Monday 26 September 2016

Champions Connacht slumping to an early crisis

Connacht 11 Ospreys 32

Dave Kelly

Published 11/09/2016 | 02:30

A dejected Bundee Aki of Connacht. Photo: Sportsfile
A dejected Bundee Aki of Connacht. Photo: Sportsfile

No hiding place now for the champions. When Jack Carty slotted a penalty on the hour, his side led 11-10; they had taken their time getting there but they had got there nonetheless.

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That they ended up failing to prevent a second visiting side in successive weeks securing a try bonus reflects how the champions are already spiralling into a mini-crisis after a calamitous pre-season has been followed by two humbling drubbings.

Connacht's Bundee Aki of Connacht in action against Ospreys' Rhys Webb. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Connacht's Bundee Aki of Connacht in action against Ospreys' Rhys Webb. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Ospreys were also minus a man midway through the second-half, compounding the sense of self-destruction; two Rhys Webb tries, Jeff Hassler and Tyler Ardron out-gunned a home side whose only response was from James Connolly.

Ospreys took their chances well and were offered a willing hand in doing so; Connacht fluffed too many to confirm any return to the rude health of last season. Only week two but worrying signs.

A trip to Italy next week will provide an opportunity for introspection and, at least, a win.

On a dry track, both sides were intent on playing top of the ground rugby, Connacht seeking the wide channels as swiftly as possible, Ospreys staying closer to the ruck.

Ospreys' Josh Matavesi is tackled by Connacht's Bundee Aki . Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Ospreys' Josh Matavesi is tackled by Connacht's Bundee Aki . Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

The early pressure paid dividends for the visitors when Sam Davies gave his side a fifth minute lead. Ospreys owned the ball and, with 15 minutes gone, Connacht had already made 46 tackles - and more worryingly had missed six; Ospreys, for their part, had only been asked to make six.

Carty levelled the score, but the inevitable try arrived from a stout five-metre scrum; Tyler Ardron picked from the base, Webb fed Sam Davies and he trundled over Carty for the seven-pointer; 10-3 on the half-hour.

Connacht's response to this set-back was as impressive as it had been to the first but they failed to gain any reward for it. and went to the break still trailing

As the floodlights beamed for the second act, Connacht's verve remained undimmed as they renewed their assault in a display far removed from last week's error-strewn opening day defeat.

Finally, breathlessly, the pressure told and it was a wonderful all-court try which allowed Connolly to saunter over untouched to give Connacht the lead, 11-10, for the first time in the 58th minute.

That, however, was as good as it got. Next week's relief in Zebre can't come quickly enough.

Scorers - Connacht: McKeon try; Carty 2 pens. Ospreys: Webb 2 tries, Ardron, Hassler try each; S Davies 2 pens, 3 cons

Connacht: T O'Halloran; N Adeolokun (D Poolman 66 (D Poolman 74)), E Griffin, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty (S O'Leary 66), K Marmion (C Blade 68); R Loughney (JP Cooney 61), T McCartney, F Bealham (D Robertson-McCoy 77); U Dillane, D Qualter (L Stevenson 69); E McKeon, J Connolly (R Moloney 69), J Muldoon capt.

Ospreys: D Evans; J Hassler, B John, J Matavesi, E Walker (T Habberfield 74); S Davies, R Webb capt; N Smith (P James 56), S Parry (S Baldwin 66), D Arhip (M Fia 56), B Davies (R Thornton 54), R Thornton (L Ashley 44), O Cracknell (J King 61), J Tipuric, T Ardron (YC 52-62)

Referee: B Whitehouse (WRU)

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