Reality check for Connacht in bad loss to Welsh hosts

Full back Tiernan O'Halloran, one of a number of Connacht players struggling for his best form.
Full back Tiernan O'Halloran, one of a number of Connacht players struggling for his best form.

Ospreys 22

Connacht 17

REALITY can be a hard hitting concept if it sneaks up on you. Friday was a day of reckoning for Connacht in the Welsh town of Bridgend. The Ospreys were out of their usual home at the Liberty Stadium and missing eight Welsh internationals. The visitors arrived at full strength and the perception around the men in green was that they would show their superiority over the 80 minutes.

Cory Allen’s last minute break and the subsequent try from Dan Evans – after a television match official review – created some heart stopping drama at the very end and secured not only the win for the hosts but a four try bonus point for good measure. In terms of getting one over their rivals, the Ospreys had done that and more. This was a body blow that will be hard to recover from in the race for the top three spots in the pool.

It was more than than that though, it was a reality check for those who follow the Westerners. Leaving aside all the errors and mis-steps in the game, Connacht were just not good enough here. The hosts had better players in key positions, a better grasp of what they were each trying to achieve, a more refined gameplan and lots more composure and leadership.

This game was a real marker in the sand and it looked like Connacht were fluffing their lines early on as they conceded two tries (both scored by emerging young Welsh star Keelan Giles) in the first 15 minutes, yet it was more than just mistakes that were at play here, the hosts were in superb form in those early stages, powering through Connacht and scoring two tries with minimal fuss.

By half time it was 10-3. Connacht had managed to come away with nothing from three visits to the home 22, so despite a change in momentum, the lead remained in Ospreys hands. After half time, things got worse for the visitors ironically after Rob McCusker was sin binned for a high tackle. Far from taking the initiative, Connacht recoiled and the hosts attacked with Cory Allen getting their third try while down a man to stretch the lead to 14 points.

All that made the final 15 minutes all the more perplexing as suddenly nerves took over the hosts and the bench impact belonged to Connacht. Caolin Blade, Kyle Godwin and Shane Delahunt each made a difference and Connacht soon had tries. Two in the space of five minutes, both off the back of lineout and mauls with Bundee Aki on the back of one and Jared Butler crashing over for the other with Carty’s conversion locking the sides at 17 all.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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