Despite Connacht’s best efforts, Cardiff kick their way to victory
Jarrod Evans and replacement Gareth Anscombe were the key differences in Wales
Cardiff Blues’ Gareth Anscombe kicks a penalty in their Pro14 win over Connacht. Photo: Kevin Barnes /Inpho
Cardiff 36 Connacht 30
It was helter-skelter and often messy, but in the end Cardiff took the honours, leapfrogging Connacht on the Pro 14 table last evening in Arms Park.
Connacht scored more tries, four to Cardiff’s three, but the home side edged the contest by virtue of a flawless kicking performance from outhalf Jarrod Evans and replacement Gareth Anscombe, kicking 21 of their 36 points.
It means the two sides have exchanged places on the table, Cardiff taking over the qualification spot with Connacht now one behind, after they came away with two valuable bonus points.
Connacht, forced to make a late change with Eoghan Masterson replacing Eoin McKeon , were unable to convert chances early on but, with Tom Farrell making some promising breaks, Kieran Keane’s side was rewarded for period of phase play when Jack Carty struck an opening penalty after 13 minutes, thanks to a superior scrum.
Cardiff replied almost immediately through outhalf Jarrod Evans, and four minutes later openside Ollie Robinson touched down after some slick handling down the left wing for the opening try, Evans adding the conversion for a 10-3 lead.
It did not get any better for Connacht when the first-time competition referee again pinged Connacht at the breakdown, Evans extending the lead to 13-3.
Connacht, however, crossed the whitewash thanks to a Niyi Adeookun intercept try, racing 40 metres to touch down. Carty’s conversion reduced the arrears to 13-10 after 31 minutes. and two minutes later he added an equalising penalty.
But, in a game littered with penalties, Evans maintained his perfect kicking record, edging the home side into a 16-13 lead.
Connacht’s superiority in the scrum kept the home side on the back foot in the second half, but despite three reset scrums and a penalty, the visitors were given the decision on the third, letting them off the hook, and when Eoin Griffin was yellow carded – his attempted intercept deemed a deliberate knock-on – it was the second big decision that went against Connacht.
Cardiff took immediate advantage of the extra man, fullback Matthew Morgan finding the gap to touch down and, but for Nick Williams being penalised for blocking after review by TMO, Cardiff looked to have bagged a second through Anscombe.
Connacht again regained the initiative and, from a lineout and maul, replacement hooker Shane Delahunt touched down, Carty’s touchline conversion just short. But the home side pulled away further after Owen Lane, in his first Pro 14 appearance, wriggled out of a tackle and over the line from an Anscombe break, the outhalf’s conversion looked to have put the game beyond reach as they led 30-18.
Connacht staged another comeback, only to be denied by the referee. It resulted in a yellow card for Nick Williams for an ensuing off the ball incident, and from the penalty Conancht drove again, Delahunt again touching down to reduce the deficit to seven. A high tackle from Quinn Roux provided Cardiff with the chance to extend the lead to 10, but Connacht refused to give up, replacement Pita Ahjki making statement on his debut, setting up John Muldoon with the fourth try, which Crosbie converted.
There was time for one last play, Anscombe finishing with a 40m penalty, ensuring Cardiff recorded the double over Connacht this season.
Scoring sequence – 12 mins Carty pen 0-3; 14 mins J Evans pen 3-3; 18 mins O Robinson try, Evans con 10-3; 23 mins Evans pen 13-3; 29 mins N Adeolokun try, Carty con 13-10; 32 mins Carty pen 13-13; 37 mins Evans pen 16-13.HT 16-13. 53 mins Morgan try, Anscombe con 23-13; 56mins Delahunt try 23-18; 60 mins Lane try, Anscombe con 30-18; 73 mins Anscombe pen33-23; 76 mins Muldoon try, Crosbie con 33-30; Anscombe pen 36-30.
CARDIFF BLUES: M Morgan; O Lane, G Smith, W Halaholo, T James; J Evans, T Williams; C Domachowski, M Rees (capt), T Filise, G Earle, D Welch, M Cook, O Robinson, N Williams.
Replacements: B Thyer for Domachowski (46m), A Peikrishvili for Filise and G Anscombe for Evans (51m), J Down for Welch and J Turnbull for Cook (60m), K Myhill for Reece (67m),H Millard for Morgan (79).
CONNACHT: T O’Halloran, N Adeolokun, E Griffin, T Farrell, M Healy, J Carty, C Blade, D Buckley, D Heffernan, F Bealham, Q Roux, J Cannon, E Masterson, J Heenan, J Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: S Delahunt for Heenan (48m), P Ahki for Griffin (59m), S Crosbie for Carty and J Mitchell for Blade (65m), C Carey for Bealha (68m), C Kelleher for Farrell (76m).
Referee: Craig Evans (WRU).