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Ospreys up and running

05th September 2008 20:23

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Nikki Walker Ospreys

Great Scot: Nikki Walker scored the only try of the game

The Ospreys got their Magners League season off to a winning start with a 16-3 win over Connacht at the Sportsground on Friday.

Nikki Walker struck for the only try of the game as the Ospreys ended hosts' proud record of having won their opening league match every year since the competition began in 2001.

And it was a positive start for new Ospreys coach Sean Holley as the Welsh region won away from home in the Magners League for the first time since the 2006/07 season.

In driving wind and rain, the visitors played the conditions smartly and turned around with a 13-0 interval lead.

Connacht, with four new recruits in their line-up including half-backs Ian Keatley and Frank Murphy, struggled as they faced into the wind in the opening half.

Continuing his solid pre-season form, Ospreys number ten James Hook directed play early on although he was successful with only one of his first three penalty attempts for a fourth-minute lead.

His second attempt, from five metres inside the Connacht half, tailed away to the right but the Wales star had his radar right on target in the nineteenth minute when his beautifully weighted chip kick set up Walker's try.

With the conversion added, the Ospreys moved 10-0 ahead and Connacht's night darkened further when their new captain John Muldoon was sin-binned, near the half-hour mark, for a ruck offence.

Hook banged the resulting penalty through the uprights but Connacht staged a revival just before the break and Keatley was just wide with a penalty after some gutsy pack play.

Michael Bradley's side, with the elements at their backs, made a morale-boosting start to the second half as Keatley potted a penalty goal after Ospreys hooker Huw Bennett saw yellow.

However, with thirteen full internationals in their starting line-up, the Ospreys had more than enough experience to see out the result.

Their advantage in the contact areas and tackle situations, with Marty Holah particularly prominent, allied to an eye-catching display from U20 international Rhys Webb helped Holley's men keep ahead.

Giving away some silly penalties around rucks, Connacht's frustration clearly grew as the second half wore on.

They could not carve out any clear-cut try-scoring chances and Keatley missed with their only other kick at the posts, pushing a 67th-minute effort to the right and wide.

And the points were sewn up seven minutes from time when Hook landed his third penalty success after replacement Duncan Jones won a scrum decision.

Connacht lost Andrew Farley to the sin-bin for the closing stages and they had to be on their toes in deepest injury time to prevent Walker from scoring a breakaway try.

The scorers:

For Connacht:

Pen: Keatley

For Ospreys:

Tries: Walker

Con: Hook

Pen: Hook 3

Yellow card: Muldoon (Connacht - 27 minutes), Bennett (Ospreys - 45 minutes), Farley (Connacht - 77 minutes)

Connacht: 15 Fionn Carr, 14 Liam Bibo, 13 Gavin Duffy, 12 Keith Matthews, 11 John Hearty, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 Colm Rigney, 7 Ray Ofisa, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Andrew Farley, 4 Michael McCarthy, 3 Robbie Morris, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.

Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Andrew Browne, 19 Michael Swift, 20 Kieran Campbell, 21 Troy Nathan, 22 Aidan Wynne.

Ospreys: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Nikki Walker, 13 Sonny Parker, 12 Andrew Bishop, 11 Tommy Bowe, 10 James Hook, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Ryan Jones (c), 7 Marty Holah, 6 Andy Lloyd, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Cai Griffiths, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Paul James.

Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Alun-Wyn Jones, 19 Filo Tiatia, 20 Rhodri Wells, 21 Gareth Owen, 22 Shane Williams.

Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)

Touch judges: D Phillips (Ireland), P Roche (Ireland)

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