Ospreys power play proves too much for Connacht in Wales

Pat Lam’s men finished their season on a losing note at the Liberty Stadium.

Ashley Beck crosses for the Ospreys despite the attention of Kieran Marmion.
Ashley Beck crosses for the Ospreys despite the attention of Kieran Marmion.
Image: Huw Evans/INPHO

Ospreys 45

Connacht 20

PAT LAM’S FIRST season as Connacht coach finished on a losing note at the Liberty Stadium, as the Ospreys’ markedly superior physicality proved too much for the Irish province to handle.

There were some markers of the improvement the westerners have made under the former Samoan international in tries for Denis Buckley, Conor Gilsenan and, particularly, Darragh Leader.

However, the home side were impressive in scoring six tries of their own, only looking in trouble when Connacht scored through Buckley on the stroke of half time. Steve Tandy’s men burst out of the traps in the second period though, ending any faint hope of a comeback for the visitors.

Connacht enjoyed a strong opening 20 minutes to the game, first landing a penalty through out-half Miah Nikora, and then responding to Jeff Hassler’s muscular counter-attacking try in ideal fashion.

Jeff Hassler brushes off Eoin Griffin on his way to scoring a try Jeff Hassler beats off the challenge of Eoin Griffin on his way to scoring. Source: Huw Evans/INPHO

Trailing 7-3 in the 17th minute, Lam’s men forced their way into the Ospreys’ 22, where Nikora launched an excellent cross-field kick to Danie Poolman wide on the right. The South African wing intelligently passed inside for Leader to stretch over in the corner.

That unconverted blow sparked the Ospreys into more consistent form, and they powered over for tries from Ashley Beck and Alun-Wyn Jones, as Hassler continued to excel.

With Dan Biggar converting both and adding a penalty, the Ospreys were 24-8 up heading towards the break. However, Connacht showed typical resilience to score the last points of the half through Buckley.

The try was all about the fight of Lam’s pack as they battered at the home team’s tryline before the promising prop bounced over.

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Dan Baker powers over to score a try Dan Baker scored off the base of a strong scrum. Source: Huw Evans/INPHO

Beck’s second try in the 45th minute, with Biggar adding the extras, extinguished Connacht hopes of hauling in the Ospreys though, with prop Nicky Smith and No. 8 Dan Baker adding further scores before the end.

There was a consolation score for Gilsenan on the flanker’s last appearance for the province before he heads for London Irish next season. The on-loan Leinster man benefited from a strong maul to touch down for Connacht’s final points of the season.

Onwards and upwards for the province, who finish the Pro12 in a disappointing 10th. With new signings and another summer in which to get his ideas across, Lam will look forward to improvements next season.

Ospreys scorers:

Tries: J Hassler, A Beck [2], AW Jones, N Smith, D Baker

Conversions: D Biggar [6]

Penalty: D Biggar

Connacht scorers:

Tries: D Leader, D Buckley, C Gilsenan

Conversion: M Nikora

Penalty: M Nikora

OSPREYS: Sam Davies; Hanno Dirksen, Ashley Beck, Andrew Bishop (Jonathan Spratt), Jeff Hassler (Aisea Natoga – blood); Dan Biggar, Tom Habberfield (Tito Tebaldi); Nicky Smith (Marc Thomas), Scott Baldwin (Scott Otten), Aaron Jarvis (Adam Jones); Alun Wyn Jones (capt.), Ian Evans (Tyler Ardron); Sam Lewis, Justin Tipuric (Joe Bearman), Dan Baker.

CONNACHT: Darragh Leader; Danie Poolman, Eoin Griffin, Dave McSharry (Robbie Henshaw), Matt Healy; Miah Nikora (Dan Parks), Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade); Denis Buckley (Finlay Bealham), Dave Heffernan (Jack Dinneen), Ronan Loughney (Rodney Ah You); Aly Muldowney, Mick Kearney (Michael Swift); Andrew Browne, Conor Gilsenan, John Muldoon (capt.) (Eoin McKeon).

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