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Connacht outgunned by Cardiff in United Rugby Championship opener

Andy Friend’s side were competitive for the first hour but wilted in the concluding stages.

Image: Ashley Crowden/INPHO
Cardiff 33
Connacht 21

Steffan Thomas reports at Cardiff Arms Park

CONNACHT WERE CUT to shreds by a razor-sharp Cardiff back division as they began their United Rugby Championship campaign with a comprehensive defeat.

Andy Friend’s side were competitive for the first hour but ill-discipline and a lack of cutting edge behind the scrum resulted in Cardiff making them pay in the final quarter.

Jack Carty kicked Connacht into an early lead, but the visitors struggled to cope with the pace Cardiff wanted to put on the game. John Porch made a meal of an Owen Lane grubber kick and was forced to concede a five metre scrum.

Willis Halaholo stepped past the first Connacht defender, before a long miss pass from Lloyd Williams gave Hallam Amos the simplest of finishes. Jarrod Evans converted but Connacht hit back immediately.

Conor Oliver barged through some weak Cardiff defence before drawing in Amos to allow Kieran Marmion to run in unopposed from 30 metres out, with Carty adding the extras. Cardiff were dealt two severe injury blows in the opening quarter of the game as out-halves Rhys Priestland and Jarrod Evans forced from the field with head and rib injuries respectively. This resulted in the hosts playing scrum-half Lloyd Williams out of position at 10 for the remainder of the game.

Connacht looked to have weathered the storm when a clean break from loosehead prop Matthew Burke resulted in Carty kicking another penalty. But Cardiff struck at the stroke of half-time when Tomos Williams took advantage of a solid scrum to break through and put Halaholo over for a try. Williams converted meaning Connacht trailed 14-13 at the break.

Cardiff were far more clinical with Lane finishing off a cracking try at the far left-hand corner after some tremendous handling under pressure from the home side. Despite not being a regular goalkicker Tomos Williams banged over the conversion from the touchline to put Connacht two scores behind.

Connacht had the bit between their teeth as they lay siege to the Cardiff line with their driving lineout causing the hosts big problems. And Cardiff were reduced to 14 men when Wales lock Seb Davies was sent to the sin bin for not rolling away.

But just a minute late Connacht playmaker Carty suffered the same fate as he was shown a yellow card for entering a ruck illegally. Connacht capitulated when debutant Hansen was also given a yellow card for a no arms tackle on Lane.

And Cardiff took full advantage with Lane powering over from short-range after a neat pass from Williams, with the scrum-half yet again successful with the conversion. But Cardiff weren’t finished there as replacement hooker Liam Belcher touched down following a powerful driving lineout from the hosts. Marmion scored a late consolation try for Connacht but it was too little too late.

Cardiff Rugby: H Amos; O Lane, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo (M Llewellyn 73), J Harries; R Priestland (J Evans 2) (T Williams 21), L Williams, C Domachowski (R Carre 52), K Myhill (L Belcher 52), D Arhip (D Lewis 52), S Davies (R Thornton 78), M Screech, J Turnbull, E Jenkins, J Ratti (W Boyde 59).

Connacht: T O’Halloran; J Porch (S Arnold 79), T Farrell, T Daly, M Hansen; J Carty, K Marmion; M Burke (J Duggan 58), S Delahunt (D Heffernan 45), F Bealham (D Robertson-McCoy 58), O Dowling, U Dillane (N Murray 64), C Prendergast, C Oliver (P Boyle 50), J Butler.

Replacements not used: H Gilvarry, C Fitzgerald,

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)

Attendance: 5,292

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Cardiff Rugby:

Tries: H Amos 10, W Halaholo 39, Lane 51, 70, L Belcher 74

Conversions: J Evans 11, T Williams 40, 52, 71

Penalties:

Connacht

Tries: K Marmion 14, 80

Conversions: J Carty 14

Penalties: J Carty 4, 37, 59

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