The Ospreys fell to a fourth defeat of the season as Connacht left South Wales with a first ever win at the Liberty Stadium to cement themselves in second place in the PRO12.
On a frustrating afternoon the hosts had to settle for their second losing bonus point of the season after an error strewn 80 minutes, failing to build on last weekend’s win in Treviso.
It started brightly enough, an early Dan Baker try putting the Ospreys in the driving seat but Connacht came back to lead by 10 with a little over 20 minutes to go. Justin Tipuric then marked his return to regional action with a try to cut the deficit but missed kicks proved costly as Connacht held on to secure the win.
Sam Davies nudged the Ospreys ahead in only the 3rd minute, his penalty from 45 metres out going straight down the middle.
Connacht were handed the chance to hit straight back, Richard Fussell guilty of holding on, but Jack Carty pushed his kick wide right of the posts.
Minutes later Connacht were threatening again, Kieran Marmion looking lively at the base of the ruck, only for Baker to read his sniping break well and haul him down from behind deep inside the 22. As Connacht pressed, play was eventually brought back for a penalty right in front of the posts and this time Carty made no mistake, bringing Connacht level.
The first try went the way of the home team, via a TMO referral, on 15 minutes. It was a flowing back move, with full back Fussell coming into the line and carrying well before freeing Eli Walker on the left. Walker stepped his man then flipped the ball over the covering defender’s head for Fussell to gather and move it on to Baker who went over for the five points, the TMO confirming that Walkers pass went backwards.
Davies missed with his conversion, and just two minutes later it was Carty who was off target for a second time after the Ospreys had been pinged for not rolling away.
Scrum half Marmion was looking dangerous around the fringes and he took advantage of some sloppy defending to make a sniping run which took him deep inside the Ospreys 22 where the covering Tom Grabham did well to get across and bring him down. It was recycled well and Niyi Adeolokun went for the line, Sam Underhill reading the break well to stop him inches from the line.
With an advantage in their favour Connacht then spun it wide to their left where Darragh Leader looked certain to score, only to be bundled out of play at the corner flag by Rory Thornton.
Play was brought back for the penalty, Josh Matavesi was sent to the sinbin for killing the ball and Carty cut the deficit to two points with 20 minutes played.
Despite being a man short the Ospreys went back on the offensive and were awarded a penalty for Connacht going off their feet at the breakdown but Davies was again unable to find the target.
Connacht took the lead in the 28th minute, taking full advantage of their extra man for what was, in the end, the simplest of scores from the back of the scrum.
Marmion was at the heart of things again, picking up the base as the setpiece wheeled, freeing Matt Healy who had the simplest of finishes in the corner.
The story of the game as far as the kickers were concerned continued as Carty shanked the conversion attempt, leaving the score Ospreys 8 Connacht 11.
With time up for the first half Connacht interference at the ruck was spotted, allowing Davies a chance to go for the posts from the 10m line to send his side in level but again he was off target, his kick falling well short.
OSPREYS 8 CONNACHT 11
Connacht extended their lead just four minutes after the restart with a second try, scored by Bundee Aki.
With a penalty advantage in their favour for not rolling away the visitors went for the jugular, Aly Muldowney and Craig Ronaldson gaining hard yards in midfield before the supporting Aki collected the ball and reached over to score.
With a change of kicker for Connacht it was Ronaldson who added the extras, taking Connacht 10 clear.
The Ospreys then managed to work themselves into a good position only for their handling to let them down on more than occasion, the ball going to ground too frequently. However, an offside in midfield gave Davies the chance to cut the deficit to seven with just over a quarter of the game to play and this time he found the target.
After a forgettable period of play that all too often saw the Ospreys as the architects of their own downfall, that score seemed to settle the hosts nerves and, with the coaches emptying the bench, they were handed a chance to reduce the deficit to four after winning a penalty at the scrum. Unfortunately Davies’ kick again failed to find the target.
However, minutes later Davies was at the heart of the Ospreys second try of the game, making a lovely break in midfield, beating three defenders before offloading to Josh Matavesi who was stopped by Carty inches short under the posts.
With defenders being sucked in there was a big overlap on the left and the ball was spun out wide where Tipuric threw his trademark dummy to take out the last defender and score.
The conversion attempt from Davies was off target, leaving the Ospreys trailing by two points with 10 minutes to go.
The Ospreys were sniffing an unlikely win at this point but were unable to keep hold of the ball long enough to ask any questions of Connacht’s defence late on, and the final word went to the visitors, Donaldson with a successful penalty to seal the win.