By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht fell to a 29-7 defeat to the Cardiff Blues in their first away game of the 2020-2021 Guinness PRO14 campaign. 

 

Despite Conor Oliver’s try bringing the scoreline back to 10-7 early in the second half, the hosts — thanks to a brace of tries from Hallam Amos, a penalty try, and a Kristian Dacey touchdown — ended the game strongly and sealed a bonus-point victory.

 

From the beginning of the game, it was clear the Blues, who won their opening game away to Zebre, were intent on attacking.

 

Connacht, though, with Gavin Thornbury, John Porch, and Alex Wootton especially impressive in their defensive duties, held firm and the Welshmen could not turn their territory and possession into a try.

 

The home team did manage to add points when Jarrod Evans slotted a penalty after some enterprising attack deep in the visitors half.

 

With a score to their name, Cardiff flexed their attacking muscles further when Amos — with the first of his two tries — showed a great turn of speed to touch down in the right-hand corner. Jarrod Evans expertly converted and the Blues held their 10-0 lead going into the half time break.

 

Connacht began the second half in strong fashion and launched wave after wave of attacks after a series of line outs deep in the Blues territory. The pressure finally paid dividends when Oliver — after collecting Sammy Arnold’s offload — powered his way over from five metres out. The conversion was a formality for Jack Carty and the visitors clawed the score back to 10-7.

 

 

With the wind in their sails, the visitors continued to attack, but the Blues defence — especially at the breakdown, an area attacks coach Nigel Carolan highlighted as being a crucial area of battle in the build-up to the game — remained steadfast and each Connacht attack was met with the same resistance.

 

Cardiff, with full-back Matthew Morgan a constant threat in broken play, showed their ability to counter when winger Josh Adams made significant headway with a break from deep in his own half. Porch, however, was once again sharp in defence and saved a certain try with a brilliant tackle.

 

The Irishmen couldn’t hold out on the next attack, however, when Amos — after brilliant work from Rey Lee-Lo — crossed for his second try in the left-hand corner. Evans’ conversion was wide but the hosts had a 15-7 lead with fifteen minutes remaining.

 

Connacht were brave and continued to attack in search of scores, but Cardiff — first through a penalty try and then, from close range after some hard carries, via a Dacey touchdown — went on to score two more tries, the second of which Jason Tovey converted, to take the bonus point win, 29-7.

 

Connacht team:(15-9)

15: John Porch

14: Peter Sullivan

13: Bundee Aki

12: Sammy Arnold

11: Alex Wootton

10: Jack Carty

9: Kieran Marmion

(8-1)

8: Jarrad Butler

7: Conor Oliver

6: Eoghan Masterson

5: Quinn Roux

4: Gavin Thornbury

3: Finlay Bealham

2: Dave Heffernan

1: Denis Buckley

Replacements: Jordan Duggan for Buckley, Shane Delahunt for Heffernan, Jack Aungier for Bealham, Ultane Dillane for Thornbury, Paul Boyle for Oliver, Conor Fitzgerald for Carty.

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