Events off the field have overshadowed this weekend's United Rugby Championship action but Connacht and Ospreys still had to get on with the show.
While Munster, Scarlets, Cardiff and Zebre Parma await transport back to Ireland and Wales in light their cancelled tour of South Africa due to coronavirus-related issues, Connacht left the Sportsground with a well deserved 28-point win over their Welsh visitors.
And what a show it was, with all seven of Connacht’s tries coming from the backs in atrocious conditions in front of 5,025 fans.
Freezing rain and hail swept in sideways from the west over Galway venue, none of that preventing the hosts from playing some scintillating rugby and they were full value for a 18-11 half-time lead.
It was Connacht’s third win of the campaign and moves them up to sixth in the table ahead of Saturday’s games.
Mack Hansen opened the scoring in the third minute, his touchdown coming after a series of pick and goes that brought Connacht 50 yards up the field. With the Ospreys defence stretched, Jack Carty spun a perfect pass out wide where the Ireland-qualified Aussie applied the finishing touch for his fifth URC try.
Connacht have made a brilliant start against Ospreys with Mack Hansen getting in for a very early try #rterugby #URC #CONvOSP— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) November 26, 2021
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Osprey's out-half Stephen Myler and Carty, who this week signed a new three-year contract with the province swapped penalties before Connacht again exposed some half-hearted defence in the 14th minute.
Hansen was again involved in their second try, teaming up with Oran McNulty and Dave Heffernan to set debutant Shayne Bolton free for a run in.
Toby Booth’s side then scored their first try against the run of play. Sammy Arnold fumbled the ball in midfield allowing Dan Evans to boot the ball forward.
The full-back was just beaten to the bouncing ball by wing Luke Morgan and Ospreys, playing with the aid of a significant wind, were back in it.
But despite the unforgiving conditions Connacht insisted on playing football and were again rewarded in the 23rd minute. This time, McNulty sidestepped Owen Watkin in midfield, and raced to the tryline before sliding in for the score.
Into a fierce wind, Carty was again off target with his conversion, while Myler kicked his second penalty three minutes before the break.
And the backs continued to fill their boots after the break, Sammy Arnold brushing off a poor tackle attempt from opposite number Joe Hawkins to secure a bonus point in the 44th minute.
Connacht have started the second half just as they did the first, with a try as Sam Arnold secured the bonus point after just three minutes of the second '40 against Ospreys #rterugby #CONvULS #URC— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) November 26, 2021
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But the Welsh centre soon got his name on the board, bursting between Arnold and Bolton off a set-piece play before landing under the posts. Myler's kick put just seven between the sides, 25-18.
Carty then declined a kickable penalty and Connacht were left frustrated when the kick to the corner came to nothing.
However, Ospreys, who arrived with four wins from five games, couldn’t clear their lines and when Peter Robb was tackled high in the corner, referee Ben Blake awarded a penalty try and Morgan went to the bin.
Man of the match Hansen, who trained with the Ireland squad during the Autumn Nations Series, was popping up all over the field, eager to get involved off his wing.
Offaly native Jack Regan, who was a late addition to the Ospreys match-day squad, replaced Rhys Davies, in the 59th minute, but the westerners were still applying all the pressure.
Replacement scrum-half Caolin Blade barged over for a sixth try after exchanging passes with Robb as the Ospreys faded.
Replacement Conor Fitzgerald had the final say, coming on to a Carty pop with the fancy work done earlier in the move by Hansen and a superb Conor Oliver reverse pass that set Alex Wootton away.
Conor Fitzgerald put the icing on the cake for @ConnachtRugby against Ospreys with the province's seventh try #rterugby #CONvULS #URC— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) November 26, 2021
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Connacht: Oran McNulty, Alex Wootton, Shayne Bolton, Sammy Arnold, Mack Hansen, Jack Carty (capt), Kieran Marmion, Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Niall Murray, Ultan Dillane, Jarrad Butler, Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Jordan Duggan, Jack Aungier, Oisín Dowling, Eoghan Masterson, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Peter Robb.
Ospreys: Dan Evans, Max Nagy, Owen Watkin, Joe Hawkins, Luke Morgan, Stephen Myler, Rhys Webb (capt), Nicky Smith, Elvis Taione, Tom Botha, Bradley Davies, Rhys Davies, Sam Cross, Jac Morgan, Ethan Roots.
Replacements: Sam Parry, Gareth Thomas, Rhys Henry, Will Griffiths, Morgan Morris, Jack Regan, Reuben Morgan-Williams, Cai Evans.
Referee: Ben Blain (SRU)