The Ospreys left Galway empty handed after a frustrating 80 minutes where they were unable to turn dominance in possession and territory for long periods into points on the scoreboard.
- An eye-catching finish from Dafydd Howells gave the Ospreys the lead at the midway point of the first half
- That lead was swiftly overturned through the boot of Guinness man of the match, Craig Ronaldson
- A first ever PRO14 try for Reuben Morgan-Williams eight minutes from the end gave the Ospreys late hope but they were unable to claim even a losing bonus point
There was a bright start from the visitors, looking to keep the ball alive and move it at every opportunity, but the first points of the night when to the home team.
A Connacht counter up the left, led by Tiernan O’Halloran, eventually led to a penalty in a very kickable position. Although Ronaldson saw his attempt come back off the near post, Connacht were able to reclaim possession, winning another penalty, and this time the home fly-half made no mistake.
Despite that setback the Ospreys were looking good and a charge down from Sam Davies off Caolin Blade’s clearance almost saw the visiting 10 grab the opening try but the ball just wouldn’t sit up for him as he chased it through. Connacht were penalised on the floor but instead of taking the three to level it, the Ospreys went to the corner only to lose the ball close to the line.
They didn’t have to wait long before finally opening their account on 20 minutes, a wonderful finish in the corner from Dafydd Howells after a prolonged spell of possession, forwards and backs linking up, saw the winger diving over Pita Ahki to score.
Davies was unlucky as his touchline conversion fell just short, then four minutes later it was Connacht regaining the led, Ronaldson with three points after an Ospreys offside.
Undeterred, the Ospreys came back again, once more spurning three points to go for the corner and, despite huge pressure on the Connacht line, coming away empty handed after Kieron Fonotia knocked on in the shadow of the posts.
The Ospreys continued to press and a harsh holding on call against Howells in the Connacht 22 proved costly as two penalties to touch took the game up the other end and Eoghan Masterson eventually found his way over from close range with time up in the first half, Ronaldson’s conversion giving the scoreboard a look that didn’t reflect the balance of the first 40 minutes.
HALF-TIME: CONNACHT 13-5 OSPREYS
The pattern of the second half continued in a similar vein to the first and the Ospreys should really have made more of a great break up the right that saw Dan Evans, Davies and Hanno Dirksen combining. However, Dirksen couldn’t find Davies with the return pass inside that would certainly have been a try, the ball going forward as Eoin Griffin put in the tackle.
Despite looking the more positive of the two sides the Ospreys remain unable to find a way through and were reduced to 14 in the 53rd minute when Dirksen was sinbinned for a late tackle on Blade.
Ronaldson slotted over the resulting penalty to take Connacht 11 clear but the Ospreys were not only able to hold out their opponents comfortably, they were able to take the game to them despite the numerical disadvantage.
Awarded a penalty 30 out, this time the Ospreys went for the target but Davies missed, only have to better luck five minutes later after a Connacht offside.
Dirksen returned to the action with the score at 16-8 and 17 minutes to play.
A huge spell of Ospreys possession between halfway and the Connacht 22 came to nothing after a knock-on by Sam Parry and, just two minutes later, they were back under their posts as Connacht struck for a second try.
It stemmed from a cheap lineout conceded midway inside the Ospreys half but it was too easy for Tom Farrell, the centre drifting through midfield to score under the posts, leaving a simple conversion for Ronaldson.
The Ospreys refused to throw the towel in and managed to grab a second try for themselves as the game moved into the final 10 minutes. It was a first ever PRO14 touchdown for young scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams, and a fourth of his fledgling career, sniping over from the base of a ruck much to the annoyance of the home support who felt it wasn’t a score, Davies with the extras to bring the Ospreys back to within eight points.
With time running out the Ospreys continued looking to find a way through, to secure at least a losing bonus point, but a penalty against Sam Cross at the breakdown was marched 10m up to the 22m allowing Ronaldson to deny the visitors anything from the game.