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Match Tracker: Connacht 15 Ospreys 10

Match Tracker: Connacht 15 Ospreys 10

Connacht leapt to the top of the Magners League table as out-half Mark McHugh booted five penalties to see off the Ospreys at the Sportsground.

…The Sportsground…

Connacht leapt to the top of the Magners League table as out-half Mark McHugh booted five penalties to see off the Ospreys at the Sportsground.

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MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, September 8

CONNACHT 15 OSPREYS 10, The Sportsground (Att: 1,587)

Scorers: Connacht: Pens: Mark McHugh 5

Ospreys: Try: Justin Marshall; Con: James Hook; Pen: Hook

Full-Time: Connacht claim a 15-10 victory with surely the best performance in recent seasons. They may have been lacking a try, but their grit and determination more than made up for that. McHugh was on song, and typified the effort shown. The only disappointment is the lack of numbers in the crowd – 1,587 – the province deserves a better following, but this purple patch, with a further five league games to come in Galway up until mid-October, should hopefully help them in that department.

80+8 mins: CONNACHT PENALTY! A marathon game looks to have finally be decided as lusty cheers go up greet McHugh’s fifth successful penalty. It’s a night to remember for McHugh, who has now scored 31 points in two games, and the Connacht faithful, who last saw their side beat the Ospreys at the Sportsground back in April 2004. Connacht 15 Ospreys 10

80+4 mins: OSPREYS YELLOW CARD! Ospreys scrum half Marshall loses his head and aims a punch at Connacht replacement Tom Tierney. It’s a disappointing end to the night for the Welsh region’s best player, but he deservedly walks.

80+1 mins: The game ticks into injury-time – there’ll be plenty of it – as Connacht still hold on to their two-point lead. Possession is vital and the hosts are clearly frustrating the 2004/05 league champions.

75 mins: CONNACHT PENALTY! Thanks to that great defensive effort, McHugh has landed another outstanding penalty from distance – 50-plus metres again – to put Connacht in front for the first time since the ninth-minute. Can they hold on to make it two wins from two in the Magners League? Connacht 12 Ospreys 10

70 mins: More hair-raising moments for Connacht but they defend manfully with Nikki Walker stopped just five metres out, and the westerners’ young prop Michael Diffley, who was making his debut, announcing himself with a memorable hit on Adam Jones which bundled the Wales prop into touch close to the Connacht line.

66 mins: Sterling defence from Connacht as the Ospreys look to have numbers out wide on the left, but some great tracking back by Matthews, Farley and Gannon sees them prevent Brent Cockbain from rumbling over.

60 mins: Marshall is willing his pack on, they’re seeing plenty of ball now, but fleet-footed players of the calibre of Shane Williams and Lee Byrne have been kept out of the game.

53 mins: CONNACHT PENALTY! The Ospreys are punished, well Ryan Jones is for a poorly-timed tackle on McPhillips, as McHugh lands his third penalty from three attempts. Incredibly, the ball soars over a full 55 metres out from goal! What a right boot McHugh has – the Connacht captain for the night is leading by example. Connacht 9 Ospreys 10

47 mins: CONNACHT PENALTY! The ideal start to the second half for Michael Bradley’s men as McHugh reduces the arrears with his second penalty of the night – from 40 metres out. The wind advantage should prove a key factor for Connacht. Connacht 6 Ospreys 10

…Mark McHugh gets to grips with Ospreys scrum half Justin Marshall…

Half-Time: Connacht trail 10-3 at the break, but it is against the run of play. The westerners have had the better of the half, in a possessional sense, and will surely be kicking themselves in the dressing room after allowing Marshall slip through for his late seven-pointer.

Muldoon and Farley, carrying on from their dominant displays against the Borders last week, are impressing again for Connacht, while McHugh is dispatching to touch with aplomb. Not much in the way of ball for Warwick, Williams and Matthews to get their teeth into, but the same can be said for the Ospreys, whose 15 internationals are being more than matched by the home side.

