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Dublin: 12°C Sunday 9 May 2021
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Connacht overcome Cardiff as Springbok Boshoff makes his debut

The western province got the winning feeling back in Galway tonight.

Connacht 18

Cardiff Blues 7

Declan Rooney reports from The Sportsground

FOIL BLANKETS, COLD hands and knock-ons were the order of the night as Connacht got back to winning ways at a sold-out Sportsground.

Tries in each half from John Cooney and Bundee Aki saw Connacht claim the four points from a scrappy encounter, which saw Springbok Marnitz Boshoff debut from the bench.

In his first appearance since a serious shoulder injury in the closing stages of last season’s Grand Final win over Leinster, Cooney was outstanding for Connacht and along with Tom McCartney and Denis Buckley it was a successful return from injury.

John Cooney scores his side's first try Pat Lam's side came out on top in freezing conditions. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The news was not as bright for Craig Ronaldson, however. On his first outing since a concussion, the in-form centre limped off after 28 minutes with what appeared to be a thigh injury.

In freezing cold conditions, both side struggled to master the basics of the game in the early stages with a handful of missed kicks to touch and knock-ons marring the early action.

Connacht dominated territorially for the most part before the interval, but could count themselves a touch fortunate to lead by 10-7 at half-time.

Cooney scored all ten of those points for the home side as he was handed the kicking duties as well as the starting No 9 shirt.

With Cardiff choosing to fill the defensive line Jack Carty kicked for territory very well, which saw Connacht camped in the Cardiff half, but unforced errors in open play cost them time and again.

But despite coughing up a penalty at the first try of the game, all of the ten points came from a solid Connacht scrum, strengthened by the return of McCartney and Buckley, who led the side out to mark his 100th appearance for the province.

The first points came in the 16th minute after Cardiff scrum-half Tomos Williams carried Stacey Ili’s chip through over his try-line, and from the five-metre scrum Connacht drove the Blues backwards and Cooney touched down when the ball squirted through man of the match John Muldoon’s feet at the last moment.

Cooney added the touchline conversion, but Cardiff were level straight away after the restart when Tom James intercepted Carty’s long pass and cantered in untouched. Steven Shingler kicked the levelling conversion after 19 minutes, but six minutes later he was off the mark from a penalty earned as Connacht’s scrum was bettered near their own line.

With Rey Lee-Lo and Willis Halaholo finding their feet in just their second game as centre partners Cardiff began to trouble the home side and Connacht needed a stunning tackle on the line from Cooney to deny prop Scott Andrews a certain try.

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And that stout defence was rewarded on the stroke of half-time when the Connacht scrum devoured Cardiff on their own ball and Cooney chipped over the penalty for a 10-7 lead.

Ten minutes after the restart Cooney kicked his second penalty to stretch Connacht’s lead to 13-7, but that was far from a comfortable advantage on a night where errors were plentiful.

But the home support at a sold-out Sportsground could breathe easy eight minutes later when they bagged their second try through Aki.

John Muldoon is presented with the Guinness PRO12 Man of the Match award by Ray Sheehan Muldoon was the game's standout player. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Niyi Adeolokun was the creator after he forced a knock-on from Matthew Morgan and the Nigerian-born winger kicked through to put Connacht on the front foot. Muldoon was the recipient of quick ball and after passing through two more pairs of hands Tiernan O’Halloran came close to crossing.

He was stopped a yard short, but he offloaded brilliantly to Aki who ran the support line and he crossed for a brilliant counter attack try.

Trailing by 18-7, Cardiff went in search of a try that would give them some reward for their night’s work, but Adeolokun denied Morgan will a brilliant tackle which forced a knock-on as they closed out the win.

Connacht scorers:Tries: John Cooney, Bundee Aki

Penalties: John Cooney x2

Conversions: John Cooney

Cardiff Blues scorers:

Try: Tom James

Conversion: Steven Shingler

CONNACHT: Cian Kelleher; Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson (Tiernan O’Halloran 28), Stacey Ili; Jack Carty (Marnitz Boshoff 67), John Cooney (Caolin Blade 55); Denis Buckley (Ronan Loughney 65), Tom McCartney (Dave Heffernan 55), Conor Carey (JP Cooney 67); Quinn Roux (Lewis Stevenson 65), James Cannon; Eoin McKeon (Nepia Fox-Matamua 62), Jake Heenan, John Muldoon.

CARDIFF BLUES: Dan Fish (Matthew Morgan 38); Blaine Scully, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Tom James (Alex Cuthbert 68); Steven Shingler, Tomos Williams; Rhys Gill (Brad Thyer 71), Kris Dacey (Matthew Rees 67), Scott Andrews (Taufa’ao Filise 71); George Earle, Jarrad Hoeata (Macauley Cook 52); Josh Turnbull, Ellis Jenkins, Josh Navidi.

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU).

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About the author:

Declan Rooney

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