Connacht finish season on a high as they end Ospreys’ Rainbow Cup ambitions

Bundee Aki scores try in a fine all-round performance at the Showgrounds

Connacht’s Peter Sullivan scores a try during the Guinness Pro 14 Rainbow Cup game against the Ospreys at the Sportsground in Galway. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Connacht’s Peter Sullivan scores a try during the Guinness Pro 14 Rainbow Cup game against the Ospreys at the Sportsground in Galway. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Connacht 26 Ospreys 19

Connacht signed off their season with a home victory to end Ospreys’ hopes of advancing to the Guinness Pro 14 Rainbow Cup final in the Sportsground.

The 26-19 victory ensured Connacht ended a hit-and-miss season on a high as a dominant attacking opening half was complemented by a huge defensive effort in the second 40 minutes to see off their Welsh opponents.

“It was not perfect,” said coach Andy Friend, “but to beat an Ospreys side still fighting to get into the final just shows the spirit within this group.”

Ospreys had the greater motivation, but Connacht ensured they delivered the proper result in the farewell match for long-time coaches Nigel Carolan and Jimmy Duffy.

Both sides contributed to an exciting, end-to-end game, but in a strong opening it was Connacht who bagged a try bonus point by the 32nd minute, dominated both territory and possession.

The first try arrived within nine minutes when scrumhalf Caolin Blade set up hooker Shane Delahunt to mark his 100th cap with the touchdown, and Jack Carty converted the sideline kick. Within five minutes, Ospreys’ openside Morgan Morris opened their account, capitalising on a penalty to touch and drive.

However, Connacht bagged try number two after Ben O’Donnell secured the restart, and once again scrumhalf Blade was influential with a perfectly timed kick-through for Connacht’s new Lion Bundee Aki to claim the touchdown.

The third arrived four minutes later. The pack made the hard yards through Eoghan Masterson and Cian Prendergast before Ultan Dillane broke through, and Carty added this third conversion for a 21-5 lead.

The see-saw nature of the game continued. The Welsh visitors continued to use their muscle up front, and reaped the reward with a Sam Parry try, with outhalf Stephen Myler adding the extras. At the other end a superb pass from Carty provided left wing Peter O’Sullivan with Connacht’s fourth try.

But when Friend’s side lost Dominic Robertson-McCoy to the sin-bin, Parry added his second try, converted by Myler, narrowing the gap at half-time to 26-19.

The Welsh side, with a superb lineout, took control after the break, and were helped by Connacht’s concession of a series of penalties. As a result Connacht struggled to gain any forward momentum, but their aggressive and spirited defence kept the visitors scoreless going into the final 10 minutes.

It took a huge Sullivan tackle and turnover by Kieran Marmion to provide some relief for Connacht with seven minutes remaining, and then another big turnover from Sam Arnold to secure a merited victory at home to end a solid SCORING SEQUENCE – 9 mins: Delahunt try, Carty con 7-0; 14: Morris try 7-5; 15: Aki try, Carty con 14-5; 21: Dillane try, Carty con 21-5; 24: Parry try, Myler con 21-12; 30: Sullivan try 26-12; 40:Parry try, Myler con 26-19. HT 26-19.

CONNACHT: A Wootton; P Sullivan, B Aki, T Daly, B O’Donnell; J Carty, C Blade; J Duggan, S Delahunt, D Robertson-McCoy; N Murray, U Dillane; C Prendergast, JButler (capt), E Masterson.

Replacements: J Aungier for Butler (40 mins); M Burke for Duggan (H/T); J Butler for Aungier (48), J Aunger for Robertson McCoy, S Masterson for E Masterson and O Dowling for Murray (all 58),K Marmion for Blade, J Murphy for Delahunt, S Arnold for Daly (all 68).

Yellow card: D Robertson-McCoy (40 mins).

OSPREYS: D Evans; D Cross, T Thomas-Wheeler, J Hawkins, L Morgan; S Myler, R Webb (capt); N Smith, S Parry, T Botha; A Beard, B Davies; W Griffiths, M Morris, E Roots.

Replacements: G Thomas for Smith and M Fia for Botha ( both 46 mins), G Thomas for Smith and T Davies for B Davis (both 55), S Cross for E Roots, R Morgan-Williams for Webb, L Price for Myler and Nagy for Morgan (all 69).

Yellow card: R Webb (7 mins).

Referee: Mike Adamson (SFU).

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