Ospreys 33 Connacht 18
The Ospreys move up to second place in the Magners League after a bonus point win over Connacht at the Liberty Stadium made it six wins on the bounce for the men in black.
There was a first half try for Richard Fussell, with three more coming after the break through Tom Prydie, his first in the Magners, Sonny Parker and Mefin Davies, the last one coming in the final minute, while Dan Biggar kicked 13 points to extend his lead at the top of the Magners League points table for the season so far.
Connacht were handed an early opportunity to get on the scoreboard when Ian Evans strayed offside at a lineout near halfway, and Ian Keatley’s penalty just about had the distance despite fading away badly, to give his team a 3-0 lead in only the fourth minute.
The Ospreys responded well, Prydie showing good awareness with a chip and chase up the right flank to force Gavin Duffy into a knock-on. With scrum advantage being played, the ball was worked back across the field, the Ospreys winning a penalty after a Connacht player failed to roll away, but Biggar’s kick from the left touchline drifted wide across the face of the posts.
The opening 18 minutes were played almost exclusively in the Connacht half, without any reward for the Ospreys, but they finally managed to get on the board through a Biggar drop goal. A strong run by Rhys Webb from a lineout on halfway was the catalyst, Jerry Collins, Evans and Hanno Dirksen also carrying well to take play up close to the tryline, and with a penalty advantage for offside, Biggar slotted over a straightforward kick from in front of the posts to level it.
Connacht were able to regain the lead almost immediately, good lineout ball allowing them to attack at speed. The Ospreys defence were sluggish to cover, allowing Brian Tuohy to make good ground before offloading to his skipper Jonny O’Connor who was on his shoulder, and the flanker was able to squeeze over in the corner to score. With a strong wind swirling around the Liberty Stadium, Keatley was well off target with the conversion attempt.
A quickly taken free-kick after Frank Murphy was guilty of delaying the put-in at a scrum allowed the Ospreys to burst forward, Dirksen almost bundling his way over before trying to feed Ashley Beck who was unable to collect cleanly, knocking on with the try-line beckoning.
The resulting five metre scrum had to be re-set twice before Italian ref Stefano Penne awarded the hosts a penalty, the Ospreys ignoring the option to re-set it once again, Biggar taking the three points instead.
Good work at the line-out by Evans then allowed Webb to provide swift ball for his backs. Quick hands saw it moved infield, Fussell cutting into the line at speed to split the Connacht defence, racing through to score his 8th try of the season, touching down under the posts to allow Biggar a simple conversion, putting the Ospreys five points ahead.
Biggar was able to stretch the lead further with the last kick of the first half after a Connacht player was penalised for not releasing the ball.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 16 CONNACHT 8
Connacht enjoyed the lions share of possession in the opening phases after the restart, but aggressive defence from the Ospreys saw then forcing their opponents backwards, and the frustration from the Irish side saw them kicking the ball away loosely. This proved a fatal mistake, allowing the Ospreys to run it back at them, grabbing their second try of the match. It was a well worked move, quick hands allowing them to take advantage of an overlap on the left, Parker providing the scoring pass for Prydie.
Biggar was off target with the conversion attempt, before his opposite number Keatley also failed with a penalty after Cai Griffiths was penalised for not binding.
Some well organised defence was then able to frustrate Connacht as they looked to work an opening, O’Connor and Duffy both finding the door shut firmly in their face as they made strong runs into Ospreys territory, before another penalty offence at the scrum allowed the visitors to cut the deficit through the boot of Keatley.
Again there was a positive response from the Ospreys, who grabbed their third try just ahead of the hour mark. It came after a series of drives towards the line from the Ospreys pack, sucking in defenders, before the ball was thrown wide. Ryan Bevington almost managed to force his way over, but it was Parker who was in support to finish the move after the replacement prop had been held up short. Biggar was unsuccessful with the difficult conversion attempt, and then just a couple of minutes later it was Keatley who failed to cope with the breeze from what looked a straightforward penalty attempt.
Connacht looked to have created an opening on the right after some ineffective Ospreys tackling, only for Ray Ofisa to knock on seven metres out.
The Ospreys found themselves under real pressure on their line, Mr Penne penalising the scrum on two occasions before warning the front row that the next offence would lead to a yellow. On this occasion the scrum held firm, but Ofisa was able to pick up and dart towards the line. He was held up short, but there was no stopping Mike Swift at short range, Miah Nikora converting.
A last ditch tackle by Fussell on Troy Nathan prevented a certain try as the Ospreys lost their way somewhat, but an offside decision against the home team saw the Italian ref getting the bird from the Liberty Stadium crowd, and they would have felt that justice was done when Nikora missed the resulting penalty.
The Ospreys managed to regain their composure, and with time almost up, laid siege to the Connacht line with a series of lineouts as they looked for a bonus point clinching fourth try. The pressure resulted in a yellow card for Swift, minutes after his try, for coming in from the side, and the hosts took full advantage, Mefin Davies being driven over from close range for his first ever try in Ospreys colours, Biggar’s conversion rounding off a good afternoon for his team.