Connacht's bid for a clean sweep of home victories over the Welsh regions came undone on Friday as the Ospreys ran in seven tries for a 44-16 win in Galway.
CELTIC LEAGUE: Friday, May 12
CONNACHT 16 OSPREYS 44, The Sportsground (Att: 1,500)
Scorers: Connacht: Try: John Hearty; Con: Mark McHugh; Pens: McHugh 3
Ospreys: Tries: Shaun Connor, Huw Bennett, Jonny Vaughton 3, Lee Beech, Sonny Parker; Cons: Gavin Henson, James Hook 3; Pen: Henson
The Ospreys ran out convincing winners - with winger Jonny Vaughton scoring a hat trick of tries - as Connacht slumped to their second successive defeat at the Sportsground. Michael Bradley's men face Glasgow in their final League game at the Sportsground on May 28 (kick-off 6.30pm).
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Lyn Jones' side moved closer to Heineken Cup qualification as winger Vaughton (3), out-half Shaun Connor, hooker Huw Bennett, replacement flanker Lee Beech and Wales centre Sonny Parker all crossed the Connacht whitewash.
The win saw Wales Under-21 fly half James Hook, who will travel to Argentina with the senior squad next month, make his first appearance for the Ospreys since September 2004. Connacht winger Darren Yapp was making his 100th appearance for the province, and he twice went close to marking the occasion with a try as the hosts battled back from a slow start to trail by 17-16 at the interval.
A breakway try from centre John Hearty in first half injury-time had helped the province stay in touch. Out-half Mark McHugh booted three penalties but the Ospreys mercilessly scored 27 points without reply in the second half to power clear.
The Ospreys set the ball rolling in the fourth-minute. Parker bulldozed up the Connacht line before flicking a pass for Connor to scoot in at the corner.
McHugh, backed by the wind, fired over a brace of penalties - on 8 and 13 minutes - in reply. But the classy Connor was on top form in open play and he sliced through the Connacht defence to set up Bennett's score from a close-in ruck on 23 minutes. Henson converted and four minutes later, slick hands from Jonathan Thomas, Connor and Henson sent Vaughton scurrying down the touchline for an excellent score and a 17-6 lead.
An untimely yellow card for Argentina-bound lock Alun Wyn Jones, who was sought out for pulling down a lineout, saw the Ospreys' good work undone before the break. Following another McHugh penalty, Hearty nabbed his first League try. New Zealander Gavin Williams set it up when he charged down Connor's chip and raced into the Ospreys' half - Hearty was free to collect his pass and dot down.
McHugh missed a crucial penalty just after the restart, and despite having back row Richie Pugh binned for a ruck offence, the Ospreys were in comfortable control in the second half.
Henson landed a penalty to push himself through the 600-point mark in the League. Beech (62), Vaughton (69, 72) and Parker (80) shared out the tries with Vaughton's hat trick score seeing him outpace Conor McPhillips down the left wing. Neath starlet Hook, making only his second appearance in an Ospreys shirt, converted his side's final two tries.
TIME LINE: 4 minutes - Ospreys try: Shaun Connor - 0-5; 8 mins - Connacht penalty: Mark McHugh - 3-5; 13 mins - Connacht penalty: Mark McHugh - 6-5; 23 mins - Ospreys try: Huw Bennett - 6-10; conversion: Gavin Henson - 6-12; 27 mins - Ospreys try: Jonny Vaughton - 6-17; 35 mins - Ospreys yellow card: Alun Wyn Jones; 40 mins - Connacht penalty: Mark McHugh - 9-17; 40+2 mins - Connacht try: John Hearty - 14-17; conversion: Mark McHugh - 16-17; Half-time - Connacht 16 Ospreys 17; 53 mins - Ospreys yellow card: Richie Pugh; 58 mins - Ospreys penalty: Gavin Henson - 16-20; 62 mins - Ospreys try: Lee Beech - 16-25; 69 mins - Ospreys try: Jonny Vaughton - 16-30; 72 mins - Ospreys try: Jonny Vaughton - 16-35; conversion: James Hook - 16-37; 80 mins - Ospreys try: Sonny Parker - 16-42; conversion: James Hook - 16-44; Full-time - Connacht 16 Ospreys 44
CONNACHT: David Slemen; Matt Mostyn, John Hearty, Gavin Williams, Darren Yapp; Mark McHugh, Chris Keane; Ray Hogan, John Fogarty, Stephen Knoop, David McGowan, Andrew Farley (capt), John Muldoon, Matt Lacey, Colm Rigney.
Replacements used: David Gannon for Farley (15-21 mins), Michael Swift for Farley (23), Conor McPhillips for Slemen (59), Paul Warwick for McHugh (63), Joe Merrigan for Fogarty (65). Not used: Adrian Clarke, Tom Tierney.
OSPREYS: Gavin Henson; Jonny Vaughton, Sonny Parker, Andrew Bishop, Shane Williams; Shaun Connor, Jason Spice; Duncan Jones (capt), Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Ian Evans, Jonathan Thomas, Richie Pugh, Andy Lloyd.
Replacements used: Barry Williams for Bennett (34 mins), Lee Beech for Lloyd (58), James Hook for Connor (64), Cai Griffiths for A Jones (69), Stefan Terblanche for Jason Spice, Paul James for D JoneS (both 76), Lyndon Bateman for Thomas (78)
Sin Bin: Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (35 mins), Pugh (Ospreys) (53)
Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)