It was an agonising finish for Connacht Rugby at the Sportsground tonight as they conceded a 78th minute try to allow the visitors Cardiff Blues back to grab a round 5 draw.

Pat Lam’s men were left hugely disappointed and frustrated at the finish. on 70 minutes, they lead 24 – 10 following a strong start to the second half that saw Kieran Marmion and Nathan White cross for tries within the opening six minutes to add to Robbie Henshaw’s first half try. Inside centre Craig Ronaldson put in a man of the match performance to kick an early penalty and three difficult conversions.

The Blues’ took their chances and registered tries through full back Adam Thomas, flanker Macauley Cook, and replacement prop Sam Hobbs whose late try was confirmed by the TMO. Outhalf Rhys Patchell was four from four for nine points.

Connacht started brightly, forcing their way into the Blues’ 22 and retaining the ball to win a penalty that Ronaldson landed to give his side a 3-0 lead on five minutes.

Cardiff centre Cory Allen then countered after a loose kick by Connacht full-back Darragh Leader only for Henshaw to win a penalty at the breakdown as the Blues held on.

Mark Hammett’s side came again, with scrum-half Lewis Jones breaking clear before he was hauled down by Danie Poolman and Leader a metre short of the line.

Left wing Dan Fish – making his 50th appearance for the club – combined with Allen to force Niyi Adeolokun to touch down in his own area.

Full-back Thomas then picked a great line to collect scrum-half Jones’ short pass and break Henshaw’s tackle to cross a few phases on from the scrum five. Rhys Patchell added the extras to put the visitors 7-3 ahead after 20 minutes.

Connacht had their first try ten minutes later, securing a five metre lineout with Poolman tackled just short before Henshaw darted back left and reached for the line.

After the TMO confirmed the outside centre’s grounding, his midfield partner Ronaldson added the conversion to make it 10-7 after 33 minutes.

The Blues levelled before the break as Connacht were penalised at the breakdown and Patchell slotted the resulting penalty from 42 metres out.

Half time: Connacht 10 – 10 Cardiff Blues

Connacht highlighted their dominance at scrum time and on 42 minutes, flanker Willie Faloon broke down the blindside of a rolling maul to feed scrum-half Marmion who stepped Fish to score in the corner, with Ronaldson adding the extras.

Only three minutes later, Connacht crossed again as another maul off a five metre lineout allowed tight-head White to muscle his way over with Ronaldson landing another touchline conversion.

Connacht came close to a bonus point try when Galway man Eoin McKeon, on for Faloon, chipped over Thomas and forced Jones to touch down in his own end goal and concede a 5m scrum.

The Blues then set up a dramatic last ten minutes as Cook dived under the posts from close range after an attacking scrum and Patchell added the conversion to make it a seven-point game.

With just two minutes remaining on the clock and after a phenomenal 32 phases, the Blues relentless pressure paid off and they were rewarded with a try through Hobbs at the base of the post after a long deliberation from the TMO and referee Neil Patterson. Patchell added the simple conversion to draw the sides level. Jack Carty’s last-gasp drop goal effort was blocked down.

Full time: Connacht 24 – 24 Cardiff Blues

CONNACHT: Darragh Leader; Niyi Adeolokun (Fionn Carr ’68), Robbie Henshaw, Craig Ronaldson (Shane Layden ’66), Danie Poolman; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion (Ian Porter ’72); Ronan Loughney (Denis Buckley ’19 – concussion bin, ’47 permanent sub), Dave Heffernan (Shane Delahunt ’71), Nathan White (Rodney Ah You ’54); Mick Kearney, Quinn Roux (Aly Muldowney ’61); John Muldoon (capt.), Willie Faloon (Eoin McKeon ’51), George Naoupu.

CARDIFF BLUES: Adam Thomas; Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen (Gareth Davies ’72), Gavin Evans, Dan Fish; Rhys Patchell, Lewis Jones (Tavis Knoyle ’65); Gethin Jenkins (Sam Hobbs ’61), Matthew Rees (capt.) (Kristian Dacey ’72), Taufa’ao Filise (Scott Andrews ’50); Jarrad Hoeata, Filo Paulo; Macauley Cook, Sam Warburton (Josh Navidi ’50), Manoa Vosawai (Josh Turnbull ’62).

Referee: Neil Patterson

Attendance: 5242

Man of the Match: Craig Ronaldson




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