Sunday 15 December 2019

Outclassed Connacht sign off on low note

Ospreys 45 Connacht 20

10 May 2014; Darragh Leader, Connacht, breaks through the defence of Jeff Hassler, Ospreys. Celtic League 2013/14, Round 22, Ospreys v Connacht, Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales. Picture credit: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE
10 May 2014; Darragh Leader, Connacht, breaks through the defence of Jeff Hassler, Ospreys. Celtic League 2013/14, Round 22, Ospreys v Connacht, Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales. Picture credit: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE
10 May 2014; Ian Evans, Ospreys, takes a lineout ball ahead of Mike Kearney, Connacht. Celtic League 2013/14, Round 22, Ospreys v Connacht, Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales. Picture credit: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE
10 May 2014; Matt Healy, Connacht, is tackled by Hanno Dirksen, left, and Andrew Bishop, Ospreys. Celtic League 2013/14, Round 22, Ospreys v Connacht, Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales. Picture credit: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE
10 May 2014; Caolin Blade, Connacht, is tackled by Tito Tebaldi, Ospreys. Celtic League 2013/14, Round 22, Ospreys v Connacht, Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales. Picture credit: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE
10 May 2014; Tito Tebaldi, Ospreys, kicks the ball away under pressure from John Muldoon and Conor Gilsenan, Connacht. Celtic League 2013/14, Round 22, Ospreys v Connacht, Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales. Picture credit: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE
10 May 2014; Connacht captain John Muldoon punches the air as his side score under the posts for their second try of the match. Celtic League 2013/14, Round 22, Ospreys v Connacht, Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales. Picture credit: Steve Pope / SPORTSFILE

Connacht ended their RaboDirect Pro12 campaign on a disappointing note as they slid to a fifth-straight defeat in Swansea.

Just a month ago Pat Lam's side were within sight of European qualification but a tough run-in has seen them slide to a ninth-place finish.

They registered tries through full-back Darragh Leader, prop Dennis Buckley and flanker Conor Gilsenan, while fly-half Miah Nikora knocked over a penalty and a conversion. But they were overpowered by an Ospreys side hurting after seeing their play-off aspirations dashed by Zebre in Italy last week.

There were six tries for the hosts thanks to an Ashley Beck brace plus further scores from Jeff Hassler, Alun-Wyn Jones, Nicky Smith and Dan Baker. Wales No 10 Dan Biggar added 15 points from the tee.

Connacht had started encouragingly, having the edge in the early scrums and forcing a fourth-minute penalty, which Nikora put between the uprights.

But once the Ospreys found their stride it began to look ominous. Wing Hassler had already blown a certain score by cutting inside instead of waiting in space on the outside to receive a scoring pass from Justin Tipuric when the Canadian wing went over for the first try.

A Connacht set-piece move was easily shut down and home flanker Sam Lewis did the stealing work on the floor to allow Hassler to sprint away, evade the covering Leader and score in the corner.

To their credit the visitors responded in short order, Nikora spotting Danie Poolman in oceans of room with a cross-kick, and Leader getting over in the right-hand corner.

Back came the Ospreys with Beck finishing off some smart handling in the corner, and Wales lock Jones battering over from close range.

Buckley's well-worked try from a rolling maul on half-time did at least trim Connacht's deficit to 24-15 at the break, but they were on the back foot again when Beck spotted a cavernous gap in the defence to go under the posts.

Prop Smith was soon burrowing over for his first Ospreys try and an uncomfortable final quarter seemed to await the visitors.

But Gilsenan did well to get over out wide after a period of sustained pressure, and some good scrambling defence ensured Baker's powerful surge was the last score of the game.

Scorers – Ospreys: J Hassler, A Beck 2, AW Jones, N Smith, D Baker tries; Biggar 6 cons, pen. Connacht: Leader, Buckley, Gilsenan tries, Nikora con, pen

Ospreys – S Davies; H Dirksen, A Beck, A Bishop (J Spratt 59), J Hassler (A Natoga 64); D Biggar, T Habberfield (T Tebaldi 71); N Smith (M Thomas 61), S Baldwin (S Otten 62), A Jarvis (A Jones 47), AW Jones, I Evans (T Ardron 51), S Lewis, J Tipuric (J Bearman 62), D Baker.

Connacht – D Leader; D Poolman, E Griffin, D McSharry (R Henshaw 48), M Healy; M Nikora (D Parks 64), K Marmion (C Blake 71); D Buckley (F Bealham 73), D Heffernan (J Dinneen 78), R Loughney (R Ah You 32-39, 45), A Muldowney (E McKeon 53), M Kearney (M Swift 62), A Browne, C Gilsenan, J Muldoon.

Referee: Andrew McMenemy (SRU)

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