Connacht 29 - 22 Cardiff Blues
HT 14-7
Sat 13 April 15:00 The Sportsground Ref: Mike Adamson Guinness PRO14

Connacht 29 Cardiff Blues 22

Mon 7 Jan 2019 17:00 Connacht 29 Cardiff Blues 22

Cardiff Blues salvaged a bonus-point from a disappointing defeat to Connacht and now face a battle to secure a Heineken Champions Cup play-off on the final day of the Guinness PRO14 season.

The visitors sat in a promising positon at half time, after Owen Lane’s stunning individual score saw the sides head in with a seven point difference.

However, they were unable to take advantage of playing with the wind behind their backs, as the Galway-based outfit took advantage of fortuitous decisions.

Connacht racked up 10 unanswered points through Jack Carty to put themselves in the driving seat before Anscombe booted the Blues’ account back into action.

Jason Harries had what appeared to be a perfectly good try controversially ruled out by the TMO mid-way through the half but Mulvihill’s men kept battling.

Josh Turnbull rumbled over to give his side hope and Harries got the try he deserved in the closing stages to secure a bonus-point.

The Blues battled long into injury time but somehow, Connacht snatched possession to secure the victory and in the process third-place for a PRO14 play-off and Champions Cup rugby.

Following consecutive losses and 10-points in the bag for the Ospreys in South Africa, Wales’ Capital Region remain fifth but only one-point adrift of their Swansea-based rivals.

It will now all come down to Judgement Day, with the winner taking a fourth-placed play-off for the last spot at the top table of European rugby, likely to be against Benetton Rugby, Edinburgh or Scarlets.

Wales’ Capital Region opted to play into the wind in the first half, and were forced to play from deep from the kick off.  

They conceded a penalty at the breakdown in the opening minutes, but Carty’s attempt from the tee was pushed wide of the sticks.

Despite the conditions, John Mulvihill’s side looked threatening in possession, with skipper Anscombe pulling the strings, and the likes of Tomos Williams, Willis Halaholo and Matthew Morgan causing problems for the Connacht defenders.

However, it was the visitors that struck first. Paul Boyle broke from the fringe of a ruck, and despite full back Morgan bringing the rampaging back row to a stop, he managed to offload to Blade in support, who slid in for the opening score.

Irish international Carty added the extras, but the away side responded in positive fashion, dominating both possession and territory from the restart. They had to remain patient for their opening score, however, and once again it was the magic touch of Owen Lane that forced the Connacht defence open.

The wing found a hole in the defensive line, palming off the challenge of Darragh Leader, and pinned his ears back to evade covering defender, Tiernan O’Halloran, to touch down under the sticks.

With the visitors struggling to exit their own 22, Connacht took full advantage to reclaim the lead. They opted to kick for the corner from a penalty inside the 22, and were awarded for their decision as Gavin Thornbury touched down from the base of a driving line-out.

Carty slotted the conversion but sliced another penalty attempt, which would’ve given Connacht a 10-point lead at half time.

Andy Friend’s side started the second half brightly, as a pair of penalties saw them advance into the Cardiff Blues 22.

A third penalty allowed Carty to give his side some breathing space on the scoreboard, as the outside half made no mistakes with his effort in front of the posts.

The hosts had momentum on their side, and a counter from deep led to their third try of the afternoon. O’Halloran and Matt Healy made dangerous yards on the left hand side, before Carty chipped ahead into space and gathered to touch down.

Anscombe added a penalty for his side after fine work from replacement prop, Rhys Carré, at the breakdown.

Jason Harries looked to have snuck in for his side’s second try of the afternoon on the hour mark, but his effort was harshly chalked off by the TMO, as his hand was judged to have brushed the touchline before the grounding.

It was one penalty after another for Cardiff Blues in the Connacht 22, but they struggled to break past the stern home defence as Mike Adamson kept his cards in his pocket. 

The breakthrough eventually came from a driving line-out, with Josh Turnbull on hand to dot down out wide.

A stunning conversion from Anscombe saw the gap closed to seven points, but Connacht replied instantly to regain a 12-point lead.

Despite a hint of a knock on, the TMO awarded the try to Matt Healy, who used every inch of the pitch to sneak in the left-hand corner.

Harries finished in the corner with a minute to spare to give Cardiff Blues a fighting chance and they gave it everything in the closing stages but it wasn’t to be as they left Ireland with just the solitary point.