The Ospreys had little difficulty in making it five wins in six games against Connacht as they cut loose for a bonus point win over the Irish province at Liberty Stadium on Saturday.
Itching to get some game-time ahead of the remainder of Wales’ Six Nations campaign, scrum half Mike Phillips got on the scoresheet with Welsh coach Warren Gatland watching on from the stands.
In total, the Ospreys were missing 13 Wales squad members but they had enough strength in depth to make sure Connacht’s winless run in Wales continued – the Irish province have not won on Welsh soil since November 2004.
Connacht included both Gavin Duffy and Johnny O’Connor, their two members of the Ireland Six Nations squad, from the off but Michael Bradley’s men were 6-0 down early on.
Shaun Connor booted the Ospreys into a third-minute lead and he doubled his and the hosts’ tally after Justin Marshall, who was playing out of position at full-back, was hit with a high tackle by Robbie Morris.
Ireland ‘A’ international Andy Dunne missed two penalty chances to reply – in the 9th and 11th minutes – but the Ospreys could not build on their lead until first half injury-time.
They had a try ruled out by television match official Huw Lewis after prop Paul James attempted to pile over in the right corner after a swift lineout drive.
But by the eighth-minute of injury-time, the Ospreys had chalked up two converted tries to take a 20-0 lead into the interval.
Scotland winger Nikki Walker scored the first in the 42nd-minute as he took a pass from Phillips and ran in unopposed from 40 metres out, with Connor converting.
Marty Holah, the New Zealand flanker, then touched down under the posts after a bustling run from Filo Tiatia off the base of a scrum.
While the Ospreys were well able to make the most of their opportunities, Connacht lacked some attacking verve and were let down by a high error count.
Connor extended the Ospreys’ lead to 23-0 with a 45th-minute penalty, just before the visitors lost replacement back rower Colm Rigney to the sin-bin for a ruck offence.
But Connacht failed to concede any points when down to 14 men and the westerners, who also had scrum half Conor O’Loughlin yellow carded, foraged well as the Ospreys went through a barren spell.
A couple of well-timed substitutions rallied the hosts for a final flourish though.
Replacement back rower Tom Smith popped the ball back off a lineout for Phillips to burst through and score to the right of the posts.
Another replacement, Gareth Owen, converted Phillips’ try and with two minutes to go, Owen himself evaded two tacklers and dummied past his opposite number Dunne to score the Ospreys’ bonus point try.
Connacht, who are rooted to the bottom of the league table after this weekend’s action, kept plugging away until the final whistle and flanker O’Connor nabbed a consolation score in the fourth-minute of injury-time.