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Dublin: 9°C Saturday 15 May 2021


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AFTER THEIR WINNING run came to an end in Glasgow last weekend, Connacht were keen to bounce back at home to the Cardiff Blues this evening.

Pat Lam’s men may have leaked five tries against the Warriors, but three of their own five-pointers had raised belief levels. The Blues were coming off the back of defeat in Leinster, and had won just once this season under new coach Mark Hammett.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the match. E-mail, tweet @thescore_iepost a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below.

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Connacht suffered their first setback of the season last weekend, as Gregor Townsend’s Glasgow Warriors ran five tries past them in Scotstoun. However, confidence remains high in the western province.

This evening, they welcome the Cardiff Blues to the Sportsground, the Welsh side coming into this game with just one win in four under new head coach Mark Hammett.

How do you see this one going? A fourth win of the campaign for Pat Lam’s Connacht?

No changes to either team to what was announced yesterday.

Connacht: Darragh Leader; Niyi Adeolokun, Robbie Henshaw, Craig Ronaldson, Danie Poolman; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Ronan Loughney, Dave Heffernan, Nathan White; Mick Kearney, Quinn Roux; John Muldoon (capt.), Willie Faloon, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Rodney Ah You, Aly Muldowney, Eoin McKeon, Ian Porter, Fionn Carr, Shane Layden.

Cardiff Blues: Adam Thomas; Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen, Gavin Evans, Dan Fish; Rhys Patchell, Lewis Jones; Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees (capt.), Taufa’ao Filise; Jarrad Hoeata, Filo Paulo; Macauley Cook, Sam Warburton, Manoa Vosawai.

Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Sam Hobbs, Scott Andrews, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Tavis Knoyle, Gareth Davies, Geraint Walsh.

So, are the Connacht fans out there feeling the belief that the players and management so clearly are this season? How far can this squad go in the Pro12? Let us know how you think this game and the rest of the campaign is going to pan out…

There’s Pat Lam and Mark Hammett, the two head coaches, having a pre-match chat here at the Sportsground. Both of them former Super Rugby coaches, of course.

Pat Lam and Mark Hammett Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Jack Carty is at out-half for Connacht again this evening. The 22-year-old has always been destined to end up playing professional sports, having been called for a trial by Southampton in his younger years.

Check out our interview with the Athlone man here.

We’re looking forward to seeing Danie Poolman in the flesh this evening in Galway. The South African wing has clearly bulked up over the summer, adding mass to what was an already powerful frame.

He and Niyi Adeolokun, who has impressed since joining the province from Trinity during the summer, provide the firepower out wide for Pat Lam’s side.

Thanks to reader Paul Nolan for linking us to this video of Adeolokun in action last year. Not hard to see why he was picked up!

Source: TheBlackbuj/YouTube

Both teams have headed back into the sheds to get their match jerseys on. Not a full house here at the Sportsground this evening.

As we type, a light drizzle begins to fall over the Galway ground.

Despite the lower attendance than last time against Leinster, these Connacht fans are well able of generating an impressive atmosphere. Huge roar as Lam’s side headed back to the changing room there and the feeling around the place is very positive.

The Blues are lead out by Matthew Rees to polite applause. The Welsh hooker is usually excellent in contact, and Cardiff are at their best when the aggression levels are up there and the hits are flying in.

And here come Connacht! John Muldoon strides out at the front of the line to a serious reception. The supporters are certainly up for this one!

Rhys Patchell, back at out-half for the Blues, gets set to kick this encounter off…

2 minute - An excellent kick from Dan Fish puts Cardiff into good territory. A poor kick from Leader preceded that, as the fullback hammered the ball right into the hands of Adam Thomas. Connacht exit well after the subsequent line-out though.

3 minutes - Brilliant line speed from Connacht on that first passage of defending, they got right up off the line and made good dominant hits. Macauley Cook knocks on under pressure and the home team have a scrum just inside the Blues half.

3 minutes - It was a hit from Robbie Henshaw that forced the error. His defence has been really strong early on this season.

5 minutes - Penalty to Connacht after a high-quality passage of attack! The initial momentum was created when Poolman gathered a Ronaldson grubber down the left and powered forward. Then Connacht showed nice shape to stretch the Blues to breaking point.

Ronaldson lines this up…

PENALTY! Connacht 3-0 Cardiff (Ronaldson ’7)

The inside centre slots it from just to the left of the posts.

8 minutes  - The Blues surge into the Connacht 22 after a loose kick from Leader allowed them to make big counter-attacking gains through Cory Allen.

However, the home team win a penalty at the breakdown as Henshaw gets his hands on the ball and Cardiff fail to release! Another excellent intervention in defence by the outside centre.

9 minutes - Crooked throw from Heffernan at the line-out though, and the Blues will have a put in to the scrum on the Connacht 10-metre line. The line-out creaked for Connacht at home to Leinster too, they will look to sort that as soon as possible.

11 minutes - Ooooh how close to a Cardiff try! Carty slipped off an initial tackle in midfield and then quick ruck ball saw scrum-half Jones scoot clear on a sniping break, before arcing out to the right.

