Connacht 36 – 31 Cardiff Blues

Pat Lam’s men secured a bonus point win at the Sportsground this evening in round 3 of the Guinness PRO12.

It was a back and forth performance with Connacht scoring five tries to Cardiff’s four – the visitors scrambling over on the 80th minute to go home with the both the four-try and losing bonus points.

Kieran Marmion, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Danie Poolman, Tiernan O’Halloran, and Aly Muldowney were all try scorers for the home side with outhalf Jack Carty kicking 11 points.

Jack Carty had an early shot at goal with less than a minute on the clock but his effort drifted wide.

Cardiff were the first on the score sheet as right wing Aled Summerhill intercepted a Connacht pass before bursting away to cruise over the line with Rhys Patchell on target with the conversion.

But that lead was cut almost immediately following a Connacht scrum outside the Cardiff 22. After numerous phases inside the red zone, Ireland international Marmion collected the ball at the base of the ruck and crashed over – Carty successful with his second kick of the evening.

The momentum swung to both sides and the Blues almost had another score when they created a three-on-one inside the hosts 22 but winger Matt Healy made an crucial tackle to keep the scores level.

Connacht were the next to score again when an attacking lineout 7m from the line allowed Man of the Match Fox-Matamua ground the ball from the back of a solid driving maul.  Carty was on target again to make it 14 – 7.

That lead was extended three minutes later when a linout outside the Cardiff 22 gave Connacht another attacking platform. Centre Rory Parata times his run and pass perfectly to allow right wing Poolman score in the corner. Carty’s conversion attempt was unlucky as the ball fell off the tee after he started the move. He attempted a drop goal but it was off target for the Athlone man.

With half an hour to go, Cardiff switched on and fought their way back to just a two-point deficit after number 8 Josh Turnbull got over from a driving maul and Rhys Patchell kicked the conversion and penalty just before half time.

Connacht would be without O’Halloran for the opening 10 minutes of the second half after the fullback was shown yellow for an offside offense.

Half time: Connacht 19 – 17 Cardiff Blues

Cardiff looked to take advantage of the extra man in the second half and they came close early on only to be held up at the line.

But they had their score and the lead after 48 minutes when a chip through saw full back Dan Fish collect and Patchell’s kick took it to 24-19.

A scrappy period followed but the home side were dogged in their approach and O’Halloran collected a cross-field Carty kick to score in the left corner.

Carty’s conversion kick then gave Connacht a two-point lead and they moved closer to the win just after the hour when the home side went through phase after phase before replacement lock Muldowney charged over for a converted try.

A Cardiff penalty seven minutes from time gave them a chance to close the gap although replacement Gareth Davies saw his kick fly wide.

With a minute remaining, Carty’s penalty secured the win for Connacht and it looked like the game was over.

But the Blues refused to go home empty handed and went through phase after phase in the Connacht 22 in search of the fourth try.  Loosehead prop Sam Hobbs got over for the score, which Davies converted and the visitors left with the two points.

Connacht 15 – 9: Tiernan O’Halloran, Danie Poolman, Rory Parata, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion

1 – 8: Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, Andrew Browne, John Muldoon (captain), Nepia Fox-Matamua, Eoin McKeon

Replacements: Dave Heffernan (for McCartney, 72”), JP Cooney (for Buckley, 79”), Conan O’Donnell (for Bealham, 79”), Aly Muldowney (for Roux, 51”), George Naoupu (for Browne, 79”), John Cooney (for Marmion, 55”), Craig Ronaldson (for Parata, 77”), Fionn Carr (for Poolman, 64”)

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Richard Smith, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Tavis Knoyle; 1 Sam Hobbs, 2 Kristian Dacey, 3 Craig Mitchell, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Lou Reed, 6 Josh Navidi (c), 7 Ellis Jenkins, 8 Josh Turnbull

Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 James Down, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Garyn Smith

Referee: Neil Hennessey

Man of the Match: Nepia Fox-Matamua

Attendance: 3, 274

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