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Connacht v Ospreys. Rainbow Cup R5.

The Ospreys made the short trip to Galway’s Sports Ground to take on Connacht in Round 5 of the Rainbow Cup, knowing that a win could see them challenge for top spot in the Table. Coach Booth continued with his mix’n’match selection and rested his B&I Lions – AWJ and Tipuric.

The game kicked off in challenging conditions as both sides struggled in the opening exchanges. The first chance of the game came after a Stephen Myler kick was poorly chased by the Ospreys and this allowed Connacht to break up the field and into the Ospreys’ 22. As their scrum half went to play the quick ruck ball, Ospreys captain Rhys Webb instinctively stuck out a hand and was immediately penalised for a deliberate knock on and he was also shown a yellow card. Connacht kicked the penalty to touch and set up a maul from the resulting lineout and the hooker crashed over for the game’s opening try on 8 minutes. A superb touch line conversion added the extra 2 points and Connacht led 7-0.

Minutes later, it was the Ospreys with a penalty that Myler kicked deep into the Connacht 22. Adam Beard took the lineout and set up a maul and after a second effort, Morgan Morris was able to force himself and the ball over the line for a try. The conversion sailed wide and after 12 minutes, Connacht led 7-5.

From the restart, the Ospreys failed to cleanly take the ball and Connacht had a knock-on advantage. They went through a couple of phases before a clever kick through the Ospreys defence saw their centre dot the ball down over the line for Connacht’s second try of the game. The conversion was again successful and after 14 minutes, Connacht now led 14-5. Both tries had come as a result of some dreadfully poor tackling from some Ospreys players.

Connacht would score a third converted try minutes later after going through several phases with more poor defence on show from the Ospreys and after 21 minutes, the lead was now 21-5.

The Ospreys scrum was one positive on the night and it won a penalty that Myler again kicked to touch to set up another driving maul. The backs joined in the drive and Sam Parry powered his way over for the Ospreys’ second try of the game. Myler added the extras and after 24 minutes it was Connacht leading by 21-12.

The Ospreys defence again went missing when Connacht scored their 4th and Bonus Point try of the game after some clever play by their scrum half and after 30 minutes, Connacht now led 26-12 when the conversion was missed.

The Ospreys then made a great break and then Dan Evans made a cardinal error by bombing a simple 2 on 1 overlap as he held onto the ball into contact when it was easier to pass the ball and he ended up knocking the ball on, giving Connacht a scrum. The Ospreys pack put on an amazing shove at that scrum and drove the Connacht pack off the ball and won a penalty. The scrum was reset and reset, and the Ospreys were playing under a penalty advantage when the referee showed the Connacht tight head prop a yellow card. The Ospreys tried to drive the scrum over the line, but some resolute Connacht defence kept them at bay until Parry crossed for his second try of the game. Myler added the extras and after 48 minutes Connacht led 26-19.

What an amazing first half as 7 tries were scored, and defence seemed absent from both teams.

The second half was a much cagey affair as the conditions worsened.

The Ospreys had the best chances to score but their driving maul just could not power its way over the try line despite the best efforts of the Ospreys players.

Joe Hawkins made a great line break and forced the ball over the line but inexplicably the referee disallowed the try saying that Hawkins had rolled over the line. It was a very harsh decision that certainly impacted on the second half tactics of the Ospreys as they pushed for the BP win that would see them top the table.

The Ospreys would win a penalty and the kick to touch would either miss touch or be too far out for an effective driving maul and the Ospreys lacked the guile in attack to break down a solid Connacht defence.

Compared to a first half that saw 7 tries, the second half was poor as mistake after mistake from both teams denied any continuity in play.

With time running out the Ospreys pushed for the BP try but their efforts came to nothing when they knocked the ball on, and Connacht kicked the ball off the pitch and into the stand. The referee blew the final whistle, and the game was over.

This was a game that the Ospreys could and should have won had their defence and tackling been up to scratch. The Ospreys will now take on table toppers, Benneton next week at Bridgend and with nothing left to play for, the Ospreys will want to end their season on a high with a win.

Final Score – Connacht 26 Ospreys 19.

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