The Ospreys’ hopes of qualifying for the Rainbow Cup final were ended as they fell to defeat to Connacht in Galway.
In the epitome of a game of two halves, a wild opening half consisting of 45 points was followed by an entirely scoreless second 40 minutes as Toby Booth’s side saw their hopes of a potential final against South African opposition vanish at the Sportsground.
In the end, a lack of accuracy and discipline proved costly for the Ospreys – who had chosen to rest Lions squad members Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric for the trip to Ireland.
The first-half ended up taking just under 49 minutes without even accounting for stoppages and most of those minutes were used wisely in rugby terms.
The scoring see-sawed as the home side continually forged ahead of Ospreys mistakes, only for Booth’s side to respond well.
It began with a scintillating move from Connacht’s own line that forced Rhys Webb to cynically infringe, resulting in a yellow card.
The hosts doled out the punishment immediately, with Shane Delahunt crossing for the opening score from the resulting linout.
Booth’s team hit back straight away, with their devastating driving maul being stopped just short – only for Morgan Morris to force his way over.
The Ospreys failed to back up their score with a clean exit, knocking the kick-off forward and gifting Connacht the chance to score – with the hosts not needing a second invitation to kick to the space behind for Lions centre Bundee Aki to score.
More errors from the Welsh side handed the Galway province more attacking position and influential second-row Ultan Dillane did well to contort his body through the tackle to score Connacht’s third.
Again though, the reply was quick from the Ospreys. Another attacking lineout saw Sam Parry burrow his way over to cut the deficit.
Shortly after the half-hour mark though, Connacht crossed for their bonus point try – with Peter Sullivan squeezing over in the corner after a far-flung pass from fly-half Jack Carty.
The Ospreys were determined not to go into the sheds without the final word. Relentless scrum pressure pushed the clock well into the red, saw home tight-head Dominic Robertson-McCoy sent to the sin-bin and, eventually, laid the platform for Parry to force his way over for what felt like a crucial score.
The second-half was a tighter, tetchier affair – with referee Mike Adamson struggling to keep matters in check at times as both set of players grew in frustration over decisions at the breakdown.
The Ospreys thought they were level shortly after the break, when young centre Joe Hawkins burst through in midfield and just about got over the try-line. However, there was a second movement in the act of scoring from the impressive 18-year-old so the score was chalked off.
Connacht then had a chance to move further, only for the usually faultless boot of Carty to push a simple kick wide.
The Ospreys pushed to the last but ultimately there was to be no troubling of the scorers in the second-half – ending their hopes of qualifying for the final.
Connacht – Tries: S.Delahunt, B. Aki, U. Dillane, P. Sullivan; Cons: J. Carty (3).
Ospreys – Tries: M. Morris, S. Parry (2); Cons: S. Myler (2).
Connacht: Alex Wootton; Peter Sullivan, Bundee Aki, Tom Daly, Ben O’Donnell; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Jordan Duggan, Shane Delahunt, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Niall Murray, Ultan Dillane, Cian Prendergast, Jarrad Butler (capt), Eoghan Masterson.
Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Matthew Burke, Jack Aungier, Oisin Dowling,Sean Masterson, Kieran Marmion, Conor Fitzgerald, Sammy Arnold.
Ospreys: Dan Evans; Dewi Cross, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Joe Hawkins, Luke Morgan; Stephen Myler, Rhys Webb (capt), Nicky Smith, Sam Parry, Tom Botha, Adam Beard, Bradley Davies, Will Griffiths, Morgan Morris, Ethan Roots.
Replacements: Ifan Phillips, Gareth Thomas, Ma’afu Fia, Rhys Davies, Sam Cross, Reuben Morgan-Williams, Luke Price, Max Nagy.
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)