Ospreys smash Connacht
PRO14 REPORT: Ashley Beck and Hanno Dirksen scored second-half tries as Ospreys delivered a powerful five-try performance to beat Connacht 39-10 at the Liberty Stadium.
The hosts looked in the mood right from the off and first-half tries for Jeff Hassler and Dan Evans were enough to create a 20-10 half-time lead – Craig Ronaldson touching down for Connacht.
Ronaldson had converted his own try and Jack Carty struck a penalty, but Connacht were left scoreless in a second half that saw Dan Biggar take his points tally to 14 for the game.
Scott Otten, Beck and Dirksen all crossed in the second 40, boosting Ospreys up to 40 points and providing a shot in the arm for their Champions Cup chances.
The home side started in the ascendency and got on the scoreboard firstly through two penalties for flyhalf Biggar.
As Connacht looked to get back into things Ospreys struck once again, with Hassler seizing on indecision from Eoin Griffin to pick off his pass and run 80 metres for the first try of the night.
The visitors were in no mood to submit though and fought their way upfield into the Ospreys 22, the ball finding its way to flanker Jarrad Butler who drew the tackle and offloaded to replacement Ronaldson for an easy score.
Ronaldson converted but then Ospreys roared back with their second try, fullback Evans cutting a lovely angle to break the defensive line going into the 22 and then rounding the final defender.
Biggar again added the extras to make it 20-10 at the interval and after the break Carty missed a penalty opportunity by inches, with Ospreys then enjoying a spell of pressure inside the opposition 22.
On 52 minutes the repeated drives at the Connacht line had the desired effect, with Otten eventually getting the ball down at close quarters.
Biggar was on target once more and the Ospreys barrage didn't stop there, with the crucial bonus-point score coming through Biggar's pass to replacement Owen Watkin, who in turn fed Beck to touch down.
Six minutes later the Welsh region were at it again, this time passing the ball through hands out wide to Dirksen, who was just able to creep in at the corner flag to create a 39-10 lead.
Connacht did respond, and went close to a second try but a knock-on by replacement Caolin Blade three metres out curtailed their efforts.
Tries: Hassler, Evans, Otten, Beck, Dirksen
Cons: Biggar 4
Pens: Biggar 2
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Hanno Dirksen, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 James King, 7 Sam Cross, 6 Guy Mercer, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Morgan Morris, 21 Matthew Aubrey, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Owen Watkin.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Peter Robb, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 James Cannon, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Conor Carey, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Gavin Thornbury, 20 John Muldoon, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Darragh Leader.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Neil Hennessy (Wales)