Connacht put in a sterling second half performance when they nearly unseated the Celtic League champions, Ospreys.
“We could have done with a bit more luck and certainly could have done with a bonus point,” observed Bradley whose side came within inches of achieving that. A late try from Matt Mostyn put Connacht within sight, but Mark McHugh’s conversion went left and wide.
So, Ospreys finished with a nine point winning margin and Connacht still have to battle on in their bid to make Europe next year.
“The focus right now is our game with Gwent Dragons next week. We won’t even think about our second leg game with Sale until after that. We need to beat Gwent, hope that we can do so with a bonus point to give us the chance to play off against an Italian side.”
Ospreys hit the ground running to establish a 22-3 lead after scoring three first half tries against the wind and only struggled when Ryan and Duncan Jones were shown yellow cards within a minute of each other. Connacht got a deserved try after five minutes of pressure. It came from Matt Lacey but Elwood was unable to convert.
Mark McHugh’s early penalty counted for little as Gavin Henson responded and then added a second penalty and two conversions to tries from Jonathon Thomas and Shane Williams. Lacey scored that late try but, at 22-8, Ospreys were in the driving seat.
But Connacht were gritty opponents. They fought hard in the early stages of the second-half and were unlucky not to score a try when Dave Slemen was pulled up short. As coach Michael Bradley introduced a raft of replacements, an errant pass from substitute Bernard Jackman might well have yielded more rewards.
Connacht actually played the better rugby in the second-half and few could have begrudged them an opportunity to overcome the deficit. The Ospreys certainly didn’t look to be in the comfort zone, and the stars like Henson looked ill at ease. It was just a pity that Connacht took so long to make their mark. They dominated the second half, looked for long periods like they could break this game but they didn’t.
They should have been awarded at least one penalty try, maybe two, but referee Iain Heard of Scotland wasn’t even at the races.
Connacht did hit back in the dying moments with a try from Mostyn but McHugh failed to kick the conversion and a bonus point went out the window. Connacht need to beat the Gwent Dragons next week, get the bonus point and hope against hope that they can qualify for the top eight of the Celtic League.
: M. Mostyn, C. McPhillips, D. Yapp, M. McHugh, D. Slemen, E. Elwood, C. Keane, R. Hogan, J. Fogarty, S. Knoop, C. Short, A. Farley (captain), M. Swift, J. O’Sullivan, M. Lacey.
. B. Jackman for Fogarty, J. Downey for Slemen, P. Warwick for Elwood (all 54), M. Carroll for Farley, M. Walls for Keane (both 65)
: G. Henson, S. Terblanche, D. Bishop, S. Parker, S. Williams, M. Jones, J. Spice, D.Jones, B. Williams (captain), A. Jones, A. Newman, J. Thomas, J. Bater, R. Jones, R. Pugh.
. I. Heard (Scotland).