Poolman and Leader scrambled to drag him down a metre short and then Vosawai knocked-on on the next phase! Relief for Connacht but that was poor defence.

12 minutes - Carty will need to shore up his defence from here on in, although Alex Cuthbert deserves credit for that initial break.

Now the Blues are back on attack after a Connacht error as they attempted to exit.

15 minutes - An excellent Adeolokun tackle brings that passage to an end as the Connacht wing drive Fish into touch. Textbook basics from the former Trinity man as he goes low and drives through the contact.

Another missed Connacht line-out follows, but then the Blues come in the side of the ruck and concede the penalty.

Connacht go to tough and will being their attack from 35 metres out, on the left. Got to get this line-out right…

16 minutes - Another penalty to Connacht as Vosawai fails to roll clear of the tackle after Poolman carried. Carty fires the ball into touch again, this time on the left and inside the Blues’ 22. Good platform required now.

17 minutes - Connacht’s maul is repelled well by the Blues, before Marmion snipes to the right. Muldowney and Heffernan make carries, but then a big hit from Warburton forces a spill of the ball.

To top it off, the Connacht line-out has malfunctioned again! The Blues almost go the length of the field on the counter attack through Fish and Allen, but Adeolokun gets back to touch down behind Connacht’s tryline.

19 minutes - Ronan Loughney has been forced off injured temporarily for now, with Denis Buckley coming on in his place in the front row.

TRY! Connacht 3-5 Cardiff (Thomas ’20)

CONVERSION! Connacht 3-7 Cardiff (Patchell ’21)

22 minutes - That was too easy for Blues’ fullback Thomas, who took a hard, short line off scrum-half Jones and burst inside a tackle from Henshaw. Connacht will be disappointed with their D on that occasion.

23 minutes - Hooker Dave Heffernan has had a couple of nice touches in open play so far, but he and the pack will want to get their line-out running far more smoothly.

Dave Heffernan Source: James Crombie/INPHO

24 minutes - As we say it, Connacht have another error around the set-piece, with Quinn Roux spilling the ball as they look to set their maul. Frustrating stuff for the big lock.

25 minutes - Loughney is back on, with Buckley returning to the bench.

His first action is to be involved in a penalty concession, although referee Paterson is signalling that Nathan White wasn’t driving straight.

26 minutes - Loughney passed his concussion test while he was off the pitch.

28 minutes - The Blues look dangerous once again in attack, coming off the back of yet another line-out mistake from Connacht. But then Allen spills the pill forward as Carty makes a low tackle on him.

30 minutes - Major frustration for Connacht! They were almost through for a wonderful counter-attacking try from deep in their own half. Henshaw pinched a loose Vosawai offload, then Connacht shifted the ball to the left and Poolman broke through on a clever switch.

The South African wing looked to repeat the switch back in the other direction with Heffernan, but the hooker wasn’t fully expecting the pass and it goes to ground!

31 minutes - Scrum penalty for Connacht! Filise stands up on the Blues’ tighthead side and Paterson pings him. Carty kicks into touch down the left, about 10 metres out from the Cardiff tryline…

32 minutes - We’re off the the TMO for a potential Henshaw try!

32 minutes - That looks ok…

TRY! Connacht 8-7 Cardiff (Henshaw ’32)

CONVERSION! Connacht 10-7 Cardiff Blues (Ronaldson ’33)

Lovely strike.

33 minutes - That try originated at the line-out on the left, from where the Connacht maul drove forward. Poolman made a big carry to go close, before Henshaw took a pass, darted back to the left side of the ruck and powered into Macauley Cook’s tackle.

The centre then stretched out to touch the ball down just on the tryline!

35 minutes - Matthew Rees goes off his feet to conceded the penalty in Connacht’s half.

Lam’s men tap it and go! Carty then makes a clever kick in behind the Blues deep to the right, forcing Patchell to kick back out. When he does so, Poolman carries back with intent, but Connacht give up the penalty at the breakdown.

Patchell will have a go from around 42 metres out here…

PENALTY! Connacht 10-10 Cardiff (Patchell ’37)

A horrible strike of the ball, but they all count!

38 minutes - Cardiff force a knock-on from Mick Kearney, but they did look offside there it has to be said. Paterson ignores the questioning of his call and the Blues get the put-in at the scrum…

39 minutes - Willie Faloon has been typically busy for Connacht in Galway.

Willie Faloon and Filo Paulo Source: James Crombie/INPHO

40 minutes - The Blues looked certain to score there at one stage, as Patchell’s big miss pass saw them with a big overlap. But Allen’s pass to Hoeata went to deck and Connacht were off the hook.

HALF TIME: Connacht 10-10 Cardiff

What did you make of that opening 40 minutes from Connacht? A couple of defensive lapses will have been a concern, while the line-out malfunctioned on several occasions. More positively, Henshaw took his try well and there is real energy from Lam’s men with ball in hand.

