The Ospreys moved to the top of the Guinness PRO12 table after a record equaling eighth consecutive win in all competitions to remain undefeated at the Liberty Stadium this season.
- Ospreys go top of the table as PRO12 breaks for a month thanks to bonus point win at the Liberty Stadium
- Baker, Cracknell, Smith and Beck score as they pick up 8th bonus point win in PRO12 this season
- An eighth consecutive win in all competitions equals the Ospreys' all-time best
They ran in four tries, Dan Baker, OIlly Cracknell, Nicky Smith and Ashley Beck all touching down, to pick up an eighth try bonus point in the PRO12 from 13 games and a 13th from 19 games in total.
It was a memorable afternoon for two players who passed significant landmarks, Hanno Dirksen leading the team out on his 100th appearance for the region and Sam Davies becoming only the fourth to score 500 points for the Ospreys.
There were two late changes on the bench with Scott Baldwin absent to be with his partner as she gave birth and Paul James suffering a back injury during the warm-up, which meant Scott Otten and Gareth Thomas stepped up for duty.
It was the Ospreys who opened the scoring with 11 minutes on the clock, the first try of the afternoon going to Baker after some patient phase play.
Flanker Cracknell was the catalyst, putting his team on the front foot with a powerful run through midfield, punching a hole in the Connacht defence.
There was a sense of inevitability about it, the Irish defence pulled out of shape, as first Hanno Dirksen was stopped inches out and then the number eight finished off from close range.
Davies converted, and he was successful again just two minutes later after the Ospreys second try. Dirksen carried well up the right wing before Davies slipped it inside to Cracknell and this time there was no stopping the in-form blindside who sidestepped the defender and charged over from 25m out.
Connacht served notice that the Ospreys weren’t going to have it all their own way, Matt Healy racing up the left before collecting his own dink over the top. It looked odds on for a Connacht try, only for a great last-ditch tackle by Ashley Beck to haul him down, and the chance was gone as the home defence regrouped and organised to smother the Connacht attack, eventually forcing the knock-on to win a scrum, allowing them to clear.
Try number three almost came on the half hour after the impressive Baker and Cracknell combined for a rampage over halfway and up deep into Connacht territory. Dirksen continued the good work, carrying strongly, before slipping it to Justin Tipuric who was bundled into touch as he attempted to stretch over and ground it in the corner.
As half-time approached, Connacht were able to build some territory and possession, but the Ospreys defence kept their line intact without too much trouble, ensuring a two score lead at the break.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 14 CONNACHT 0
Aggressive defence from the Ospreys saw Connacht pinned inside their own 22 for the first five minutes after the restart, unable to find a way out, and it was the hosts who kept the scoreboard ticking over with a three pointer for Davies that took him through the 500 point mark.
The Ospreys were on top and try number three came in the 58th minute from Smith. The score stemmed from a lightening counter-attack in their own 22 after stealing a Connacht line-out, Tom Habberfield and Justin Tipuric taking their team into opposition territory before the visitors were penalised for side entry.
Going to the corner on this occasion, quick ball allowed them to go for the line and it was Nicky Smith who burrowed over to score, Davies with the extras.
As the clock moved into last 10, Connacht almost grabbed their first try as, with a penalty advantage following a Davies high tackle on John Cooney, a cross kick to the corner found Danie Poolman who knocked on over line thanks to a last ditch tackle from Howells..
The Ospreys outside half was shown a yellow card for the offence, sitting out the final stages as Connacht worked hard for a consolation.
They kept up the pressure as the Ospreys repelled two rolling mauls before great work by Tipuric and Lloyd Ashley saw them win a turnover on their own line.
The pressure from Connacht finally told as they grabbed a try inside the final three minutes, taking advantage of a defensive mix-up, Sean O’Brien galloping over and Cooney converting.
However, there was still time left for the Ospreys to respond and grab a crucial fourth try at the final play, pounding on the Connacht line to suck in defenders before replacement Dan Biggar sent a miss-pass out wide for Ashley Beck who slid over in the corner to seal the bonus point, the try going unconverted.
The big win means the Ospreys are well placed as the PRO12 breaks for a month, Zebre away on Friday 10th February the next match in the competition as attention turns back to Europe and, for the Ospreys, a home game against Lyon on Sunday 15th January (3pm KO).