Monday 24 July 2017

No home comforts as Blues hit Connacht

Connacht 12 Cardiff Blues 26

John Fallon

Connacht ended their home campaign on a disappointing note when their seven-match winning run was blown away at the Sportsground.

The win keeps Cardiff firmly in the hunt for a semi-final spot and it was a miserable end to a Connacht run that saw them unbeaten at the Galway venue in 2011.

But they didn't do enough when they had the wind and ample possession in the second half, and in Casey Laulala and Jamie Roberts Cardiff had two line-breakers who made the hard yards.

Connacht's cause was not helped by a double sin-binning in the second half, Ray Ofisa and later Gavin Duffy getting yellow cards.

Connacht enjoyed far greater possession in the opening half and should have been more than 12-10 in front at the break.

However, they created few try-scoring chances despite an abundance of possession won by taking Cardiff on up front.

Ian Keatley landed four from four in the opening half, but the concession of a 28th-minute try undid a lot of good work. Former All Black Laulala broke through Mike McCarthy's tackle and was awarded the touchdown by the television match official Dermot Moloney despite a despairing effort from Frank Murphy.

Dan Parks added the points to a seventh-minute penalty to edge Cardiff 10-9 in front, although Keatley restored Connacht's lead on the stroke of half-time after a blatant offside from Martyn Williams.

Earlier, Keatley got Connacht off the mark with a third-minute penalty and he landed two more after 13 and 26 minutes as Connacht's pressure told with the wind at their backs.

But Cardiff dominated the second half and Parks edged them into a lead they never lost three minutes after the restart.

They continued to pile on the pressure and the Scottish international landed another from 30 metres after 50 minutes after Ofisa was penalised for a spear tackle on Roberts.

Cardiff managed just another penalty with the extra man but they were more penetrative when Duffy was binned after 70 minutes for killing the ball.

Parks was off target with the penalty from but the Welsh continued to pile on the pressure and they sealed the issue six minutes from time when Bradley Davies touched down.

Connacht's season will conclude with two difficult games away to Ulster next weekend, and then Munster.

They will be under pressure to get results there as the curtain comes down on Eric Elwood's first season in charge.

But they will be very disappointed to finish their home campaign by failing to score a try and maintain their winning run.

Connacht -- G Duffy; B Tuohy (T O'Halloran 70), N Ta'auso, T Nathan (E Griffin 66), F Carr; I Keatley, F Murphy; R Loughney (B Wilkinson 48), S Cronin (A Flavin 74), J Hagan (R Ah You 52); M McCarthy, B Upton; A Browne (J Muldoon 40), J O'Connor, R Ofisa (M McComish 76).

Cardiff Blues -- C Czekai; L Halfpenny, C Laulala, J Roberts, T James; D Parks, R Rees (L Williams 71) ; J Yapp (S Hobbs 74), G Williams, T Filise; B Davies, P Tito (D Jones 71); M Molitika (M Paterson 67), M Williams, X Rush.

Ref -- A McMeneny (SRU).

Irish Independent

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