Connacht 20 Cardiff Blues 26
Saturday 29 October, 6pm KO at the Sportsground
Connacht kicked off and for the second consecutive game the Blues let in a try within the first minutes. Connacht won a line out and worked the phases before the ball was shipped left where O’Halloran crashed over. Niall O’Connor converted.
Paterson gathered the restart well and the Blues spent time in the Connacht twenty-two, but they failed to capitalise with the ball being turned over before clearing.
A typically blustery wind at the Sportsground was causing problems for both teams but Connacht were obviously more familiar with the conditions and played them to their advantage. However, Parks managed to slot two penalties and O’Connor one to bring the score to 10-6.
There were errors creeping into the Blues play with passes not going to hand and wrong decisions taken in attacking positions, allowing Connacht to put pressure on them. Eventually the second try came. From a penalty kick Connacht won a line out inside the Blues twenty-two and the pack drove all the way over the try line, with McCarthy scoring and O’Connor converting.
The Blues came agonisingly close to scoring when Richie Rees picked up from the base of a ruck and went on a snipping run, before being held up just short of the try-line. The Blue pack arrived and tried to push over but the Connahct defence stood firm. However, they were awarded a penalty but Parks missed again. The Blues had another chance just before the half, but again they chose the wrong option, flicking the ball inside when it should have gone out wide where the numbers were.
Half time Connacht 17 Cardiff Blues 6
The Blues started the second half with a fine try. Inside the Connacht half they recycled the ball well and when it was spread left Casey Laulala showed his class, breaking the line, and slipping the pass out to Cuthbert. The big winger took his try well; showing pace and strength to beat his man and touch down in the corner. Parks this time converted from the touchline.
The try lifted the Blues and they scored from the restart. Josh Navidi did well to intercept a pass and James continued the move. The ball was recycled and this time Laulala, threw a dummy, handed off another and touched down under the posts. Parks converted and the Blues were ahead for the first time.
On the hour mark, Connacht levelled the scores with a simple penalty in front of the posts and to rub salt in the wound, Paul Tito was sent to the bin, for not releasing.
However, Parks restored the lead minutes later with a well taken 40-yard effort penalty and a smartly taken drop goal. Despite several late charges from Connacht the Blues defence held firm and they hung on for victory.
15 Chris Czekaj 14 Alex Cuthbert (76off) 13 Casey Laulala 12 Dafydd Hewitt (60off) 11 Tom James 10 Dan Parks 9 Richie Rees
8 Xavier Rush 7 Josh Navidi 6 Maama Molitika (70off) 5 Paul Tito (c) 4 Michael Paterson 3 Taufaao Filise (60off) 2 T Rhys Thomas 1 John Yapp (60off)
16 Ryan Tyrrell 17 Sam Hobbs (60on) 18 Scott Andrews (60on) 19 Deiniol Jones (70on) 20 Ellis Jenkins 21 Lewis Jones 22 Ceri Sweeney (76off) 23 Gavin Evans (60on)
15 Gavin Duffy (c) 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo 13 Eoin Griffin 12 Henry Fa'afili 11 Tiernan O'Halloran 10 Niall O'Connor 09 Frank Murphy
01 Brett Wilkinson 02 Adrian Flavin 03 Rodney Ah You 04 Michael Swift 05 Mike McCarthy 06 John Muldoon 07 Johnny O'Connor 08 Ray Ofisa
16 Ethienne Reynecke 17 Ronan Loughney 18 Dylan Rogers 19 Dave Gannon 20 George Naoupu 21 Paul O'Donohoe 22 Miah Nikora 23 Brian Tuohy
Tries Cuthbert x 1 Laulala x 1
Pen Parks x 3
Con Parks x 2
D/G Parks x 1
Tries O’Halloran x 1 MCCarthy x 1
Pen O’Halloran x 1 Nikora x 1
Con O’Connor x 2
Yellow Card: Paul Tito