Connacht Rugby 12 Cardiff Blues 26
Friday 15th April – The Sportsground – KO 7.45pm
Early penalty exchanges for Keatley and Parks saw the scores level after ten minutes on what was a dry but windy evening on the west coast of Ireland.
Keatley slotted another long-range effort from the halfway line and Connacht did threaten also, with Keatley and Troy looking dangerous with ball in hand. They extended their lead when the Blues were penalized again, this time for back chat. Keatley slotted his third penalty of the evening.
However, the Blues breakthrough soon followed following a line-out inside the Connacht twenty-two. The Blues spread the ball to mid-field and after some good build up work by Rush, Parks passed back inside to Laulala, who danced his way through the tackles and touched down just on the line. Parks converted.
The Blues started to dominate territory, but the final pass was failing to go to hand with knock on’s preventing promising moves in good positions. Connacht regained the lead just before the half with Keatley’s fourth penalty maintaining his 100% record.
Half time Connacht Rugby 12 Cardiff Blues 10
The second half started with Maama Molitika looking as if he had crossed the line to score a try following a scrum five metres out. However, the referee blew for a penalty, before Rees had a chance to regain the ball but Parks converted to at least get some points.
Connacht went down to fourteen men after Number 8, Ray Ofisa, was deemed to have spear tackled Jamie Roberts and Parks extended the lead with the penalty. It was nip and tuck all the way and the Blues would need to capitalize on the man advantage.
Despite having good field position and a platform to attack the Blues were being driven back by a stubborn and solid Connacht defence, which saw them retreat 10 yards and Connacht win a scrum on the twenty two when the Blues really should have been on the try-line.
However, they were fortunate to be awarded a penalty and Parks maintained his 100% record with his fourth penalty of the match.
Parks missed two further penalties and with 10 minutes left there was still only 7 points in it. However, Bradley Davies made sure of the win with a well taken try. Casey Laulala again showed great feet to dance around defenders before offloading to Lloyd Williams who passed to the big second rower, who stepped inside and used his strength to shake off the tackler before touching down. Parks converted to bring the final score to 12-26.
Cardiff Blues 15 Chris Czekaj 14 Leigh Halfpenny 13 Casey Laulala 12 Jamie Roberts 11 Tom James 10 Dan Parks 9 Richie Rees (70off)
8 Xavier Rush 7 Martyn Williams 6 Maama Molitika (67off) 5 Paul Tito (c) 4 Bradley Davies 3 Taufa’ao Filise 2 Gareth Williams 1 John Yapp (74off)
16 Rhys Williams 17 Sam Hobbs (74on) 18 Scott Andrews 19 Deiniol Jones 20 Michael Paterson (67on) 21 Lloyd Williams (70on) 22 Ceri Sweeney 23 Dafydd Hewitt
Connacht 15 Gavin Duffy 14 Brian Tuohy 13 Niva Ta’auso 12 Troy Nathan 11 Fionn Carr 10 Ian Keatley 9 Frank Murphy
8 Ray Ofisa 7 Johnny O’Connor © 6 Andrew Browne 5 Bernie Upton 4 Mike McCarthy 3 Jamie Hagan 2 Sean Cronin 1 Ronan Loughney
16 Adrian Flavin 17 Brett Wilkinson 18 Rodney Ah You 19 Mike McComish 20 John Muldoon 21 Mark Dolan 22 Keith Matthews 23 Eoin Griffin
Tries Laulala x 1 Davies x 1
Pen Parks x 4
Con Parks x 2
Pen Keatley x 4
Referee: A McMenemy
Yellow Card: Ray Ofisa