Connacht 22 Ospreys 10
The Ospreys went down to only their second defeat in 12 RaboDirect PRO12 outings on Friday evening as Connacht denied them even the consolation of a losing bonus point.
Playing into the elements in the first half, an opportunist try from Kahn Fotuali’i converted by Matthew Morgan, allowed the Ospreys to stay in touch with their hosts, as they trailed 13-7 at the break.
However, they were unable to make the most of the wind at their backs in the second half, with only a solitary Morgan penalty to show for their efforts as the experienced figure of Dan Parks guided Connacht to victory.
On a typically wet and windy Galway night, the Ospreys found themselves under pressure early on as former Cardiff Blues and Glasgow fly-half Parks used the wind at his back to put Connacht deep into opposition territory.
Scott Baldwin’s throw from the resulting lineout was ruled not straight, Connacht opted for a scrum, and after Cai Griffiths was penalised as the packs went down, Parks slotted over a straightforward kick to put the hosts ahead in the 7th minute.
There was an early change for the Ospreys when Ben John, who has been in impressive form in recent weeks, was forced off injured, Ross Jones entering the fray with 10 minutes gone.
Morgan then turned down the opportunity to go for the posts from a seemingly kickable position, the strong wind obviously putting a doubt in his head, so he went for the corner instead. From the lineout, the Ospreys pounded the line, Fotuali’i and then Morgan held up just short, but foul play from the home defence, preventing the Ospreys 10 from releasing the ball, saw the penalty going the Ospreys way just two metres out.
Fotuali’i reacted the quickest, taking it quickly and diving through to ground it, TMO Jude Quinn confirming the try. Morgan’s conversion put the Ospreys ahead 12 minutes in.
Connacht wasted no time in striking back, scoring their first try of the evening just a few minutes later through openside Willie Faloon. The pressure came from a powerful Connacht scrum 35m or so out, which allowed the hosts to put the Ospreys under pressure. Faloon, his co-flanker John Muldoon and wing Danie Poolman all carried well before Mike Swift then edged closed to the line, scrumhalf Kieron Marmion supplying swift ball at the ruck for Faloon to power over from close range.
Parks added the conversion, but three minutes later he was off target from just inside the Ospreys half after Morgan’s restart went straight onto touch and Connacht were awarded a penalty at the ensuing scrum.
Playing into the wind, the Ospreys were struggling to get any rhythm into their game, unable to get into Connacht territory, and they fell further behind on the half hour after the hosts marched them back 5m in the scrum, eventually winning the penalty, from which the boot of Parks took the score to 13-7.
HALF-TIME: CONNACHT 13 OSPREYS 7
With the wind at their backs and facing just a six-point deficit at the restart, Ospreys hopes of a victory would have been high, but they found themselves going further behind in the 47th minute, Parks with his third penalty.
The Ospreys were winning the territory battle in the third quarter but were guilty of needlessly turning over possession on a number of occasions, allowing Parks to put his team further upfield.
As the game moved into the last quarter the difference remained at nine points, the Ospreys struggling to get any real momentum going, but with 11 minutes left on the clock Morgan was able to slot over a penalty from in front of the posts after Rodney Ah You was caught offside, bringing them back to within six points.
Buoyed by that, patient play from the Ospreys twice took them into Connacht’s 22, only to turn the ball over, and they paid the price when Parks’ testing up and under saw Robbie Henshaw putting in a great kick-chase, nailing Richard Fussell as he collected the high ball. The fullback was penalised for holding on, allowing Parks to put over a simple kick to take the score to 19-10 with just five minutes remaining.
Just a couple of minutes later, any lingering hopes the Ospreys had were firmly extinguished as that man Parks was again on the spot to pop over a drop goal to stretch Connacht’s lead to 12, ensuring that even a losing bonus point was out of their reach.
To rub salt into the wounds, the Ospreys finished with 14 men after James King received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle in the final phase of play with the clock already showing time, the final whistle going immediately after the restart to bring to an end a disappointing night for the visitors.