Connacht’s home run continues as Ospreys put to the sword
Craig Ronaldson was on form from the tee to ensure the home side made it seven wins in a row in Galway
Connacht’s Caolin Blade makes a break during their Pro14 meeting with Ospreys. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Connacht 26 Ospreys 15
Connacht secured another valuable home win on Friday to stretch their lead over Ospreys in the Pro14 championship and claim their seventh successive Sportsground win.
Kieran Keane’s side made full use of home advantage, proving more efficient with limited possession against an Ospreys side that dominated many facets of the game. However Connacht’s two tries and 16 points from the boot of outhalf Craig Ronaldson ensured the home side prevailed to put some more distance between themselves and the chasing Welsh outfit.
Ospreys new coach Allan Clarke was understandably frustrated – the “one that got away”, he said of his side’s failure to capitalise on possession, particularly in an opening half that concluded with Connacht ahead by 13-5.
“Thrilled with the result ,but a pretty scratchy performance. The try at half time was compelling, and it bouyed us at the break,” said Kieran Keane.
The home side had opened their tally after 10 minutes when outhalf Craig Ronaldson potted a penalty after an earlier effort hit off the upright, but lost some momentum when losing both fullback Tiernan O’Halloran, hamstring, and Andrew Browne, suspected shoulder, early on.
Ospreys established a foothold in the game soon after blocking down an attempt Connacht clearance, and were content to go through the phases before left wing Da Howells crossed after 19 minutes, with outhalf Sam Davies wide with the conversion.
Connacht replied almost immediately with a second Ronaldson three-pointer, but thereafter the Swansea outfit continued to dominate. Although asking questions of Connacht under the high ball as they dominated both territory and possession, they were unable to bridge a resolute home side.
A penalty to touch gave Connacht some vital field position at the close of the half, and they made the Ospreys pay for their lack of discipline. From a second penalty to touch, Ospreys were able to stymie the attempted maul, but the Connacht pack continued pick and go until Eoghan Masterson forced his way through, with Ronaldson nailing the conversion to give Connacht a somewhat fortuitous 13-5 half-time lead.
Connacht weathered an early second-half siege from the visitors, whose lack of discipline once again proved costly. Right wing Hanno Dirksen was yellow carded for a late tackle on Caolan Blade, and Ronaldson made no mistake to stretch Connacht’s lead to 16-5.
Ospreys, however, continued to stretch Connacht, forcing an opportunity to close the gap with a 57th minute penalty. Outhalf Sam Davies was wide with his 35 metre effort, but he made no mistake five minutes later, reducing the arrears to 16-8. But Connacht, with limited territorial control, sealed the victory in the 68th minute when centre Tom Farrell stepped inside his opposite number to race in for try number two, and Ronaldson’s conversion put the home side in front 23-8.
Ospreys were rewarded for a try in the 71st minute when replacement scrumhalf Williams Rueben Morgan crossed, but there was no respite when Ronaldson kicked his fourth penalty for Connacht’s fifth Pro 14 win.
CONNACHT: T O’Halloran, E Griffin, T Farrell, M Healy, C Ronaldson, C Blalde, D Coulson, T McCrtney, C Carey,A Browne, J Cannon, E Masterson, N Dawai, J Muldoon (c).
Replacements: for O’Halloran, G Thornbury for Browne (15m), D Robertson-McCoy for Carey, P McCabe for Coulson, T McCartney for Coulson (al 60m), J Mitchell for Blade (70m), J Carty for Farrell (72), J Connolly for Masterson (75).
OSPREYS: D Evans, H Dirksen, K Fonotia, A Beck, D Howells, S Davies, T Habberfield, R Jones, S Otten, D Arhip, L Ashley, J King, O Cracknell, W Jones, R McCusker (c).
Replacements: S Cross for W Jones (47) N Smith for R Jones, S Parry for Otten, and J Thomas for Howells (50m), T Morgan-Willians for Habberfielfd and F Ma’afu for S Arhip (both 58m), G Mercer for Lloyd (72).
Referee: Stuart Berry (SARU).