Connacht back to winning ways at the Sportsground
Alex Wootton inspires bonus point win over Cardiff with Jack Carty pulling strings
Connacht’s Alex Wootton on his way to scoring a try. Photograph: Inpho
Connacht 32 Cardiff 17
Connacht produced a winning performance at the Galway Sportsground to edge further ahead of their Welsh rivals Cardiff Blues and Scarlets in the Pro14’s Conference B.
In arresting a four-game losing run at home, Connacht secured the bonus point win, thanks to four well-taken tries, two from man of the match Alex Wootton.
After a slow start, Connacht finished the half on the front foot to take in a 20-10 lead. Two tries in seven minutes before the half-time whistle turned the game around for Andy Friend’s men after all the early possession had gone the way of the visitors.
Cardiff’s energy and physicality allowed them to dominate the opening 25 minutes, while also denying the home side possession through a well contested lineout. Eventually they were rewarded with a 12th minute try from prop Rhys Carre, with outhalf Jason Tovey adding the extras.
Connacht outhalf Jack Carty made it count with two successive penalties to close the gap to 6-7. However the visitors continued to look the sharper, adding a 26th minute penalty to edge in front.
It was then Connacht who kicked on, producing two scintillating tries. The first after an initial burst from Paul Boyle, Caolin Blade switched direction to the left wing, Matt Healy fed Wootton who had no problem evading hooker Liam Belcher to race up the wing for a superb try, with Carty adding the extras.
Minutes later Wootton bagged his second, and eighth of this season’s campaign. Going through the phases, lock Ultan Dillane made an important surge, but it was Carty’s swift tip-on pass to Wootton that did the damage as the right wing gave his team a 10-point lead at the break.
The visitors spurned three points when a Tovey penalty struck the post, but they were rewarded in the final 20 minutes with a succession of penalties against the home side. From a penalty to touch replacement Domacheski touched down from a drive and replacement Dan Fish added the conversion to bring them within three points with 15 minutes remaining.
However, Connacht’s response was swift. Eoghan Masterson set up a driving maul from a penalty to touch with captain Jarrad Butler touching down to extend the lead to 25-17. And with three minutes to go, replacement Abraham Papali’i barged over for the fourth try to seal a notable victory which keeps them well in the hunt for Champions Cup rugby next season.
Scoring sequence: 12m Carre try, Tovey con 0-7; 15m Carty pen 3-7; 21m Carty pen 6-7; 27m Tovey pen 6-10; 35m Wootton try, Carty con 13-10, 40m Wootton try, Carty con 20-10; HT 20 -10. 63m Domachowski try, Morgan con 20-17; 67m Butler try 25-17; 77m Papali’i try, Carty con 32-17.
Connacht: J Porch; A Wootton, T Daly, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, C Blade; J Duggan, D Heffernan, F Bealham; U Dillane, G Thornbury; E Masterson, J Butler (C), P Boyle. Replacements: O Dowling for Thornbury and Buckley for Duggan (both 47), S Delahunt for Heffernan and J Aungier for Bealham (both 57), K Marmion for Blade (58), T O’Halloran for Porch (64), A Papali’i for Masterson (72), S O’Brien for Daly (77m).
Cardiff Blues: M Morgan; O Lane, H Millard, R Lee-Lo, A Summerville; J Tovey, T Williams; R Carre, L Belcher, D Arhip; S Davies, R Thornton; S Lewis-Hughes, J Turnbull, E Jenkins. Replacements: K Assiratti for Arhip (46), K Myhill for Belcher, C Domachowski for Carre and M Llewelly for Millard (all 55), D Fish for Tovey (57), B Murphy for Davies (65), G Bradley for Jenkins (68).
Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU).