Strong-running centre Keith Matthews helped himself to two tries at the Sportsground on Friday night as Connacht beat the Ospreys for the first time since 2006 and the Welsh region’s poor away form continued.
The Ospreys completed their Magners League campaign without a single away win as they went down to a pumped-up Connacht side in Galway.
The Welsh region’s league title defence never materialised this season and a run of eight defeats and a draw away from the Liberty Stadium makes for a sorry end-of-term report.
Rooted to the bottom of the table and with Heineken Cup qualification out of their reach, Connacht put in one of their best performances of the season to give retiring duo Matt Mostyn and Darren Yapp a winning send-off.
Although Samoan winger Ofisa Treviranus crowned his first start since December with a try, it was not all plain sailing for Connacht as their scrum half Conor McPhillips, in his last appearance for the province, was given a straight red card midway through the second half.
This was a very open encounter with both sides showing a commendable willingness to throw the ball wide and attack off multi-phase possession.
Strangely the scoreboard remained untroubled until the 19th minute when Treviranus scooted over for his first Magners League try, after his captain Andrew Farley had done well to pick off an intercept.
Treviranus’ opposite number, Kristian Phillips, who became the youngest player to start a Magners League game at 17 years and 250 days, had done well up to then and Lyn Jones’ youthful selection certainly rattled the hosts at times.
Former Wales and Lions centre Mark Taylor, in his last game before his retirement, was rock solid in defence and the visitors’ out-half Shaun Connor, who was making his 100th and final appearance for the Ospreys, enjoyed a lively duel with Connacht’s Andy Dunne.
Dunne ended the first half on top though as he converted Treviranus’ touchdown and landed an injury-time penalty after both number 10s had been off target with place kicks.
Connacht wasted little time in adding to their 10-0 interval lead, with centre Keith Matthews bursting through for the first of his two superbly-taken tries, with full-back Gavin Duffy making the initial incision.
Matthews ran some great angles throughout the game and with the Ospreys defence wilting a little, he got over again in the 62nd minute after being released by the influential Dunne.
By that stage, McPhillips had been dismissed for a straight arm challenge and both Marty Holah and Brett Wilkinson had spent time in the sin-bin.
The Ospreys dominated for a 10-minute spell, landing a penalty from Connor and a neatly finished try by Phillips.
But Matthews’ second effort gave Connacht enough cushion to see out the win despite replacement half-backs Daniel Biggar and Martin Roberts inspiring a late Ospreys rally.