Second best

Connacht collapse as Ospreys deal second home defeat of Pro12 defence

Pat Lam’s men gave up a bonus point again in Galway.

Connacht 11

Ospreys 32

Murray Kinsella reports from the Sportsground

CONNACHT’S PRO12 TITLE defence is off to the worst possible start as they lost at home for the second week running, giving up a bonus point to the Ospreys in the process.

Tyler Ardron celebrates scoring his sides second try The Ospreys leave Galway with a bonus point. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Pat Lam’s men were competitive for much of the game and took an 11-10 lead in the second half after a characteristically brilliant team try finished by Eoin McKeon, but the Ospreys powered clear in the final quarter to leave the westerners empty-handed.

Connacht will now travel to Zebre in next weekend’s round three tie desperate for the win they require to get their league campaign up and running.

Though the performance levels were improved after last weekend’s humbling at the hands of Glasgow Warriors in Galway, the final-quarter concession of three tries to an admittedly excellent Ospreys team will be of concern to Lam.

The western province’s lack of pre-season games would appear to be affecting them even now.

Sam Davies gave the Ospreys an early lead after John Muldoon kicked the ball out of Rhys Webb’s hands, with Connacht out-half Jack Carty missing a chance to level proceedings from the tee shortly after.

The opening 30 minutes were largely a tale of dominant Ospreys possession and territory, as they repeatedly threatened through the likes of left wing Eli Walker and the delightful playmaker Davies.

Matt Healy and Jeff Hassier Matt Healy breaks for Connacht. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Though Carty did slot a 20th-minute penalty following a nice break on the left from Matt Healy, the opening half hour concluded with the Ospreys try that had looked certain.

The mobile and intelligent Tyler Ardron picked from the base of a five-metre scrum and fed Webb, who burst through the upright tackle efforts of Carty and Eoin Griffin far too easily. Davies’ conversion sent Steve Tandy’s men 10-3 ahead.

Finally, Connacht got their hands on the ball for an extended period of time in the Ospreys 22 but could not manufacture the required reward.

There was a seemingly obvious collapsed maul by the Ospreys with Connacht threatening from metres out in the the 35th minute, before Carty grubbered the ball away wastefully under the Ospreys posts soon after.

Niyi Adeolokun broke three tackles with a dynamic burst in the closing two minutes of the half, but Justin Tipuric and the influential Ospreys back row swarmed for a choke tackle turnover three phases later to frustrate Connacht.

That frustration was channeled well early in the second half as Connacht began to grasp some control of the tie, leading to three points for Carty from the tee after Davies was adjudged to have tackled him high.

Rhys Webb Webb scored a first-half try for the visitors. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The Connacht out-half missed touch with a penalty soon after, but swiftly made a big linebreak to highlight his down-and-up evening in the 10 shirt.

The Ospreys’ tackling was focused on the upper body all evening and the risk was underlined in the 52nd minute when Ardron saw yellow for his high shot on Finlay Bealham.

Though Connacht couldn’t turn a fresh occupancy on the Ospreys’ five-metre line into a try directly after that, they did finally strike with the delicious team try finished by McKeon.

It began with a lineout 40 metres out, the westerners bouncing back down the shortside cleverly, allowing Kieran Marmion to snipe directly over the top of the subsequent breakdown.

Tiernan O’Halloran made important metres wide on the right as Connacht marched forward, before Danny Qualter and James Connolly handled expertly from right to left, freeing Bundee Aki to feed McKeon in space against the 14-man Ospreys.

Carty’s conversion was wide, leaving Connacht just a single point to the good, and Davies sent the Ospreys back in front with a straightforward shot at goal after his refreshed front row won a scrum penalty.

Eoin McKeon and Ultan Dillane McKeon and Dillane drive forward for Connacht. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

That meant a scoreline of 13-11 Ospreys heading into the final quarter, but with Ardron back on the pitch Connacht could not build on the excellent McKeon try.

Instead, it was the Ospreys who created a period of controlled, sustained pressure. Webb directed a lengthy passage of narrow, direct attack in the Connacht 22 that ended with Ardron making up for his 10 minutes in the bin by stretching out to score.

Davies couldn’t convert, but did add the two points to the Ospreys’ third try, scored with six minutes left on the clock.

A loose pass by replacement Shane O’Leary was picked up by Ben John, the Ospreys centre striding 60 metres downfield before being hauled down by Healy. But Webb was on hand in support to finish.

Connacht’s collapse continued as fullback Dan Fish broke their line all to easily near the halfway, allowing him to feed right wing Jeff Hassler for the bonus-point try. Davies put the icing on the cake from the tee.

Connacht scorers:

Tries: Eoin McKeon

Conversions: Jack Carty [o from 1]

Penalties: Jack Carty [2 from 3]

Ospreys scorers:

Tries: Rhys Webb [2], Tyler Ardron, Jeff Hassler

Conversions: Sam Davies [3 from 4]

Penalties: Sam Davies [2 from 2]

CONNACHT: Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun (Danie Poolman ’66 (Dave Heffernan ’73)), Eoin Griffin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty (Shane O’Leary ’66), Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade ’68); Ronan Loughney (JP Cooney ’60), Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson-McCoy ’75); Ultan Dillane, Danny Qualter (Lewis Stevenson ’68); Eoin McKeon, James Connolly (Rory Moloney ’75), John Muldoon (captain).

OSPREYS: Dan Evans ( Jon Spratt ’78); Jeff Hassler, Ben John, Josh Matavesi, Eli Walker (Tom Habberfield ’73); Sam Davies, Rhys Webb (captain); Nicky Smith (Paul James ’56), Sam Parry (Scott Baldwin ’66), Dmitri Arhip (Ma’afu Fia ’56); Bradley Davies (Lloyd Ashley ’54), Rory Thornton (Lloyd Ashley ’44 to ’54) (Dan Baker ’73); Olly Cracknell (James King ’60), Justin Tipuric, Tyler Ardron (yellow card ’52 to ’62).

Referee: Ben Whitehouse [WRU].

Attendance: 5,749.

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