Ospreys 26 Connacht 9
The Ospreys made it four PRO12 wins on the bounce on Saturday afternoon as they secured their first bonus point win in the league this season with a comprehensive victory over Connacht at the Liberty Stadium.
First half tries from Eli Walker and Justin Tipuric were followed after the break by touchdowns from Jonathan Thomas and Kahn Fotuali’i
After an even, if fairly uneventful opening 15 minutes, the Ospreys snatched the lead with the first try of the afternoon through young wing Walker.
The score came about through good patience and controlled phase play, the forwards making some hard yards before Ashley Beck made a dart for the line, only to be stopped a metre out. A series of pick and gos drew in the Connacht defence and with an offside advantage in their favour the ball was spun wide to the right where Richard Fussell provided the scoring pass, Dan Biggar adding the extras from close to the touchline.
While it was evenly contested there was little to warm the healthy crowd that had ventured out on a bright but very cold and windy afternoon, and with the breeze behind him the experienced Dan Parks was able to get Connacht on the scoreboard on 30 minutes with a penalty on the left for tackler not releasing.
Just a couple of minutes later Parks had another go from the same position, Biggar unfortunate to be pinged for offside, and the Scottish international was able to reduce the deficit to a single point.
The Ospreys responded positively, and a lovely worked move saw the ball moved left to right quickly through numerous pairs of hands before Fussell stepped around two defenders and released Tipuric who was hugging the right hand touchline and there was no stopping the blindside as he dotted down in the corner, Biggar just missing with the conversion.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 12 CONNACHT 6
The Ospreys got the perfect start to the second half, Thomas reading a Parks pass in midfield perfectly to intercept and race clear for his team’s third try, Biggar adding the extras.
Ryan Bevington thought he’d grabbed a rare try, and with it the bonus point for the Ospreys, when he crashed over from close range, only for referee George Clancy to call it back, ruling that Andrew Bishop’s pass to the prop went forward.
A straightforward Parks kick allowed Connacht to stay in touch as the game moved into the last half hour, before Biggar was handed a chance to hit back immediately, the penalty given for side entry, but his kick struck the outside of the left hand post.
A marvellous, instinctive counter attack from Walker then saw him running a long Parks clearance back upfield, evading a number of tackles and taking play up into the Connacht 22, only for Fotuali’i to spill the ball as Tipuric looked to send him over.
The normally reliable Parks then failed with a long range effort that would have brought Connacht back to within a converted try, his kick falling under the bar for Biggar to gather, launching an immediate counterattack that eventually saw the hosts winning a penalty in the opposition 22. Sniffing the bonus point they went for the corner but were unable to make it count.
The fourth try did come shortly afterwards though, the Ospreys awarded a penalty at the scrum inside the Connacht 22 and the alert Fotuali’i spotted the lack of Connacht cover, quickly tapping and going and there was no stopping the Samoan, his first try of the season securing the bonus point with ten to play.
With the five points in the bag the closing minutes were played out on the Connacht line, a series of scrum penalties going in the Ospreys favour until, eventually, Connacht were able to clear their lines, bringing the afternoon to an end.