Cardiff Rugby 33 - 21 Connacht
HT 14-13
Fri 24 September 19:35 Cardiff Arms Park Ref: Andrea Piardi United Rugby Championship

Cardiff 33 Connacht 21

Fri 24 Sep 2021 21:29 Cardiff 33 Connacht 21

Cardiff Rugby overcame adversity as they kicked off a new era in Blue and Black and the United Rugby Championship with a five try victory over Connacht.

Dai Young’s men were dealt a set-back when Rhys Priestland departed with a bang to the head after one minute. 

Hallam Amos soon crossed to give the hosts the lead but they were soon dealt a devastating double blow as replacement fly-half Jarrod Evans was forced off in any following a heavy aerial collision.

That saw Tomos Williams come on at nine, with the kicking duties, and Lloyd Williams moving to fly-half. 

Connacht moved into the lead but a late Willis Halaholo try saw the hosts head into the break with a one-point advantage.

However, a feast of attacking rugby in the second half saw Cardiff cross for a further three tries - including an Owen Lane brace - securing maximum points in the process.

It sends the Blue and Blacks into the first derby of the season on the back of a win, as they prepare to take on Ospreys at Liberty Stadium next Saturday.

It was a disappointing start for Cardiff, who lost Rhys Priestland to a HIA after just one minute due to a stray knee and then conceded a scrum penalty. Jack Carty booted the first points of the evening.

With Jarrod Evans called into action early, Cardiff began stretching the visitors and put Owen Lane into space on the right. The wing hacked ahead and was beaten by the bounce but John Porch made a meal of things on his own try line to open the door.

Fortunately for the Connacht wing he just managed to regather before Lloyd Williams got a hand to the ball to save his blushes but concede a scrum.

The ensuing set-piece was solid and Willis Halaholo almost powered over after trucking the ball up at first receiver. There was one more charge at the line before Connacht rushed off side giving scrum-half Williams a licence to fling a monstrous miss pass to Amos.

The full-back had a simple finish out wide and Evans, who was no a permanent replacement, made no mistake as he made it 7-3 after nine minutes.

Any early hard work was undone however when Connacht crossed just five minutes later. It was a try that came out of no where however as the ball was lost in midfield and the Irish outfit pounced.  They broke the initial defence too easily allowing a simple pass to Kieran Marmion running a simple scrum-half support line to score.

Carty converted to give Connacht a three-point advantage and matters were made worse as they soon lost Jarrod Evans to injury. The fly-half went up to receive a high ball and was clattered mid-air by Porter. 

He landed in agony and following a lengthy period of treatment, haunched on all fours, Evans was helped from the field. Tomos Williams was brought on as Lloyd Williams moved to 10.

Rallied by their adversity and the backing of an increasingly vocal home crowd, Cardiff battled against the odds. They lost crossed for a fine team try on 27 minutes following a midfield burst from Josh Turnbull and a neat link up between Tomos Williams and Seb Davies.

The ball was spread left to Jason Harries but Connacht scrambled well and the giant wing could not keep possession in play.

Cardiff continued to dig in but were increasingly getting on the wrong side of Italian referee Andrea Piardi. Carty slotted a penalty on 36 minutes to stretch the Irish outfit’s lead to six.

It appeared as though Connacht would go into the half with the lead but following a loose and frenetic period, which saw both teams threaten, Cardiff were awarded a scrum in good position.

Moments later Tomos Williams sniped through and put Halaholo away. Williams then nailed the difficult conversion to give the hosts a 14-13 lead at the break.

The Blue and Blacks took a further stride towards an unlikely victory as they claimed a third try shortly after the restart.

Connacht had broken from inside their own 22 and were clear but Halaholo, who donated kit to the crowd pre-match, raced back for a fine tackle, jackal and turnover. 

Moments later Cardiff were making comfortable yards and causing Connacht problems as space was created on the left. Quick hands from Rey Lee-Lo and Ellis Jenkins released Lane and he demonstrated his pace and power to barrel over.

Unfazed by the responsibility Williams converted from the touchline to put his side in the driving seat.

Connacht chipped away with another penalty and momentum seemed to be turning in their favour. They kicked two further penalties to the corner, the second after Seb Davies had been sent to the sin-bin following accumulative team offences. But just as they looked to twist the knife they overthrew the line out and Jenkins surged forward to alleviate the pressure.

Minutes later the momentum swung back in the favour of Dai Young’s side as pivotal fly-half Carty was binned for a shoulder charge at the breakdown.

Soon after Connacht were reduced to 13 following a searing break from Lane. He stepped inside and outside leaving the Connacht defence for dead. He hacked ahead but was taken out by Mack Hansen who was also shown yellow. 

Cardiff kicked the ensuing penalty to touch and after a series of forward drives, Williams broke back to the blindside and delayed a double pump pass to Lane to surge over. 

Williams again added the conversion and Cardiff put the result beyond doubt after Liam Belcher burrowed over following another kick to the corner and drive.

This time, Williams was unable to convert but his and fellow scrum-half Williams’ display was something that left the crowd is awe.

Connacht did cross in the final moments for a consolation score through scrum half Kieran Marmion, but this was the Blue and Blacks' night as they gave the Arms Park faithful an evening to remember in the capital.