Connacht 15-17 Cardiff Blues

Cardiff snatched a dramatic win over Connacht in a hard-fought Guinness PRO14 clash at the Sportsground on Saturday evening.

A late Shane Delahunt try looked to have given Connacht the victory but Willis Halaholo crossed at the death to level matters as Jarrod Evans' conversion clinched a two-point win for the visitors.

Playing with the benefit of the elements in the opening half, Connacht made a strong start and spent nearly the entire opening quarter in the Cardiff Blues half.

That territorial dominance owed much to the boot of Darragh Leader as he judged the wind to perfection to kick a penalty from halfway within five metres of the Cardiff line.

Despite threatening to cross on a number of occasions, the Cardiff defence stood strong but a Craig Ronaldson penalty on 12 minutes did put the hosts 3-0 in front after an offside infringement.

Cardiff responded well to that setback and began to get a foothold in the game with flanker Jarrad Butler the standout performer in the Connacht defence with Denis Buckley winning a valuable turnover near halfway.

Having enjoyed early dominance, Connacht were now getting well shackled by the suffocating Cardiff defence and were dealt a blow on 33 minutes as captain John Muldoon was sin-binned.

The skipper was deemed to have tackled a Cardiff player off the ball as the Welsh visitors made a dangerous break off turnover ball.

Cardiff expertly exploited the man advantage and hit the front two minutes before the break as Halaholo sliced through a gap in midfield to touch down under the posts.

Steve Shingler converted and Cardiff led 7-3 at the break as Connacht had it all to do against the elements in the second half.

Muldoon returned on 43 minutes as Cardiff used the wind to their advantage early in the second half although a brilliant Ultan Dillane lineout steal eight metres out prevented a try-scoring opportunity.

The game was a real armwrestle and Connacht went into the ascendancy just before the hour as Josh Turnbull was penalised for pulling a Connacht man back off the ball.

Leader's penalty fortuitously bounced into touch and Connacht made that luck count as they pounded away at the Cardiff line before swinging it wide as Andrew Deegan found replacement Stacey Ili and he put Leader over in the corner for the go-ahead try, 8-7.

Deegan was unable to land the touchline conversion directly against the wind and Cardiff were back in front almost immediately however as Steve Shingler landed a long-range penalty.

Connacht had the bit between their teeth though and a quickly taken lineout brought them deep into Cardiff territory again and Tom Farrell had a try in the left corner ruled out by referee Marius Mitrea for blocking in the build-up.

Shingler was able to clear the penalty back into Connacht territory but Conor Carey won a penalty and Leader kicked Connacht back into position. Cardiff infringed at the lineout and a second Leader touch-finder put Connacht within five metre and the pack mauled over with Delahunt touching down.

Incredibly, Leader landed the very difficult conversion and Connacht led 15-10 with four minutes to go.

There was to be a twist in the tale however as Cardiff battled back to take the spoils with Halaholo going over for his second try in the right corner and replacement  Evans landed the very tricky conversion to snatch the win for Cardiff.



Connacht: Darragh Leader; Cian Kelleher, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Rory Scholes (Stacey Ili, h-t); Andrew Deegan, Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade, 68); Denis Buckley (Denis Coulson, 73), Dave Heffernan (Shane Delahunt, 68), Finlay Bealham (Conor Carey, 64); Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux (Gavin Thornbury, 66); Eoghan Masterson (Eoin McKeon, 64), Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (C).

Cardiff Blues: Rhun Williams; Alex Cuthbert, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Tom James; Steve Shingler, Lloyd Williams; Brad Thyer, Kristian Dacey, Taufa'ao Filise; Seb Davies, Damian Welch; Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Corey Domachowski, Keiron Assiratti, George Earle, Olly Robinson, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Matthew Morgan
MATCH GUIDE WILL BECOME AVAILABLE HERE WHEN PUBLISHED!
End
80
79
Jarrod Evans
Conversion
77
Willis Halaholo
Try
Darragh Leader
Conversion
75
Shane Delahunt
Try
74
72
Matthew Morgan
Rhun Williams
Denis Coulson
Denis Buckley
72
72
Jarrod Evans
Steve Shingler
Caolin Blade
Kieran Marmion
67
Shane Delahunt
Dave Heffernan
67
Gavin Thornbury
Quinn Roux
65
65
Tomos Williams
Lloyd Williams
65
Corey Domachowski
Bradley Thyer
Conor Carey
Finlay Bealham
64
Eoin McKeon
Eoghan Masterson
64
63
Steve Shingler
Penalty
61
Ethan Lewis
Kristian Dacey
Darragh Leader
Try
59
55
George Earle
Damian Welch
Thomas Farrell
Craig Ronaldson
52
49
Olly Robinson
Nick Williams
44
Kieron Assiratti
Taufa'ao Filise
Stacey Ili
Rory Scholes
40
Second Half Start
40
First Half End
40
38
Steve Shingler
Conversion
37
Willis Halaholo
Try
John Muldoon
Yellow card
32
Craig Ronaldson
Penalty
10
First Half Start
0
Connacht Cardiff Blues
2
2
Tries
359
228
Metres
70
32
Carries
12
18
Defenders Beaten
4
8
Clean Breaks
242
151
Passes
10
8
Offloads
12
7
Turnovers Conceeded