40+4 mins: OSPREYS TRY! Disappointingly for the hosts, it is the Welsh region who get in for a try, just before the half-time whistle. With Connacht on the attack, a cruel turnover sees New Zealander Marshall run a full 85 metres to score in the right corner – great pace for a 33-year-old Just!

Marshall swooped onto McHugh’s grubber kick through and evaded the clutches of Gannon, Keith Matthews and Conor McPhillips, who arced across from the far wing, for a memorable try. Hook capped it off with an excellent conversion from far out on the right. Connacht 3 Ospreys 10

38 mins: Connacht just miss out on nabbing the game’s opening try – despite looking to be over the try line, Muldoon fails to have his muscular effort okayed by referee Iain Heard. The Scottish official doesn’t spot a grounding and the Ospreys are let off the hook.

Just prior to that, Matt Mostyn, Paul Warwick and McHugh had all been held up short as Connacht thrusted towards five-point territory. Only a last-gasp tackle from Shane Williams denied Mostyn his first of the season, while Warwick was pinged in a tackle just metres out. Marshall also had to show razor sharp reflexes when collecting a chip over the top from Gavin Williams.

29 mins: OSPREYS PENALTY! Hook nails a much easier attempt from just in front of the posts after a ruck infringement. Connacht 3 Ospreys 3

20 mins: With line breaks at a premium, James Hook sends what could be a crucial penalty wide. Territorially, the Ospreys are coming out on top but they have nothing to show for it so far, save for a few bright moments from former All Black Justin Marshall.

15 mins: Farley and his second row cohort David Gannon have been superb on the Ospreys’ lineout ball so far, with three steals offering the hosts some decent field position, but tries are going to be hard to come by. Both defences are locked tight.

9 mins: CONNACHT PENALTY! First blood to Connacht, and deservedly so. A brilliant series of mauls, with John Muldoon and Andrew Farley particularly prominent, offers up a 32-metre penalty shot for Mark McHugh and the once-capped Ireland international makes no mistake. Connacht 3 Ospreys 0

5 minutes: A dull enough start, but some bright moments for Connacht with recent signing Adrian Flavin in accurate form at the lineout. Young James Hook, the Ospreys’ out-half, looks a class act and he has good memories of Ireland – he scored a late try to ensure a 14-13 win for the Wales Under-21s over their Irish counterparts at Dubarry Park last February.

First Half: Kick-Off: The match gets underway as hazy sunshine beats down on Galway city – maybe a bit of calm before the storm judging by the weekend’s weather reports! Connacht are in their usual green shirts, black shorts and black socks. The visiting Ospreys are in all black.

Team News: Connacht have made once change to the side that beat Border Reivers in their Magners League opener – Darren Yapp has a knee injury and his wing berth has been taken by Keith Matthews. Yapp is still fit enough for bench duty.

Ospreys coach Lyn Jones has made four changes to the team that started last weekend’s 17-11 win over Edinburgh Gunners. Two of those are in the back row with Andy Lloyd and Richie Pugh coming in for Jonathan Thomas and Steve Tandy.

Barry Williams gets the nod at hooker, replacing Huw Bennett, while Tal Selley will start on the left wing having replaced Nikki Walker.

Connacht: Matt Mostyn; Conor McPhillips, Paul Warwick, Gavin Williams, Keith Matthews; Mark McHugh (capt), Chris Keane; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Stephen Knoop, David Gannon, Andrew Farley, John Muldoon, Matt Lacey, Colm Rigney.

Replacements: John Fogarty, Michael Diffley, Michael Swift, Brendan O’Connor, Tom Tierney, Darren Yapp, Daniel Riordan.

Ospreys: Lee Byrne; Shane Williams, Sonny Parker, Gavin Henson, Nikki Walker; James Hook, Justin Marshall; Duncan Jones (capt), Barry Williams, Adam Jones, Brent Cockbain, Alun Wyn Jones, Andy Lloyd, Richie Pugh, Ryan Jones

Replacements: Martin Roberts, Andrew Bishop, Tal Selley, Paul James, Richard Hibbard, Lyndon Bateman, Filo Tiatia

Referee: Iain Heard (Scotland)
Touch Judges: Leo Colgan, Peter Ferguson (both Ireland)