Cronin try not enough as Connacht let victory slip away
Connacht let a golden chance of a rare away win slip from their grasp at the Liberty Stadium yesterday. The Ospreys were let off the hook in the opening half as Connacht failed to convert several try-scoring chances when they got on top.
In the end, Connacht secured a bonus point as an excellent try from Sean Cronin hauled them back into contention in the final quarter after they looked set to leave empty-handed when trailing 19-6 after 49 minutes.
The western province trailed 11-6 at the break after an opening half where they got on top in the second quarter after early dominance from an Ospreys side who are now top of the Magners League for the first time this season.
The early pressure yielded a penalty for Dan Biggar after earlier being off target with a drop goal attempt.
Ian Keatley put Cronin away for what should have been the opening try after 13 minutes but he was nabbed short of the line as he tried to put George Naoupu over.
Keatley levelled the match with a penalty from the left a minute later but Connacht suffered a major blow after 18 minutes when Ospreys full-back Gareth Owen skirted around the Connacht cover to score down the left.
Biggar hit the post with the conversion before the Ospreys got a big break five minutes later when Naoupu charged down a clearance from Jamie Nutbrown but referee Neil Paterson did not award the try after consulting the TMO.
Four minutes later scrum-half Conor O'Loughlin made a superb break after a line-out off the top but he was tap-tackled just short of the line, before Keatley and Biggar exchanged penalties just before the break.
Connacht were hit just after the restart as Biggar landed another penalty and then went over in the left corner after good hands by Owen. But Connacht hit back with Cronin crashing over after 57 minutes.
Keatley missed the conversion but Connacht continued to press forward and he reduced the deficit to 19-14 with 18 minutes left with his third penalty.
Biggar missed the chance to extend Ospreys' lead with a long-range penalty but Connacht's hopes suffered a blow after 68 minutes when full-back Gavin Duffy was harshly penalised for not rolling away and was sent to the sin bin just a couple minutes after Ospreys lock Ian Evans returned from it.
Connacht finished strongly and Keatley left just two between them with five minutes remaining when he landed a penalty from 45 metres.
However, while Connacht kept the ball alive in the closing minutes they were unable to secure a match-winning score as the Ospreys held on.
Ospreys -- G Owen; J Vaughton, S Parker, A Beck, N Walker; D Biggar, J Nutbrown (M Phillips, h-t); R Bevington (C Mitchell, 78), R Hibbard, C Mitchell (C Griffiths, 66); I Gough (A Lloyd, 75), I Evans; T Smith (J Collins, 18), M Holah, F Tiatia.
CONNACHT -- G Duffy; T Nathan, N Ta'auso (A Wynne, 25), K Matthews, F Carr; I Keatley, C O'Loughlin (F Murphy, 60); B Wilkinson, S Cronin, R Morris (J Hagan, h-t); M Swift, B Upton (M McCarthy, h-t); J Muldoon, R Ofisa, G Naoupu.
Ref -- N Paterson (Scotland).