Connacht Eagles suffered a last-minute Celtic Cup defeat to Welsh visitors Ospreys, losing 27-22 at Dubarry Park on Friday evening.
The Eagles, with six senior players in the starting XV, were level 22-22 heading into the final minutes, but when they lost the ball as the clock ticked down, Ospreys displayed their determination to keep ball in hand before replacement hooker Garin Lloyd crossed to take the spoils.
It ensured a third successive defeat for Connacht, despite a strong showing from some of the province's up-and-coming players, particularly right wing Hugh Lane, and centres Kieran Joyce and Sean O'Brien.
The new competition, which has replaced the B & I Cup, is proving its worth in both developing youngsters and providing Connacht senior players with a route for selection and rehabilitation after injury. But on Friday night, it was the Ospreys development team, under skills coach Duncan Jones, the former Welsh prop, that grabbed the spoils early when centre Kieran Williams, from a tap and go, broke through a porous Connacht defence for the opening try, which Josh Thomas converted.
Hugh Lane started to make an impression with his romp up the right wing before landing the try after a 5m scrum. It spurned a period of dominance for the Eagles, but despite considerable endeavour, they were few opportunities carved, despite a dominant scrum.
Thomas, however, stretched the lead to 10-5 with a penalty, but Connacht regained a foothold through the pack and with hooker Shane Delahunt finishing the drive to the line to level 10-10 at the break.
Ospreys continued to seek out space behind the Connacht defence and were rewarded when fullback Dewi Cross scored a 45th minute try and converted. However, Connacht's scrum laid the platform for the second before Lane profited from a pinpoint diagonal kick by Darragh Leader, and Conor Fitzgerald added the conversion to level again.
However within four minutes some poor Connacht defence allowed No 8 Guido Volpi to grab their third try before the home side levelled again through left wing Conor Hayes. Connacht had opportunities to take the victory, but were unable to make possession count, and after losing openside Cian Huxford to the sinbin, the visitors reaped a late reward.
The All-Ireland League kicks off on Saturday for the two Galway city clubs. Galwegians, having survived division 2A last season, must travel for this opening game against Blackrock College in Stradbrook (2.30pm ). Having finished in eighth place last season, Wegians will be looking to move up the table, ad this first fixture against Blackrock will be an early test of those ambitions.
In division 2B, Corinthians entertain Belfast Harlequins looking to kickstart their season where promotion must be the ambition. Relegated last season on the final day of the competition, they will have high hopes of overcoming the Ulster outfit which escaped relegation last year.