Ospreys climb to the top
REPORT: A comfortable 29-7 bonus point victory over Connacht helped Ospreys climb to the summit of the Pro 12 table on Saturday.
Ospreys moved to the top of the table with a bonus point 29-7 victory over Connacht at the Liberty Stadium. Dan Baker and Olly Cracknell both got tries early in the first half, with Nicky Smith adding a third after the break for the home side.
Sean O'Brien got a consolation score for Connacht but Ashley Beck grabbed the bonus point score in the final moments of the game despite a yellow card for Sam Davies.
Ospreys raced out of the blocks and opened the scoring in the 12th minute when No.8 Baker charged over after Hanno Dirksen, on his 100th appearance for the club, was stopped just short. Davies converted and barely two minutes later, flank Cracknell doubled the home side's lead as he powered through the Connacht defence.
The Ospreys flyhalf was once again on target with the conversion as the home side dominated the early exchanges.
With half an hour played, Ospreys nearly had their third try as Welsh international Justin Tipuric squeezed over in the corner but the TMO confirmed Matt Healy had taken the flank into touch.
Davies extended the lead with a 30-metre penalty four minutes into the second half to move past 500 points scored for the South Wales club. The young flyhalf joins teammate Dan Biggar, Gavin Henson and James Hook in an exclusive group to have achieved the feat for Ospreys.
A Tom Habberfield break saw Ospreys on their way to their third try, as a penalty for the hosts was sent into the corner with prop Nicky Smith eventually driving over from close range. And it was Davies again who continued his perfect afternoon from the tee with his third successful conversion of the afternoon.
Connacht replacement Danie Poolman came closest to the Ospreys try line with 10 minutes to play as he attempted to latch onto John Cooney's kick but Dafydd Howells' tackle denied him the score.
Davies was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Cooney in the build up and Connacht's pressure paid off as O'Brien pounced on a loose ball to touch down in the corner.
It was the first try Ospreys had conceded since Edinburgh on December 2 and it was converted from the touchline by Cooney. But there was still time for Beck to snatch what could be a vital bonus point, as he dived over with the last play of the game.
Tries: Baker, Cracknell, Smith, Beck
Cons: Davies 3
Yellow card: Sam Davies (Ospreys, 70)
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Dafydd Howells, 13 Ashley Beck, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Hanno Dirksen, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Olly Cracknell, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Paul James, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Brendon Leonard, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Kieron Fonotia.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Rory Parata, 12 Peter Robb, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 John Cooney, 8 Naulia Dawai, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 James Cannon, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney (captain), 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 JP Cooney, 18 John Andress, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Eoin McKeon, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Danie Poolman, 23 Ciaran Gaffney.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Gary Conway (Ireland), Dewi Phillips (Wales)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)