CONNACHT SECURED A vital win over Pro14 Conference A rivals Ospreys, digging deep to claim hard-fought victory.
And with Zebre due at the Sportsground next week, Connacht have a great chance to inject more momentum into their campaign.
The western province started and finished the opening 40 well to lead by 13-5 at the break. However, they only had a penalty to show for early dominance when Craig Ronaldson scored moments after hitting the woodwork with an effort from the right.
But Ospreys, showing commendable ambition by going for the corner with a couple of kickable penalties, were rewarded when wing Daf Howells got in for the opening try of the game after 16 minutes.
Connacht hit back, allowing Ronaldson edge them back in front with another penalty after 24 minutes. It looked like it would stay that way to the break as Connacht defended well when Ospreys came at them. But the hosts punished Ospreys’ indiscipline before the break and a penalty to the corner yielded a big result when Eoghan Masterson dived over after a series of surges had seen the ball worked into the middle.
Ronaldson converted to make it 13-5 at the interval and leave Connacht in a great position to score a win over one of their Conference A rivals.
Ospreys pressed after the restart but couldn’t find a way through. Then a late tackle by Hanno Dirksen on Caolan Blade led to a yellow card, with Ronaldson turning the screw by landing the resultant penalty from 40 metres to make it 16-5.
Sam Davies pulled back a penalty for Ospreys going into the final quarter but Connacht hit back through Tom Farrell’s break for the try-line..
The centre stepped inside Davies and Ashley Beck to race in from deep and score under the posts, with Ronaldson’s conversion making it 23-8.
That should have been enough to avoid a nervous finish but Ospreys claimed a converted try from replacement Reuben Morgan-Williams.
However, Ronaldson wrapped up the win with his sixth kick of the night to ensure that the welsh region left empty-handed.
Connacht: Tries: Masterson, Farrell. Pens: Ronaldson (4). Conversions: Ronaldson (2)
Ospreys: Tries: Howells, Morgan-Williams. Penalties: Davies. Conversions: Davies
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran (Pita Ahki ’10); Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell (Jack Carty ’72), Matt Healy; Craig Ronaldson, Caolan Blade (James Mitchell ’71); Denis Coulson (Peter McCabe ’60), Tom McCartney (Shane Delahunt ’60), Conor Carey (Dominic Robertson McCoy ’59); Andrew Browne (Gavin Thornbury ‘16), James Cannon; Eoghan Masterson (James Connolly ’75), Naulia Dawai, John Muldoon.
Ospreys: Dan Evans; Hanno Dirksen, Kieron Fonotia, Ashley Beck, Daf Howells (Joe Thomas ’50); Sam Davies, Tom Habberfield (Reuben Morgan-Williams ’60); Rhodri Jones (Nicky Smith ’50), Scott Otten (Sam Parry ’50), Dmitri Arhip; Lloyd Ashley (Guy Mercer ’70), James King; Olly Cracknell, Will Jones (Sam Cross ’46), Rob McCusker.
Referee; Stuart Berry (SARU).