agreed.
“The same goes with our European group as well, everybody is capable of beating each other, and are beating each other. We believe that going into the new year we are in a pretty good place and we know that we’ve got to keep putting the performances in, doing what we want to and focusing on our own game.
“If we can tick all the boxes then we can put ourselves in a good position in both competitions over the next month, but we aren’t going to get ahead of ourselves. For now, it’s all about the Dragons on Friday.”
The main talking point from the win over the Scarlets was the burst down the wing from tight head, Dmitri Arhip, setting up Walker for his crucial score, and the winger paid tribute to his colleague for the unlikely assist.
“He did take me by surprise to be fair," explained Walker.
"I didn’t expect him to do what he did. In fairness, he’s a phenomenal athlete, on the field and in the gym, he’s got that raw power and the acceleration we saw out there.
“I think he heard me calling and he did extremely well, putting me in for the score. He made it easy for me so all credit to him. There’s no truth in the rumour that I was struggling to keep up with him though!”