Connacht have only won once in their last five Guinness PRO14 games and this weekend they welcome the in-form Ospreys to town.
PRO14 Rugby and TG4 have announced that Friday night’s Guinness PRO14 fixture between Connacht Rugby and Ospreys Rugby will be streamed live on YouTube – CLICK HERE.
The Ospreys – playing their first league game in almost exactly five years without Steve Tandy at the helm following his departure – have not won outside of Wales since March 2017.
What’s at stake? The two Conference A sides are looking to close the gap on Cardiff Blues and the Cheetahs – who also meet – in a bid for play-offs and top-flight European rugby.
Connacht have won their last six matches at the Sportsground in all tournaments since their 15-17 reversal there to Blues in the PRO14 on 23 September.
Ospreys will have a new coach at the helm, forwards coach Allen Clarke has taken charge of the team after the departure of Tandy.
Team news (Connacht) Experienced lock Andrew Browne comes back into Kieran Keane’s Connacht line up.
Also back from injury, James Cannon and Craig Ronaldson come back in to the second row and out half respectively. With Bundee Aki away on international duty, Tom Farrell and Eoin Griffin form the centre pairing. Likewise, with Kieran Marmion’s absence, Caolin Blade starts at scrum half.
Team news (Ospreys) Rob McCusker makes his 100th Championship appearance for the Ospreys who have been ransacked by injury and international call-ups.
But Sam Davies is at fly-half while Ashley Beck and Kieron Fonotia are the centre pairing.
Up front McCusker skippers the side from the back row alongside Will Jones and Olly Cracknell.
Talking points During the next block of four games, Connacht take on three of their Conference rivals, including a trip to South Africa to face the Cheetahs.
Head Coach Kieran Keane is well aware of the importance of the upcoming fixtures and the need to get off to a good start against the Ospreys. “We are up for this game, we know the importance of it”, he said.
“This is a really important block of games for us and will have a big bearing on our PRO14 season. “We have a Quarter Final in the Challenge Cup to look forward to later in the season but there is a lot of rugby to play before that, so our focus is firmly on the league at the moment”.
Interim Ospreys Head Coach, Allen Clarke, said: “We know what we need to do over the next four weeks if we want to achieve our goal of qualification for the Champions Cup next season. We have to continue the improvement in performances that we saw in December and we have to win games, it’s as simple as that.
“The qualification spot is definitely still up for grabs, it’s very tight between Cardiff, Connacht and ourselves, but it’s true that we are running out of games saw it’s important that we get the results we need.”
Key battle Tiernan O’Halloran v Dan Evans
The two full-backs have both been capped by their countries but are on the outside looking in at the moment.
Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran will be itching to make an impact with the likes of Jordan Larmour turning heads of late while in Wales, Dan Evans remains the forgotten man.
His two caps for his country came all the way back in 2009 and yet he has been consistently top of the statistical charts for the Ospreys week in and week out.
Key stat Connacht have lost all four games they have played against Welsh opposition this season.
Did you know? Ospreys have lost their last three encounters with Irish provinces and have not won in Ireland since a visit to Galway in September 2016.
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Craig Ronaldson, Caolin Blade, Denis Coulson, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey, Andrew Browne, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, Naulia Dawai, John Muldoon (Capt).
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Gavin Thornbury, James Connolly, James Mitchell, Jack Carty, Pita Ahki.
Ospreys: Dan Evans, Hanno Dirksen, Kieron Fonotia, Ashley Beck, Dafydd Howells, Sam Davies, Tom Habberfield, Rhodri Jones, Scott Otten, Dmitri Arhip, Lloyd Ashley, James King, Olly Cracknell, Will Jones, Rob McCusker
Replacements: Sam Parry, Nicky Smith, Ma’afu Fia, Guy Mercer, Sam Cross, Reuben Morgan-Williams, Luke Price, Joe Thomas
At Sportsground, Galway, 7.35pm.
Referee: Stuart Berry (SARU, 8th competition game)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, John Carvill (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Tim Lowry (IRFU)
Connacht moved up to fourth place in Conference A of the GUINNESS Pro14 after an 26-15 victory over Ospreys.
Tries by Eoghan Masterson and Tom Farrell earned Connacht a hard-fought win.
Ospreys were left to rue a series of missed chances at in Galway as they failed to convert their pressure into points.
Dafydd Howells and Reuben Morgan-Williams both touched down for the visitors, who remain sixth in the conference standings.
The visitors had plenty of possession in Connacht territory but a series of costly spilled passes and penalties prevented them from scoring on several occasions.
After they had weathered an early Ospreys attack, the home side took the lead in the 10th minute.
Craig Ronaldson’s first penalty attempt struck the post but Connacht scrambled quickly to regain the ball and earn another chance for their fly-half to put them ahead.
It was Ospreys who scored the opening try as winger Dafydd Howells did well to finish in the corner in the 18th minute following sustained pressure on the Connacht line.
Ronaldson kicked Connacht back into the lead five minutes later before the Irish province plundered a try just before half-time.
Eoghan Masterson managed to force his way over the line following good work from his pack and Ronaldson converted with the final kick before the break.
The Welsh side’s hopes of overturning an eight-point deficit were severely dented in the 53rd minute when Hanno Dirksen was sin-binned for a late hit on Connacht scrum-half Caoilin Blade and Ronaldson landed the resulting penalty.
The home side increased their lead with their second try, which was created and finished by Farrell, to effectively seal the result.
Substitute Morgan-Williams grabbed a consolation score but Ronaldson made sure of the result with a late penalty that was brought into his range after the Ospreys were penalised for dissent.
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie
08 Feb 2018
08 Feb 2018