Ospreys outgun Connacht in nine-try affair
Welsh side pull clear in second half with Ashley Beck crossing for two tries
Ospreys’ Jeff Hassler brushes off Connacht’s Eoin Griffin on his way to scoring a try during the RaboDirect Pro 12 match at the Liberty Stadium. Photograph: Huw Evans/Inpho
Ospreys 45 Connacht 20: Centre Ashley Beck crossed for two tries as the Ospreys signed off their Pro12 season with a bonus point win over Connacht at the Liberty Stadium.
The match had become all but irrelevant after the Ospreys’ disastrous 30-27 defeat to Zebre. But the Ospreys still managed to dig deep for a performance to score six tries to Connacht’s three.
Ian Evans was playing his final match for the Ospreys before moving to Toulon in the summer.
And Justin Tipuric was playing his final game before undergoing shoulder surgery which will sideline him for Wales’ tour of South Africa next month.
Despite the defeat to Zebre Ospreys made only two changes with wing Jeff Hassler and flanker Sam Lewis coming into the side for Aisea Natoga and James King respectively.
Connacht coach Pat Lam made four changes from last weekend’s 22-15 home defeat by Cardiff Blues with hooker Dave Heffernan handed his first start of the season.
Connacht started the brighter and earned a penalty from a scrum on the 22 which Miah Nikora kicked to give the Irish province the lead after four minutes.
The Ospreys squandered a try chance on 10 minutes in a mix-up between Tipuric and Hassler.
But Hassler more than made up for the error three minutes last when he picked up a loose ball in his own half and ran in breaking through a last-ditch tackle from Eoin Griffin to go over for his team’s first score.
But Connacht were back in the lead five minutes later when wing Danie Poolman latched onto Nikora’s neat cross kick and he put fullback Darragh Leader in.
In a see-saw battle Ospreys came from behind once more as Beck went over for the second try to begin a sequence of 17 unanswered points.
After Dan Biggar landed a penalty skipper Alun Wyn Jones went over by the posts as the Ospreys opened up a 24-8 lead.
But on the stroke of half-time prop Denis Buckley was on the end of a driven lineout to claim Connacht’s second try.
Seven minutes into the second half Beck went over to secure the bonus point.
And there were further tries for prop Nicky Smith and Dan Baker as Ospreys opened up. Flanker Conor Gilsenan went over for Connacht’s third try.
OSPREYS: Davies; H Dirksen, Beck, Bishop, Hassler; Biggar, Habberfield; N Smith, Baldwin, Jarvis; A Jones, I Evans; Lewis, Tipuric, Baker. Replacements: Spratt for Bishop (59 mins), Natoga for Hassler (65 mins). Not used: Otten, M Thomas, A Jones, Ardron, Bearman, Tebaldi. Sin Bin: A. Jones (75 mins).
CONNACHT: D Leader; Poolman, E Griffin, McSharry, Healy; Nikora, Marmion; Buckley, Heffernan, Loughney; Muldowney, Kearney; Browne, Gilsenan, Muldoon. Replacements: Ah You for Loughney (35 mins), Henshaw for McSharry (49 mins), McKeon for Muldowney (54 mins), Swift for Kearney (65 mins), Blade for Marmion (71 mins), Bealham for Buckley (72 mins). Not used: Dineen, Parks.
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland).