Connacht left kicking themselves as Cardiff claim late draw

Two tries in the last 10 minutes earn Welsh side share of the spoils in Galway

Connacht scrumhalf  Kieran Marmion avoids the Cardiff defence to score his side’s second try in the Guinness Pro12, game at The Sportsground in Galway. Photograph: Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Connacht scrumhalf Kieran Marmion avoids the Cardiff defence to score his side’s second try in the Guinness Pro12, game at The Sportsground in Galway. Photograph: Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Connacht 24 Cardiff 24

A frustrating evening for Connacht. Although they preserved their unbeaten record at the Sportground this season, this Guinness Pro12 fixture with Cardiff finished in a disappointing draw for Pat Lam’s side.

It was a game Connacht should have won, having led early in the second half by 24 -14. In total control in the scrum and with territorial dominance, they squandered two opportunities to put the game out of reach, and instead were left defending their lines at the death when Cardiff grabbed a dramatic equalising try on 78 minutes.

With nothing between the sides at half-time, Connacht had succeeded in putting Cardiff under pressure early in the second half, pinning them back with some super tactical kicking from outhalf Jack Carty. And with Mick Kearney in control of an improved lineout, Connacht took charge.

Once again the scrum proved Connacht’s biggest weapon, and when openside Willie Faloon broke from the side of the scrum, Kieran Marmion side-stepped his opponent to race in at the right corner. Centre Craig Ronaldson added the touchline conversion to put Connacht into the lead after 43 minutes.

Three minutes later the 5,000-plus fans were on their feet again, helped by George Naoupu, who won the battle at the breakdown for a penalty kicked to touch. In a rehearsed move, Kearney found prop Nathan White who charged up the blind to grab a third try with Ronaldson once again adding the extras.

With a lead of two tries, Connacht, however, went looking for the fourth try, opting to kick penalties to touch. When they won a third penalty from their scrum just five metres out, somewhat bizarrely Connacht opted for touch again – on a night when Ronaldson’s goal kicking had been flawless.

The home side was left to rue that decision as the Blues replied with two tries from just two attacks into their opponents 22. Flanker Macauley Cook dived over the Connacht cover to score on 70 minutes, and with only one score between the sides, Connacht found themselves under attack once again.

In a phenomenal 32 phases, the Blues relentlessly picked and drove forward from halfway to under the posts, and eventually they were rewarded. The TMO ruled Sam Hobbs had not been held up at the posts, Rhys Patchell added the single conversion to draw the sides level, and in a last-gasp effort Carty’s attempted drop goal was blocked.

While Cardiff went some way to make up for three weeks of frustration, Connacht have every reason to be disappointed, particularly having dominated the second half for so long.

Playing against the wind, the home side was first to score with a Ronaldson penalty, but handling issues and a malfunctioning lineout – for the second week running – minimalised their chances.

However, Cardiff looked particularly strong in attack with the hard-working Dan Fish and Rhys Pathcell content to counter-attack from deep, and it took 20 minutes before they opened their scoring after Connacht lost an attacking lineout 10 metres out.

From the counter-attack and an ensuing five-metre scrum, fullback Adam Thomas raced in for the game’s opening try with Patchell added the conversion. However, from a penalty to touch Kearney set up the drive 10 metres before going wide. Danie Poolman was tackled just shy of the line and Robbie Henshaw did well to reach for the line and grab Connacht’s first try of the night. However, four minutes from the break Patchell added a penalty to level it at the break also.

CONNACHT: D Leader; N Adeolokun, R Henshaw, C Ronaldson, D Poolman; J Carty, K Marmion; R Loughney, D Heffernan, N White; M Kearney, Q Roux; J Muldoon (capt), W Faloon, G Naoupu. Replacements: D Buckley for Loughney (46 mins), E McKeon for Faloon (50 mins),R Ah You for White (53 mins), A Muldowney for Roux (60 mins), S Layden for Ronaldson (65 mins), F Carr for Adeolokun (67 mins), S Delahunt for Heffernan (70 mins), I Porter for Marmion (71 mins).

CARDIFF BLUES: A Thomas; A Cuthbert, C Allen, G Evans, D Fish; R Patchell, L Jones; G Jenkins, M Rees (capt), T Filise; J Hoeata, F Paulo; M Cook, S Warburton, M Vosawai. Replacements: S Andrews for Filise and J Navidi for Warburton (both 50 mins), S Hobbs for Jenkins (60 mins), J Turnbull for Vosawai (61 mins),T Knoyle for L Jones (64 mins), G Davies for Allen (70 mins), K Dacey for Rees (71 mins).

Referee: N Paterson (Scotland)

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