Connacht's bid for their first Celtic League win in six games faltered in controversial circumstances on Friday as replacement Shaun Connor kicked a last-gasp penalty for an 18-17 Ospreys win.
CELTIC LEAGUE: Friday, October 14
Ospreys 18 Connacht 17, Swansea Stadium (Att: 5,511)
Scorers: Ospreys: Pens: Shaun Connor 5, Matthew Jones
Connacht: Try: Keith Matthews; Pens: Paul Warwick 4
Better performance, worse luck. That about sums up how Connacht players and supporters alike saw Friday's league trip to Swansea.
Scottish referee Rob Dickson might have to cancel any proposed stop overs he has in Galway anytime soon after he gave the Ospreys a ridiculous 82nd-minute penalty, which was gleefully slotted over by replacement Shaun Connor, for time-wasting on Connacht's behalf.
One Welsh journalist dubbed the manner in which Connacht lost by a single point, "a complete and utter disgrace." Dickson's fussiness had already robbed the game of any continuity - the reigning champions had scored all of their 15 points from penalties before Connor held his nerve to kick the match-winner.
The penalty incident had arisen from a failed place kick from Connor moments earlier. It tailed wide and Connacht lock Christian Short gathered the ball in before touching it down, admittedly a little slowly, in the in-goal area for a 22 drop out. Connacht dallied on the restart kick, and Dickson was having none of it - he blew his whistle for time-wasting and for a penalty for the Ospreys.
Connacht, who beat the Ospreys 10-9 last November at the Gnoll, scored the game's only try and operated a mean defence which continuously held a star-studded Ospreys backline that included debutant Adrian Cashmore, the former All Black at full back and Wales and Lions winger Shane Williams, who was making his seasonal debut after time out with groin trouble, at bay.
The losing bonus point was scant consolation for coach Michael Bradley and his squad as they now lie five points adrift of the Dragons, who have a game in hand on the westerners, at the bottom of the league table.
The sloppy Ospreys, beaten in their last four games, were 9-3 down at half-time as Connacht fly half Paul Warwick drilled over three penalties to his opposite number Matthew Jones's one.
Warwick, who was linking well with Connacht's young midfield tandem of John Hearty (22) and Keith Matthews (23), sandwiched his fourth effort in on 50 minutes, in between a quick hat-trick from replacement Connor.
The Welsh Region got it back to 12-12 through Connor's third penalty and just before Connacht lost lock Christian Short to a yellow card on 64 minutes. The resultant place kick from Connor sailed over and Connacht were being overhauled.
Somehow they summoned the power and pace from their young backline to go up the field and net what looked a crucial try from centre Matthews on 73 minutes. A Darren Yapp break from halfway set up the case and the former UL Bohs man took it with two hands, racing clear for his second try in as many games.
Warwick was unfortunately wide with the conversion attempt but Connacht looked like they would hold on at 17-15 up. Somehow, the Ospreys, who were booed by their own fans after the full-time whistle, took their chance from Connor's late penalty for a undeserved turnaround.
OSPREYS: Adrian Cashmore: Damien Karauna, Andrew Bishop, Leigh Davies, Shane Williams; Matthew Jones (Shaun Connor half-time), Jason Spice; Duncan Jones, Barry Williams (Capt) (Huw Bennett 57), Adam Jones, Brent Cockbain (Andy Newman 56), Ian Evans, Jonathan Thomas, Steve Tandy (Lee Beach 47), Andy Lloyd.
CONNACHT: Matt Mostyn (Daniel Riordan 71); Darren Yapp, John Hearty (ted Robinson 53), Keith Matthews, Conor McPhillips; Paul Warwick, Conor O'Loughlin (Chris Keane 64); Ray Hogan (Ronan Loughney 66), Joe Merrigan (John Fogarty 55), Stephen Knoop, Christian Short, Andrew Farley (Capt), Michael Swift (Colm Rigney 37), Brendan O'Connor (Matt Lacey 66), John Muldoon.
Referee: Rob Dickson (Scotland); Sin-bin: Christian Short (Connacht) (65 mins)