Connacht 15 Ospreys 16
They left it late, but a Jamie Nutbrown try at the death, converted by Matthew Jarvis helped the Ospreys to a hard earned victory at the Sportsground after they had trailed Connacht for most of the match.
9-0 down inside the first 18 minutes, two penalties and a drop goal from Matthew Morgan kept the Ospreys in the hunt, levelling it with 20 to go, before Connacht had looked to secure it with two penalties from Miah Nikora, who kicked all his team’s points.
The Ospreys may have been anticipating a typical Galway night with bad weather forecast, but it was a fine and dry as Matthew Morgan got the game underway for the visitors.
It was Connacht who settled quickest, fly-half Miah Nikora slotting over a penalty from close to the 10m line in only the third minute after an Ospreys player was penalised for not releasing. Nikora was then able to double the lead shortly after from a tight angle on the right after Duncan Jones was penalised in the scrum.
Morgan had a chance to put the Ospreys on the scoreboard after Connacht were pinged for offside but his long range effort just failed to go the distance.
Troy Nathan missed with a penalty attempt from just inside the Connacht half after Jerry Collins was guilty of a deliberate knock-on, before a swift Ospreys counter-back saw Richard Fussell making great headway up the flank before coming infield for Ashley Beck who was unable to gather cleanly as the try-line beckoned.
Connacht were on top and they were awarded another penalty at the scrum, and once again Nikora made no mistake to nudge the score up to 9-0.
The Ospreys first points came from the boot of Morgan, the 18-year old making no mistake after Jonny O’Connor was guilty of coming in from the side after a good catch and drive by Justin Tipuric from the lineout.
The Ospreys had to work hard in defence to frustrate Connacht after Morgan failed to find touch from a penalty, Fionn Carr running the ball back at pace before his side looked to work the ball through the phases. Dogged defence frustrated the hosts and the penalty eventually went the Ospreys way, allowing Morgan to clear.
Connacht then put together a lovely move that saw the ball moved through numerous pairs of hands, Muldoon, Nikora, Brett Wilkinson and Dermot Murphy all involved before Carr looked to find a way over the line only for referee Peter Allan to rule that he had been held up by Fussell in the tackle. Again, the Ospreys defence was resolute to stop Connacht forcing their way over from the resulting set-piece.
Having weathered the storm the Ospreys were able to work their way back upfield, winning a penalty that Morgan duly slotted over to bring his team back to within three points just four minutes from the break.
It should have been level just a minute or so later when Frank Murphy was penalised for offside at the ruck, but Morgan appeared to lose his footing as he struck what seemed a kickable penalty from a central position on the 10m line and sent it wide to leave the Ospreys trailing at the interval.
HALF-TIME: CONNACHT 9 OSPREYS 6
The Ospreys were handed the first opportunity of the second half after Jamie Hagan was penalised at the scrum, but Gareth Owen’s long range effort from just inside his own half had the length but not the direction.
Connacht were reduced to 14 in the 46th minute when lock Bernie Upton was shown yellow for a punch, handing the initiative to the Ospreys as they looked to take control of the game.
Connacht responded well though, keeping the ball tight and putting in some good defensive work, before they were able to work their way up field, Michael Swift putting in a fantastic kick chase to pressurise Morgan, eventually winning a penalty for the hosts. Although it looked straightforward enough, Nikora was off target, leaving the score at 9-6 as Upton returned to the field.
Morgan levelled things as the game passed the hour mark, slotting over a drop goal as Mr Allan played a knock-on advantage to the Ospreys after an unforced error as the Connacht pack looked to rumble forward from a defensive lineout.
It was finely poised with neither side able to take control of the game, but as the Ospreys looked to work their way into drop goal territory Connacht almost snatched the score with a breakaway try as Nathan intercepted a loose Ospreys pass and raced forward. He looked set to go all the way, but Fussell was able to get across to halt his run. It appeared that the Ospreys had turned it over, but a penalty was awarded for hands on the ground allowing Nikora a simple kick to give his side the lead with seven to go.
Connacht tails were up and Swift claimed the restart, charging straight back through the Ospreys defence taking the tacklers with him. An Osprey player was caught offside and Nikora made no mistake, taking the score to 15-9.
The Ospreys threw everything at Connacht in the closing stages, and they won a penalty with three to go which was kicked to the corner by Jarvis, on for Morgan. The line-out five metres out was worked well and the pack inched their way forward. With the referee signalling another advantage to the Ospreys, they were able to edge closer to the line and replacement scrum half Nutbrown went over under the posts to score allowing Jarvis a simple conversion to give the visitors the lead with 60 seconds to go.
There was still time for Connacht to strike back, winning a penalty straight from the restart, but on this occasion, Nikora was unsuccessful with his long range effort to leave the Ospreys celebrating a hard earned win.
3 mins - Miah Nikora (Pen) 3-0
7 mins - Miah Nikora (Pen) 6-0
9 mins - Matthew Morgan - Missed pen
14 mins - Troy Nathan - Missed pen
18 mins - Miah Nikora (Pen) 9-0
20 mins - Matthew Morgan (Pen) 9-3
36 mins - Matthew Morgan (Pen) 9-6
37 mins - Matthew Morgan - Misssed pen
HALF-TIME: CONNACHT 9 OSPREYS 6
43 mins - Gareth Owen - Missed pen
46 mins - Bernie Upton - Yellow card
53 mins - Miah Nikora - Missed pen
60 mins - Matthew Morgan (DG) 9-9
72 mins - Miah Nikora (Pen) 12-9
74 mins - Miah Nikora (Pen) 15-9
78 mins - Jamie Nutbrown (Try) 15-14
78 mins - Matthew Jarvis (Con) 15-16
80 mins - Miah Nikora - Missed pen
FULL TIME: CONNACHT 15 OSPREYS 16