Connacht suffer second-half horror show against Ospreys

Two soft tries prove costly as Pat Lam’s side go down to league leaders

Connacht’s Bundee Aki in action during the Guinness Pro12 game against the Ospreys at  Liberty Stadium in Swansea. Photograph: Ian Cook/Inpho

Connacht’s Bundee Aki in action during the Guinness Pro12 game against the Ospreys at Liberty Stadium in Swansea. Photograph: Ian Cook/Inpho

 

Ospreys 26 Connacht 11

Connacht failed to take advantage of an Ospreys side short of nine internationals as they produced something of a Halloween shocker at Liberty Stadium on Friday night.

In a game in which there were few spell-binding moments, the Ospreys produced two well-worked second-half tries to continue their unbeaten record at home and their lead of the Guinness Pro 12.

Having survived some scary moments in the opening 20 minutes, exacerbated by unforced errors, including two malfunctioning lineouts and some errant kicking from hand, Connacht went into the break level on 3-3, and took the lead after a second Craig Ronaldson penalty early in the second half. However, the Ospreys grabbed the initiative and Connacht paid the price for some porous defence to take a stranglehold on the game.

While Connacht’s defence held its line in the opening half, they also produced some enterprising rugby. New signing Bundee Aki looked sharp in attack, and Connacht’s superiority in the scrum looked set to reap rewards after Ospreys outhalf Sam Davis had opened the scoring with a fourth-minute penalty.

However both kickers missed opportunities before Ronaldson levelled just before the break when the Ospreys were pinged for going off the feet.

Connacht did have the opportunity to draw first blood after the restart when John Muldoon again won a penalty, but Ronaldson’s effort from halfway was just short and wide. However a massive scrum gave him a second opportunity two minutes later and he struck his effort from the 10-metre line perfectly to put his in front.

The lead was short-lived as fullback Dan Evans slipped through the cover and Darragh Leader could not stop right wing Jeff Hasler from grabbing the first try with Davis adding the extras. It got worse for Connacht minutes later when a loose ball was hacked through and the covering Kieran Marmion was caught in possession by man of the match Justin Tipuric, giving Davis the simplest of penalties.

The nightmare continued when the Ospreys, with a new frontrow, turned the tables in the scrum and Davis kicked another three-pointer, again knocked through the posts, extending their lead to 10.

Connacht should have cut the gap, but Ronaldson missed a penalty on the hour and when Martin Roberts took an inside pass at pace, he raced in for a second try. Davis converted and added a 66th-minute penalty as the game slipped further away from Connacht.

Pat Lam’s side should have scored a try 10 minutes from time, but contrived to butcher their only opportunity – first when Ronaldson failed to see Leader with space out wide, and when JP Cooney was judged to have been held up on the line.

Eventually, however, Eoin McKeon got over from a penalty to touch down, with Ronaldson’s conversion hitting the upright – summing up a disappointing night for Connacht.

OSPREYS: D Evans; J Hassler, A Bishop, J Matavesi, T Grabham; S Davies, M Roberts; D Jones, S Perry, A Jarvis; L Peers (cpt), R Bernardo; S Lewis, J Tipuric, I Jones.

Replacements: D Arhip for A Jarvis (47 mins), M Thomas for Jones (54 mins), A Beck for Matavesi (59 mins), J Coller for I Jones (65 mins), S Otten for Parry (73 mins), A Natoga for Hassler (80 mins). Yellow card: J Collier (79 mins).

CONNACHT: S Layden; N Adeolokun, B Aki, C Ronaldson, M Healy,; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, R Ah You; M Kearney, Q Roux; J Muldoon (cpt), E McKeon, G Naoupu.

Replacements: D Leader for Adeolokun (15 mins), A Browne for Roux (57 mins), JP Cooney for Ah You (64 mins), D Heffernan for Harris-Wright and D McSharry for Aki (both 67 mins), I Porter for Marmion, W Faloon for McKeon ( both 72 mins), McKeon for Naoupu (74 mins), J Dever for Buckley (78 mins).

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)

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