Connacht sitting pretty at summit

Date published: February 27 2016

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Connacht moved six points clear at the PRO12 summit after they won an enthralling fixture against the Ospreys 30-22 on Saturday.

Two tries within the first ten minutes from Bundee Aki and AJ MacGinty gave Connacht the best possible start, but they were pegged back before the break through Ben John and Dan Baker.

Matt Healy put the home side further ahead in the second-half, though Rhys Webb immediately pegged them back.

It was an action-packed first 40 minutes at the Sportsground, with 32 points shared at the interval.

In the worst possible start for the visitors, they fell to the opening try after just the first attack. Aki went over for it almost straight from the kick off, capitalising on a knock on and going over after the ball broke out of the scrum. Craig Ronaldson's conversion made it 7-0 before the scoreboard had even warmed up properly.

Sam Davies cut that lead to four almost instantly, kicking through with the first penalty of the night as the visitors bounced back within two minutes.

But the narrow gap lasted barely any time, as a rampant Connacht went over for try number two on ten minutes. MacGinty it was who snuck inside the left corner, Niyi Adeolokun feeding the USA international. Ronaldson converted superbly to ensure an early 13 point gap had been formed.

But after what was an incredible beginning, Ospreys did pull themselves into the game. It took only three more minutes before they got themselves into the try scoring groove as John was the finisher to a slick passing move which saw Connacht cut open. Davies couldn't drag his side to double figures, seeing his conversion cannon back off the posts.

But within the next ten minutes, an incredible first 25 minutes saw the game turn on its head. Baker went through for try number two after Ospreys went through the motions, eventually finding a gap after a couple of fine last ditch tackles momentarily denied the Welsh side. Davies converted, giving his team a one point advantage.

Such was the unpredictability of this first-half, Connacht stole it back within two more minutes. Ronaldson marked his 50th appearance with three more points, and a rare ten minute scoreless spell saw the hosts go in 17-15 to the good.

The hosts dominated the first ten minutes of the second-half, though they couldn't extend their lead thanks to some stern defending metres from the Ospreys line.

But eventually the wall was broken down as Connacht stretched the scoreline a little more. After turning possession over at the line out, Ronaldson slipped the ball into Healy, and he did the rest after averting a couple of challenges. Ronaldson converted again, with the lead now up to nine.

But yet again Ospreys emerged from conceding to going right up the other end. Webb it was who grabbed the sixth try of the night, flying under the posts and instantly seeing Davies send over a simple conversion.

Davies thought he'd gone from two pointers to fives when he crossed the line as the clock ran down. But the TMO deemed he made a double movement thanks to a timely Kieran Marmion challenge.

Ronaldson was again on hand moments later to keep Connacht ticking over, taking them up to 30 points with another penalty. And despite late pressure, another eight point gap was too much for Ospreys to claw back, and Connacht made it five wins on the bounce against an Ospreys side who have now lost two in ten games.

The scorers:

For Connacht:
Tries: Aki, MacGinty, Healy
Con: Ronaldson 3
Pen: Ronaldson 3

For Ospreys:
Tries: John, Baker, Webb
Con: Davies 2
Pen: Davies

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Matt Healy, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 John Muldoon (c), 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 George Naoupu, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ben Marshall, 20 James Connolly, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Peter Robb, 23 Danie Poolman

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Ben John, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 James King, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Paul James (c)
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Jordan Collier, 21 Brendon Leonard, 22 Owen Watkin, 23 Eli Walker

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Andy Brace (Ireland), John Carvill (Ireland)
Television match official: Jude Quinn (Ireland)

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