It was a Friday night thriller in Bridgend as an Ospreys team stripped of 20 players through injury and international calls secured a bonus point win over Conference A rivals Connacht.
It was a real rollercoaster of a game at the Morganstone Brewery Field as a brace of tries from Keelan Giles had put the Ospreys in the driving seat early on, with Harri Morgan scoring a third just minutes after the restart, before Connacht turned up the pressure on the young Ospreys team, Bundee Aki and Jarrad Buttler scoring to leave it all square.
There was late drama though, Dan Evans scoring after a great run by the impressive Cory Allen, the TMO confirming the score after it was referred upstairs for a possible knock-on.
The Ospreys made the perfect start, Giles grabbing the opening try of the contest inside 90 seconds with a show of pace up the left after good hands along the line, chasing his own kick to score in the corner, to get to the ball ahead of Tiernan O’Halloran. The kick was a difficult one, out wide on the left, and the angle proved too much for Davies.
The hosts were totally dominant in the early exchanges and Giles had his second with less than 10 minutes on the clock following a misjudgment by Connacht’s Cian Kelleher, inadvertently taking the ball back over his own line before grounding under pressure from James King.
The five-metre scrum provided an attacking platform and Sam Davies put in a perfectly weighted cross kick for Giles to collect and slide over the line in one movement, the touchline conversion attempt again missing the target.
Connacht’s first excursion upfield brought them their first points of the night, a drop goal from Jack Carty in the 13th minute after the hosts has repelled a lineout drive.
The visitors had an opportunity to strike next, a scrum penalty on halfway seeing Carty putting his team in the corner but as the pack looked to inch their way towards the Ospreys line they found the home defence resolute, not only halting their progress but winning the put-in at the scrum to allow Davies to clear.
As the clock moved past the half hour, Connacht were starting to have a greater say in affairs, their scrum proving a potent weapon for them and they looked set for their first try after going to the corner from another penalty at the setpiece.
Aki, Quinn Roux and Sean O’Brien were among those to try and burrow over from close range before a combination of Giles, Evans and Scott Otten did exceptionally well to hold up Kelleher on the line to prevent the score.
Having weathered the storm the Ospreys were able to make their way back to the right end of the field, playing out the reminder of the half in Connacht territory without adding to their score.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 10-3 CONNACHT
The Ospreys began the second half positively but found themselves a man short jjst six minutes after the restart, Rob McCusker shown yellow for a hgh tackle on as Connacht looked to exit their own 22.
Despite the numerical disadvantage it was the hosts who struck the next, potentially fatal blow, try number three coming on 52 minutes.
It was a popular score among the Bridgend crowd, home town boy Morgan marking his PRO14 debut by rounding off a flowing move to score, taking the ball off Cory Allen’s inside shoulder after good work by the centre had left him with options on both sides.
The conversion from Davies was good and the Ospreys led by 14 points as McCusker returned to the action shortly before the hour mark.
Back came Connacht, using their pack to try and bludgeon their way through and the pressure eventually told with 15 minutes to go, Aki touching down after the pack drove over from close range, Carty with the extras to make it a seven point game.
It was level just four minutes later, Connacht skipper Jarrad Butler with the finishing touches after a powerful maul took the visitors to the tryline when McCusker had been penalised for interference in the air at the previous lineout.
Connacht continued to press and with just a couple of minutes to play it was probably the wrong option by Carty to go for a snap drop goal that missed the target.
That allowed the Ospreys one last chance, and boy did they take it. It was Morgan who fed Allen on halfway, the centre breaking through and only being hauled down a metre out. The ball went loose but Evans was up in support to pounce on it and score, only for it to be referred upstairs to check for a knock-on with the clock dead.
The decision was that the ball had been knocked out of Allen’s hands by a Connacht defender and the try was good, the decision sparking celebrations on and off the field, Davies’ missed conversion a side show.
With the bonus point win in the bag, the Ospreys now prepare to face Glasgow at the Liberty next Friday night, get your tickets now from www.ospreysrugby.com/buytickets