James Crombie/INPHO Oran McNulty scores Connacht's third try.
# On song
Connacht secure bonus-point victory over the Ospreys to move up to sixth in the URC
Connacht defeated Ospreys 46-18 at the Sportsground tonight.



Garry Doyle at the Sportsground

IT WAS ONE of those Galway nights where it rained so hard you half-expected Teresa Mannion to make a guest appearance.

Okay, it wasn’t quite Storm Desmond but it certainly wasn’t conducive to running rugby. For this reason alone, the fact Connacht managed to do just that, particularly in the first-half when they were playing into a gale-force wind, made this a night to remember.

Seven tries, three of them arriving in the 40 minutes when they should have been happy just to survive, resulted in their third win of the season, their second on the spin.

Again, they had the usual suspects to thank. Jack Carty was superb, so too Mack Hansen. Beyond that, though, there were other star performances. Dave Heffernan has been their best player this season and again tonight, he made his presence known, tackling with ferocity, regularly appearing in the loose.

We could go on. Finlay Bealham seems destined to always have that underrated tag hanging around his neck. He’s good, though, winning a first-half scrum penalty that led to three valuable points.

Niall Murray was another who put in a decent shift, likewise Paul Boyle. It all added up to a big win, one that moves them to sixth in the table. On this form, they’re a good bet for Champions Cup rugby next season.

shayne-bolton-scores-his-sides-second-try James Crombie / INPHO Shayne Bolton celebrates his debut try. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

No one will fancy coming here and not just because of the weather. Connacht knew how to play the conditions, though, setting the tone in the second minute, when Carty collected an overhit Garryowen before sizing up his surroundings.

Ordinarily he would have put boot to ball, but in this wind that would have been a stupid decision. So instead he set in motion a move that would see the ball move through the hands of Murray, Boyle, Conor Oliver and Kieran Marmion.

Bealham even did an emergency spell at scrum-half when Marmion temporarily disappeared at the bottom of a ruck, Carty on hand to direct affairs. Eventually, after spinning a pass right to Alex Wootton, the out-half then moved the play in the opposite direction to Hansen, who scored his fifth try of the season.

On it went. Those opening 10 minutes were crucial with regard to dictating the terms of the game; Connacht’s maul defence working well, their line-speed sharp. If there was a fault, it was in the positioning of their back three – one adventurous run too many ending up in an Ospreys counter-attack that saw Luke Morgan eventually touch down.

dan-evans-makes-a-break Ben Brady / INPHO Dan Evans makes a break for Ospreys. Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

It hardly mattered. While they also conceded a couple of penalties at the breakdown – allowing Stephen Myler to get Ospreys onto 11 points by half-time, Connacht by this stage were on 18, courtesy of three tries and a Carty penalty. This, remember, was when they were playing into the wind.

Their second try was sensational, the lines ran by Hansen out wide then Shayne Bolton, their debutant centre, proving critical, but so were the perfectly timed passes by Carty initially, later from Oran McNulty, Heffernan and Hansen.

Okay, the Ospreys defence didn’t show much interest in tackling but still, there was a touch of class in the way Hansen delayed his run a little so that he can advance onto Heffernan’s pass at full pelt before he parked his ego to slip a brilliant little pass inside to Bolton when it was clear the 21-year-old had a free run at the line. Again the wind ruined Carty’s chances of landing his conversion but still, at 13-5 ahead, Connacht were in a good spot.

It would get better. Even allowing for Morgan’s try, by 23 minutes they were well clear, McNulty with their third try, Boyle’s carry from the base of the scrum giving them territory, before the ball zipped through the Connacht backline, McNulty eventually receiving it in a little bit of space.

That was all he needed. Again, the Ospreys opted out of the idea of tackling and so Connacht had an 18-8 lead, one which Myler cut to seven points just before the break, one that Arnold and then Carty extended to 14 points, just after it.

More tries were exchanged in the third quarter, Joe Hawkins with one for Ospreys, a penalty try following on 58 minutes for Connacht to make it 32-18.

There and then you knew there was only going to be one winner, Connacht playing a more soberer style at this point, controlling possession and territory, getting their sixth try with 10 minutes left on the clock, when Ospreys made a feeble attempt to halt Caolin Blade in his tracks. Still, credit the little man for holding off bigger men.

Credit too goes Connacht’s way for doing their job properly. They were good; Ospreys anything but, their sloppiness summed up in the final couple of minutes when Conor Fitzgerald ran in Connacht’s seventh try without a defender in sight. 



Tries: Hansen, Bolton, McNulty, Arnold, penalty try, Blade, Fitzgerald

Conversions: Carty (3/6)

Penalties: Carty (1/1)


Tries: Morgan, Hawkins

Conversions: Myler (0/1)

Penalties: Myler (2/2)

Connacht Rugby: Oran McNulty, Alex Wootton, Shayne Bolton (rep: Peter Robb ‘)57, Sammy Arnold (rep: Conor Fitzgerald ’65), Mack Hansen, Jack Carty (rep: Conor Fitzgerald ‘), Kieran Marmion (rep: Caolin Blade ’58), Matthew Burke (rep: Jordan Duggan ’59), Dave Heffernan (rep: Shane Delahunt ’53), Finlay Bealham (rep: Jack Aungier ’53), Niall Murray (rep: Oisin Dowling ’35), Ultan Dillane, Jarrad Butler, Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle (rep: Eoghan Masterson ’65)

Ospreys Rugby: Dan Evans, Max Nagy (rep: Cai Evans ’61), Owen Watkin, Joe Hawkins, Luke Morgan (yellow card), Stephen Myler (rep: ), Rhys Webb (rep: Reuben Morgan-Williams ’63), Nicky Smith (rep: Gareth Thomas ’31 – HIA), Elvis Taione (rep: Sam Perry ’48), Tom Botha (rep: Rhys Henry ’58), Bradley Davies, Rhys Davies, Sam Cross (rep: Will Griffiths ’48), Jac Morgan, Ethan Roots (rep: Morgan Morris ’63)

Replacements: Jack Regan,

Referee: Ben Blain (SRU)

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