An on-pitch round of applause from team-mates for an individual performance doesn’t happen often.
Sometimes, rose petals are withheld even in training.
Indeed, when Graham Price came up with a Wales debut to remember which included a try that had seen him run 80 metres to touch down, against France in 1975, he turned up for a session with Pontypool a few days later, only to be told by his mentor Ray Prosser: “Pricey, if you had enough energy to run that distance at the end of the game, you obviously weren’t pushing hard enough in the scrums.”
Legend has it that Prosser then ordered the then young tight-head outside and put him through one of the most intensive scrummaging sessions of his career.
But sometimes a pat on the back for a big effort can count for a huge amount.
And so it was in Glasgow last weekend when the Ospreys went into an on-pitch huddle after losing 30-25 and head coach Toby Booth could be seen pointing to Rhys Henry, a young tight-head who’d come on after just 16 minutes to play on the other side of the scrum amid a shortage of loose-heads at the region because of injuries and Wales calls.
Making his first competitive appearance in senior rugby, Henry didn’t concede a single scrum penalty, made 12 metres with ball in hand and did his bit in defence.
As Booth singled out the 22-year-old, all the other Ospreys players applauded him.
“It was for Rhys,” confirmed No. 8 Gareth Evans.
“It was his first appearance for the region and he’d switched positions because we were short with injuries and Wales calls.
“He’d had a whirlwind class in that position in training with a pretty good teacher in Duncan Jones, but being on that side of the scrum was new to him. He came on early in the game and did a really good job.
“I play in the back row and don’t really know what goes on in the front, but I know scrummaging on the loose-head is a very different proposition from scrummaging on the tight-head. That’s why Toby felt the need to highlight it.
“The applause was a bit of recognition not only for Rhys’ hard work leading up to the game and his first appearance, but also for a big shift on the night.
“Toby felt he typified the effort on the night and we all agreed. It was a nod to him for a great display.”
Henry looks old-school in many ways, with a compact build at 5ft 10in and 18st. But if Glasgow thought they could take liberties with the youngster at scrum-time after he replaced the only specialist loose-head the Ospreys had available in Garyn Phillips, himself making his first start for the region, they were made to think again.
Booth said: “Rhys was amazing.
“To get called into action and play his first senior game at loose-head, he surprised everyone.
“From a scrum point of view he was awesome. “He trained hard, he’s a good lad and epitomises the emphasis we are placing on homegrown talent.
“With young props in particular, it’s always a balancing act between exposure and learning.
“So for him to play like that, adding to what he’s done in training, we can tick a box and move forward to the next stage, because we know more about him.”
Booth is set to stick with the same pair of loose-heads for the challenge against Leinster in Dublin on Friday evening, with Nicky Smith (Wales), Rhodri Jones and Gareth Thomas (both injured) off limits.
It could be an even bigger challenge than the one faced in Glasgow.
Let’s face it: it will be a bigger challenge.
But it’s a case of needs-must and the effort at Scotstoun at least provides a dot of encouragement.
“We’ll go with the same boys on that side of the scrum,” said Booth.
“They produced a heroic performance at times, considering where they are in their careers, and that bodes well for us generally.
“We know more about them and often it’s better for players to be thrown in at the deep end to see what they have.
“I’m really excited about them because they produced some high-quality moments in the game.”
It wasn’t just the two young props who fronted up in a depleted visiting side in Scotland’s second city. In Rhys Davies, Will Griffiths and Morgan Morris, the Ospreys had three young back-five forwards who performed exceptionally, while No. 8 Gareth Evans also had a big game.
Evans made more than 50 metres with his carrying and put in a number of key tackles which held the Ospreys’ line together. Here was a seasoned player accepting responsibility in every respect. It was the best he’s played since joining from Gloucester in 2019.
He said: “It was obviously disappointing to come out on the wrong side of the result, but we were missing a lot of boys and the rest of us had worked hard in training and in the game.
“I was quite pleased with my own performance.
“I’m always looking for ways to improve because I think as a professional player if you’re satisfied with your performance then you’re probably not pushing yourself as hard as you should be.
“I’m just focusing on the Ospreys. My focus is just on doing as well as I can for the them.”