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The unsung hero is no average Joe at Ospreys

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: December 29, 2012

Joe Bearman

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HE spends so much time flying under the radar that it's a wonder there are any chimney pots still intact in the area around the Liberty Stadium.

But that is the way of the world when you are playing in a back row that houses Ryan Jones and Justin Tipuric.

It will not bother Joe Bearman.

The former Dragon has learned to get by without rave reviews and plaudits after every game. He is uncapped and that probably isn't going to change at the age of 33, but the Ospreys in no way underestimate his worth.

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At the region's media conference this week, Jonathan Humphreys was asked to comment on the performance of the back row against the Scarlets on Boxing Day.

He could easily have rushed to salute Tipuric, who again put in a huge tackling shift, or Jones, who was on the scene for three possession turnovers and who defended and carried relentlessly all game.

But Humphreys went out of his way to single out Bearman.

"I was delighted with the way the boys went," said Humphreys.

"The guy who doesn't seem to get much praise is Joe Bearman, and I don't understand why because he's been outstanding.

"Some of the defence stuff he gets through is ridiculous.

"We all know about the other two, but Joe balances it off really well. He may be unsung outside the Ospreys, but we understand his value."

Bearman is proof that asterisks in match-day programmes count for only so much.

On several occasions against the Scarlets, it was the former Dragon who paved the way for vital possession steals, once in particular when he wrapped up an opposition player and ripped the ball clean from his grasp.

He didn't stop grafting and finished the game with double-figure tackle and ball-carrying counts.

Not for him seagulling in the way of some No. 8s, either.

He may relish leading the charge with ball in hand, but on Boxing Day he was just as likely to be spotted at the bottom of rucks or grappling with the Scarlets forwards in mauls.

Monday will be a big day for him when he returns to Newport with the Ospreys for a Pro12 derby against the Dragons to round off the year.

He figured in the side that lost to his old region 21-20 last term, but the Ospreys are playing with confidence and will be quietly confident they can deliver out east this time.

The foundation of their recent form has been a rock-solid forward platform.

Especially eye-catching against the Scarlets was Ryan Bevington, not least when he halted George North in full-flight with the kind of tackle from a prop that Gethin Jenkins was thought to have copyrighted.

He is still maturing physically but the Ospreys believe he has limitless potential.

"Ryan Bevington is an amazing athlete," said Humphreys.

"He does stuff on a rugby field that not a lot of loose-heads can do. His tackle on George North the other night, with George having a big head of steam up — there's not a lot of loose-heads around who can pull off a tackle like that.

"With Mr Bevington, the sky's the limit.

"It's about making sure he fully realises his potential."

There seems little doubt that will happen, particularly when he is competing with Duncan Jones for the No. 1 jersey at the Liberty. Even at 34, the former Neath man retains his enthusiasm, working as hard in training today as he did when he captained Wales half a dozen years ago.

It is partly because of the competition throughout the pack that the Ospreys forwards are firing, but they still need to be organised and it was put to Humphreys this week that he deserves credit for the work of his eight.

He didn't exactly buy into the idea.

"I've said from day one that I'm extremely fortunate to have the talent that's available to me," he said.

"I have a group of players who are constantly challenging you, so it's a good place to come to work.

"Me? No, mate. It's rewarding to see the boys going out there and doing what they do. I don't take anything for that."

He does, of course.

But perhaps being unsung is in season at the Ospreys.

Ask Joe Bearman.

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