Connacht 24 - 24 Cardiff Blues
Fri 03 October 19:35 Sportsground Att: 5,247 Ref: Neil Paterson Pro12

Connacht Rugby 24 Cardiff Blues 24

Fri 3 Oct 2014 22:00 Connacht Rugby 24 Cardiff Blues 24
Blues went into the Guinness PRO12 game with a proud record against the Irish province, having won eight of the last nine meetings. And this was another thrilling encounter as Blues roared back from the dead to take two points away from Galway.

An entertaining opening half saw Blues crate plenty of chances and saw the first try of the night when a clinical slicing running line sent full back Adam Thomas over under the posts.

But Mark Hammett’s men could not find the clinical edge to exploit the further openings they created and Connacht made them pay as Robbie Henshaw was awarded a TMO try to ensure the teams were locked at the interval.

A nightmare start to the second half for Blues saw two tries for the hosts in just four minutes as Kieran Marmion darted over down the blindside and then prop Nathan White barged over in the same corner.

However, Blues came alive in the final ten minutes with back row Macauley Cook sparking the fight-back when he dived over bodies to score before Hobbs made the most dramatic of inventions after four minutes of sustained pressure and a lengthy TMO decision.

Rain swept into the Sportsground ten minutes before kick-off to crept a greasy surface for the sides to contend with. And winger Fish, making his 50th appearance for the region, intelligently looked to use that as he kicked in behind as Blues tried to force early territory.

A high tempo start from the home side saw them explore the wide channels with real pace and explosive running before a penalty at the breakdown gave Craig Ronaldson a simple chance to put the hosts ahead.

Blues looked for a response with Patchell attacking the line and Fish releasing Cory Allen into space down the left before Jarrad Hoeata and Cook carried in field.

Alex Cuthbert was next to make hard yards down the middle before Lewis Jones picked up and brilliantly tore away into space before he was hauled down agonisingly just short of the try line by Danie Poolman.

Sam Warburton then sparked a turnover with great work at the breakdown, but Blues had little success unlocking the Connacht defence as Fish was shunted into touch by Niyi Adeolokun.

Connacht mounted a rare attack of their own, with fly half Jack Carty kicking into the corner from halfway as Blues were the repeated victim of the referee’s whistle. But a shuddering hit from Filo Paulo on scrum half Marmion halted any momentum.

Play swung back up the other end as Matthew Rees picked off a home lineout and fed a galloping Patchell who in turn released Fish. The wing neatly grubber kicked in behind and only the alert back-tracking Marmion stopped Allen from benefitting to hand Blues a five-metre scrum.

Hard running, after Vosawai picked up at the back of the scrum, then took Blues up to the whitewash before a superb line from full back Thomas sent him over under the shadow of the posts, with Patchell added the extras for a 7-3 lead.

Another misfiring home lineout throw was this time picked off by Vosawai who burst through two tackles and fed Cook as the visitors started to dominate territory.

However, one pass too many from Blues almost backfired as Connacht won ball and went left at pace an exploited an overlap before losing possession themselves as they over complicated passes out wide.

A scrum penalty gave Connacht the chance to kick for the corner and the forwards went to work before Poolman made a dart and the TMO awarded a try to centre Henshaw as he crossed from close range for a 10-7 lead.

The teams were level, though, within four minutes as a penalty at the breakdown gave Patchell a kick from 42-metres and he made no mistake with a low drilled effort.

One last attack from Blues before the break saw Cuthbert pump his legs and break away before flicking a pass out the back to Allen. Vosawai and Gethin Jenkins carried strongly before the visitors went wide left but failed to take the overlap on offer as Connacht regrouped.

The home side looked to use the wet conditions at the start of the second half as Carty twice kicked in behind to force Blues to clear lineouts close to their own line.

From a driving lineout the ball found the hands of lively scrum half Marmion and he escaped down the blindside to score in the corner to stun Blues.

Four minutes later it got even worse as a training ground move from the lineout saw tight-head prop Nathan White arch around the corner and blast over.

Blues needed to regroup quickly and a series of changes saw Scott Andrews and Josh Navidi introduced. Connacht, by comparison, had their tails up and were after a try bonus point as Eoin McKeon kicked in behind and Lewis Jones had to race back to touch back.

Patchell looked to insert some urgency as he twice kicked into the corner with 15 minutes left. Filo Paulo was held up as he went for the corner before an attacking scrum saw the forwards drive for the line before Cook finished it by diving over bodies.

The try set up a grandstand finale with Blues knowing a converted try could snatch a draw. It sparked a quite brilliant passage of play from Blues.

Hammett’s troops kept the ball alive and through 32 phases and four minutes of sustained play worked their way from halfway all the way to the line.

One last final drive saw the forwards swarm around Hobbs and the replacement was driven to the posts. The referee went to the TMO and after several minutes finally correctly adjudged that Hobbs was driven against the post protectors and had scored. Patchell slotted the conversion and the teams were level.

Shell-shocked Connacht had one final roll of the dice as they worked a drop goal position. But the Blues forwards poured towards Carty and a full stretch Fish charged the kick down to ensure a draw.

06m Ronaldson p 3-0              
20m Thomas t Patchell c 3-7
32m Henshaw t Carty c 10-7
36m Patchell p 10-10
43m Marmion t Ronaldson c 17-10
47m White t Ronaldson c 24-10
70m Cook t Patchell c 24-17
79m Hobbs t Patchell c 24-24

Cardiff Blues: 15 Adam Thomas, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen (Davies 71), 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Dan Fish, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lewis Jones (Knoyle 64), 1 Gethin Jenkins (Hobbs 61), 2 Matthew Rees (Dacey 72), 3 Taufa’ao Filise (Andrews 50), 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Filo Paulo, 6 Macauley Cook, 7 Sam Warburton (Navidi 50), 8 Manoa Vosawai (Turnbull 62)

Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Josh Turnbull, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Geraint Walsh