A try from Jerry Collins on his debut helps the Ospreys get their Magners League campaign off to a winning start at the Sports Ground in Galway
The Ospreys had to dig in and show real character to overcome both difficult opponents and conditions to secure a valuable win on the opening day of the new Magners League season.
Trailing 6-3 at the break playing into a strong wind, a promising second half performance saw the visitors turn the small deficit around and go on to ensure that the 09/10 season got off to a winning start.
The Ospreys were forced into a late reshuffle when Wales centre Andrew Bishop was forced to withdraw because of a shoulder problem. He was replaced in the starting line-up by Jonathan Spratt who stepped up from the bench, with Gareth Owen replacing him among the replacements. There were first Ospreys caps for summer signings Jerry Collins and Barry Davies, with a third new face, Tom Isaacs on the bench. Mike Phillips was named at scrum-half following his summer efforts with the Lions in South Africa, fellow tourist James Hook among the replacements.
Connacht handed debuts to three players, winger Brian Tuohy, second row Bernie Upton and No. 8 Mike McComish.
The traditional Sports Ground wind and rain made its regular appearance ahead of kick-off, and the visitors played into a strong first half wind.
It was the home team who applied the early pressure, aided by the wind at their backs, but it was the Ospreys who were on the scoreboard first, Dan Biggar dropping a goal in the 10th minute.
The conditions meant that expansive rugby was unlikely, and although the visitors gained dominance up front, they were unable to create much by the way of openings.
As the rain began to ease and the early evening sun began to break through, Connacht levelled through Ian Keatley after the Ospreys were penalised for a push in the lineout. Minutes later, Keatley was once again a thorn in the Ospreys side making a break from halfway, and when the Ospreys infringed in the ruck, he was able to slot home his second penalty to make it 6-3 to Connacht.
Keatley and Biggar then took it in turn to miss a penalty each, before the Ospreys were reduced to 14 when Andy Lloyd was sent to the sin bin shortly before the break. The visitors were able to hold until half time without difficulty despite being a man short, and playing with the wind in the second half it didn’t take long for them to pull level, Biggar scoring with a 44th minute penalty. He missed with a second unsuccessful penalty six minutes later, but the game then turned on the back of two Connacht yellow cards in the space of four minutes that reduced them to 13 men, debutant McComish the first to enter the sin bin in the 54th minute, before he was joined by scrum-half Frank Murphy.
The Ospreys took full advantage, first Biggar adding three points to put the visitors 9-6 in the lead, before Jerry Collins marked his debut with a try as the forwards rumbled over the line from close range. Biggar converted to make it 16-6 with 20 minutes remaining.
Keatley kept the home side in touching distance with another successful penalty, and then replacement Hook looked to make the game safe with a 76th minute kick, making it 19-9. The final word went to Keatley, who rounded off the night’s scoring in the final minute to secure a losing bonus point for Connacht.