Ospreys 31 Connacht 10: Byrne fires Ospreys' second-half surge

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The Independent Online

Wales at last got some news they wanted as the Ospreys fought back to beat a brave Connacht in the Magners League last night.

Lee Byrne returned with a bang to virtually ensure he will line up for Gareth Jenkins' beleaguered team in Paris next weekend. The Test wing Shane Williams took the man-of-the-match award and the forwards Brent Cockbain and Adam Jones also did their bit.

The opening quarter was as dull as the skies that greeted the visitors to Swansea. Connacht had most of the territory and possession but while they showed some attacking intent, they were unable to break a home defence in which Byrne played a significant part. It took an age for the home side to get anywhere near an attacking platform.

The Connacht centre Mark McHugh missed the game's first scoring opportunity when his kick went wide on 18 minutes after a scrum collapse. Ten minutes later the home fly-half, Shaun Connor, punished the visitors for offside following the Ospreys' best attack, initiated by Shane Williams and Connor.

After 33 minutes, the visitors drew level when McHugh kicked a penalty for offside.

Five minutes later, the Connacht full-back, David Slemen, brought some much-needed life to the encounter. The fly-half Paul Warwick converted, but Byrne quickly finished off an outstanding move, the Scotland wing Nikki Walker playing a major role.

Connor could not convert and he did not return after the break, his place taken in the second period by Jason Spice, who usually operates at scrum-half.

Byrne's try was merely a foretaste of what was to come, however, as the Ospreys overhauled Connacht in the second period. The improved performance was epitomised by the Wales prop Jones's final pass that sent his captain, Paul James, over under the posts.

Shane Williams added a rare drop goal and the home pack earned a penalty try from a close-range scrum to ensure victory.

Ospreys: L Byrne (S Terblanche, 78); N Walker, T Selley (J Vaughton, 78), A Bishop, S Williams; S Connor (J Spice, 40), J Marshall; P James (capt; B Williams, 79), H Bennett, A Millward (A Jones, 52), B Cockbain (C Martenko, 78), M Powell, L Beach (T Smith, 72), J Thomas, R Pugh.

Connacht: D Slemen; D Yapp, J Harte, M McHugh (P Durcan, 74), D Riordan; P Warwick (G Williams, 68), C O'Loughlin (C Keane, 68); B Wilkinson (B Sturgess, 74), J Fogarty (capt; A Flavin, 68), S Knoop, D Gannon, R Strudwick, J Muldoon, C Rigney (M Swift, 71), R Ofisa (M Lacey, 47).

Referee: A MacPherson (Scotland).

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