Thursday 23 February 2017

We threw it away in five minutes of madness -- Elwood

CONNACHT 20
CARDIFF BLUES 26

John Fallon

Connacht coach Eric Elwood was livid after watching an excellent opening-half display unravel in a matter of minutes after the restart on Saturday, as Cardiff blitzed them for a brace of converted tries.

Connacht looked to have built a winning foundation when they led 17-6 at the interval, but by the 45th minute the Welsh had stunned them to lead 20-17 at a wet and windy Sportsgrounds.

Victory would have sent Connacht to Ulster next weekend in a confident frame of mind, but Elwood admitted that this was a big blow.

"Confidence is now low because the lads know we should have won this one and we are now heading into a very tough series of games -- away to Ulster, then off to Harlequins for the opening game of the Heineken Cup and then Toulouse here," he said.

"We just have to pick it up, try to learn from mistakes and push on from there, but this was a frustrating outcome. We were in a position to win this match and then five minutes of madness and it is gone from us."

Connacht also lost a double-digit lead recently against Leinster.

The positive start the home side wanted came inside two minutes when Tiernan O'Halloran dashed over in their first attack.

form

Niall O'Connor landed the conversion from the left and while Cardiff hit back through a Dan Parks penalty from almost 40 metres, the home pack was in great form.

A superb take by O'Halloran from the restart gave Connacht go-forward ball, which resulted in a penalty from O'Connor. Parks responded with another for the Welsh, but then missed two easier attempts.

On 28 minutes Mike McCarthy took a line-out inside the 22 and Connacht drove over for a fine try, having shunned a penalty attempt at the posts.

That left them 17-6 ahead at the break, but then came their shocking start to the second half as they were caught napping with Alex Cuthbert ghosting over in the left corner.

Worse was to follow for Connacht when Casey Laulala burst through the tackles of O'Halloran and Gavin Duffy to score, with Parks again adding the extras to put the Blues 20-17 in front.

Connacht managed to regain their composure and replacement out-half Miah Nikora levelled the game on the hour, but Cardiff hit back with a Parks penalty, before the Scottish international's drop goal sealed the hosts' first home defeat of the season with eight minutes to play.

Connacht -- G Duffy; F Vainikolo (B Tuohy 52), E Griffin, H Fa'afili, T O'Halloran; J O'Connor (M Nikora 52), F Murphy (P O'Donoghue 72); B Wilkinson, A Flavin (E Reynecke 70), R Ah You (D Rogers72); M Swift, M McCarthy; J Muldoon, R Ofisa (TJ Anderson 63), G Naoupu.

Cardiff Blues -- C Czekaj; A Cuthbert (C Sweeney 76), C Laulala, D Hewitt (G Evans 60), T James; D Parks, R Rees; J Yapp (S Hobbs 60), R Thomas, T Filise (S Andrews 60); M Paterson, P Tito; M Molitika (D Jones 70), J Navidi, X Rush.

Ref -- P Allan (Scotland).

Irish Independent

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