Match Page 2017-18 - Scoreboard WP ID: 132

Match Page 2017-18 - Last Time WP ID: 133

Match Page 2017-18 - Current Standing WP: 134

Match Page 2017-18 - H2H WP: 136

Match Page 2017-18 - Last 3 Matches WP: 142

Match Page 2017-18 - Season so Far WP:141

Preview: Ospreys v Connacht

Andrew Lawton 5 Apr 2018

Two sides battling out for a Champions Cup play-off spot go head-to-head when Ospreys take on Connacht at the Liberty Stadium on Friday night.

The Irish side emerged victorious when these two sides met earlier in this season’s Guinness PRO14, winning 26-15 at Galway Sportsground in February.

But Ospreys have had an extra week’s rest for this fixture since their impressive 32-18 win over Leinster a fortnight ago, with Connacht losing in the Challenge Cup to Gloucester last weekend.

What’s at stake?

A point ahead of Connacht in Conference A, fifth-placed Ospreys also have a game in hand on their opponents and can make a big step towards a Champions Cup play-off spot with a win.

The fourth-placed teams in each Conference will play each other to decide who will play in Europe’s top club competition, but with South-African side Toyota Cheetahs ineligible to play in Europe, this will go to the fifth-placed finisher in Conference A.

Since losing to Connacht in February, Ospreys have won three games in a row, while Connacht have lost three of their four Guinness PRO14 matches since then.

Team news (Ospreys)

Ospreys have made just two changes to the side that triumphed over Leinster last time out with Olly Cracknell sidelined with a shoulder injury and Justin Tipuric away with the Wales 7s team at the Commonwealth Games.

In their place in the back row come Guy Mercer at blindside flanker and James King at No.8, with Sam Cross moving to openside flanker.

There could be a Guinness PRO14 debut for 19-year-old Morgan Morris, if he comes off the bench.

Team news (Connacht)

Flanker Jarrad Butler will captain Connacht for the first time alongside Sean O’Brien and Eoin McKeon in the back row.

Hooker Shane Delahunt and tighthead prop Conor Carey come in to the front row, in four changes in the Connacht pack, with Ultan Dillane and James Cannon starting at second row.

Peter Robb has returned from injury and comes into the midfield, while Kieran Marmion is preferred at scrum-half to Caolin Blade.

Talking points:

Ospreys interim head coach Allen Clarke: “We are at the point of the season where every game matters now.

“We respect the importance of this fixture to our aspirations for the season and understand that while the bigger picture is important we have to focus on one game at a time.

“Get too far ahead of ourselves and we’ll come unstuck.”

Connacht defence coach Peter Wilkins: “Ospreys are in the driving seat in terms of that final Champions Cup qualification spot.

“We see the season as very much alive, but we need to make sure we perform and put Ospreys under pressure on Friday.”

Key Battle – Sam Cross v Jarrad Butler

New Connacht captain Butler will be looking to lead his side to victory and may look to target the Ospreys flanker, who has played at No.8 in recent games.

Cross started at the back of the scrum in Ospreys’ last two Guinness PRO14 matches, as they defeated the Cheetahs and Leinster.

However, Butler’s exploits in his side’s Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat to Gloucester last weekend could make the Ospreys man a little fresher around the breakdown on Friday evening.

Key fact: Connacht have only won once on the road in this season’s Guinness PRO14, beating Benetton 22-19 in Treviso in February.

Did you know? Ospreys’ three-game winning streak is their best run in the Guinness PRO14 for over 12 months.

Ospreys: Dan Evans, Jeff Hassler, Kieron Fonotia, Ashley Beck, Hanno Dirksen, Dan Biggar, Tom Habberfield, Nicky Smith, Scott Otten, Dmitri Arhip, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Guy Mercer, Sam Cross, James King.

Replacements: Ifan Phillips, Rhodri Jones, Ma’afu Fia, Adam Beard, Morgan Morris, Matthew Aubrey, Sam Davies, Owen Watkin.

Connacht Rugby: Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, James Cannon, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler, Eoin McKeon.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Gavin Thornbury, John Muldoon, Caolin Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Darragh Leader.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

AR1: Andrea Piardi (FIR) AR2: Craig Evans (WRU)

TMO: Neil Hennessy (WRU)

TV: S4C

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Prices start at just €35 at www.ticketmaster.ie with tickets available to suit every experience.
To book hospitality visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/hospitality
For Travel packages visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/travel-packages
For Fanzone & Dublin 7s visit: http://www.dublin7sfestival.ie

Historical Lineup Pre Opta (sfms data) - Preview - v2

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Five-star Ospreys down Connacht

Rich Dore 6 Apr 2018

Ashley Beck and Hanno Dirksen scored second-half tries as Ospreys delivered a powerful five-try performance to beat Connacht 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 fly-half 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, full-back 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.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Prices start at just €35 at www.ticketmaster.ie with tickets available to suit every experience.
To book hospitality visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/hospitality
For Travel packages visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/travel-packages
For Fanzone & Dublin 7s visithttp://www.dublin7sfestival.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138