Here’s a shot of Connacht celebrating that Robbie Henshaw try. The young centre has had some excellent moments in the first half, but won’t be pleased that Thomas went through him for Cardiff’s five pointer.

George Naoupu and Kieran Marmion celebrate with Robbie Henshaw after he scored his side's opening try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

We’re all set for the second half here, with Carty restarting the game…

41 minutes - Still drizzle falling over the Sportsground as Connacht go on the attack through the busy Poolman. Two early kicks from Carty into the corner suggest that Connacht are going to play for territory a lot more in this 40. The second kick is superb and pins Cardiff into the corner with the line-out…

TRY! Connacht 15-10 Cardiff (Marmion ’43)

43 minutes - Brilliant from Connacht! Off the line-out maul, Faloon broke back down the blindside around 2o metres out and offloaded to Marmion. The scrum-half stepped Fish and went through Warburton’s tackle to score!

CONVERSION! Connacht 17-10 Cardiff (Ronaldson ’44)

Superb from the right-hand touchline for the left footer.

45 minutes - A perfect start to the second half from Connacht, who now try an ambitious cross-field kick to Henshaw wide on the right. Carty’s kick goes just over his head, so close!

47 minutes - Now Connacht win the penalty at the breakdown through Naoupu! Really good poach from the No. 8 and Carty’s kick brings Connacht to within 5 metres.

Denis Buckley is on for Loughney permanently now.

47 minutes - Connacht think they’ve scored again from that maul! Paterson calls for the TMO…

TRY! Connacht 22-10 Cardiff (White ’47)

CONVERSION! Connacht 24-10 Cardiff (Ronaldson ’48)

Sublime kick from the right touchline again!

49 minutes - What a superb try that was! Kearney took in the line-out, popped down to Roux and the lock slipped a pass to White running back down the blindside. He had a one-on-one with scrum-half Jones and boshed through the tackle to score!

Clever play from Connacht to isolate the Blues’ nine.

52 minutes - The Blues have hauled off Warburton for Josh Navidi, while Scott Andrews replaces Filise in the front row.

For Connacht, Eoin McKeon comes on for Willie Faloon, who had a really strong game.

53 minutes - Everyone is loving Connacht’s resurgance, although some can’t believe it!

55 minutes - This game has settled down again after that Connacht blitz in the first ten minutes of the half. Rodney Ah You has replaced Nathan White at tighthead for Connacht.

57 minutes - Brilliant attacking play from Connacht again! Ronaldson claimed a high box kick, then Carty and Leader shifted it right to McKeon. The replacement back row broke the line then chipped behind fullback Thomas. Jones won the race to the pill, but was forced to touch down behind his own tryline.

‘The Field of Athenry’ is now ringing out around the Sportsground. An attendance of 5,242 are here tonight.

59 minutes - Scrum penalty to Connacht as Ah You makes his impact on the set-piece! Lam’s men are going into the corner here, they are full of confidence and want that bonus-point try.

60 minutes - Agh, there are those line-out problems again! The Blues claim the ball and will kick clear…

61 minutes - Aly Muldowney replaces Quinn Roux in Connacht’s second row. For Cardiff, Sam Hobbs is on for Gethin Jenkins.

62 minutes - Kieran Marmion is having yet another good outing for Connacht. He’s so dangerous with those sniping breaks.

Gavin Evans, Rhys Patchell and Sam Warburton tackle Kieran Marmion Source: James Crombie/INPHO

64 minutes - A let off for the Blues there as Connacht conceded a penalty within metres of the tryline. Patchell fires the ball into touch and that patch of pressure is released.

66 minutes - Shane Layden is on for Connacht, replacing the excellent Ronaldson.

68 minutes - Connacht in defensive mode now as the Blues build some pressure inside the home team’s 22. Muldowney gets a warning as he infringes for a penalty, before Patchell kicks into touch five metres out.

Fionn Carr is on for Niyi Adeolokun.

TRY! Connacht 24-15 Cardiff (Cook ’70)

The back row dives over from close-range.

CONVERSION! Connacht 24-17 Cardiff (Patchell ’71)

72 minutes - The once-again superb Kieran Marmion is off for Connacht, with Ian Porter on in his place. Paterson does the Blues for a crooked feed at the scrum and Connacht will have another chance to attack, from 45 metres out.

76 minutes - Cardiff surge back onto the front foot again, although Ah You makes a big hit to slow them down.

77 minutes - The Blues drive into the Connacht 22 now, nervous moments…

78 minutes - Still the Blues come forward, with Connacht defending desperately.

79 minutes - They’re metres short now…

79 minutes - Paterson is heading to his TMO here! The Blues think they have scored, possibly at the base of the post.

TRY! Connacht 24-22 Cardiff!

CONVERSION! Connacht 24-24 Cardiff (Patchell)

80 minutes - Connacht go back on the attack here. Final chance…

80 minutes - Carty’s drop goal is blocked!

FULL TIME: Connacht 24-24 Cardiff Blues!

That’s all we have time for, so keep those comments coming. Stay tuned for reaction from Galway. Cheers for joining us!

About the author:

Murray Kinsella