Pro14: Connacht 15-17 Cardiff Blues
|Pro14: Connacht v Cardiff Blues|
|Connacht (3) 15|
|Tries: Leader, Delahunt Con: Leader Pen: Ronaldson|
|Cardiff Blues (7) 17|
|Tries: Halaholo 2 Cons: Shingler, Evans Pen: Shingler|
Two Willis Halaholo tries helped Cardiff Blues earn their first win in the Pro14 as they stunned Connacht.
Connacht misfired despite a first-half wind advantage in Galway as Halaholo's 37th-minute score put Cardiff 7-3 up.
Darragh Leader's 60th-minute try edged Connacht 8-7 up but Steven Shingler's penalty restored Cardiff's lead.
Shane Delahunt's try looked to have won it for Connacht but Halaholo's second try on 78 minutes levelled the scores before Jarrod Evans' superb conversion.
After struggling in the first half, Connacht summoned up a big effort against the wind but their failure to control the re-start after Delahunt's 75th-minute try was punished as former Hurricanes Super Rugby title winner Halaholo finished off a three-man overlap.
Evans was still left with an exceptionally difficult conversion to secure the victory but judged the wind perfectly as the ball flew straight between the posts.
Blues breakdown work frustrates Connacht
Cardiff's huge defensive effort in the first half helped lay the foundations for their gutsy success.
The organised defensive line had all their hallmarks of Shaun Edwards' input while they frustrated Connacht at the breakdown throughout the contest, with Nick Williams impressing before his second-half departure.
Connacht's Ireland scrum-half Kieran Marmion looked sharp as he made several early snipes but the home attack lacked width as the opposition showed a willingness to charge into tackles.
Craig Ronaldson's 11th-minute penalty was all there was to show for Connacht's early pressure as handling errors and breakdown infringements inhibited the home team's efforts.
With the hosts beginning to huff and puff, skipper John Muldoon's 33rd-minute sin-binning was exploited by the Blues as Halaholo burst between Eoghan Masterson and Denis Buckley in the Connacht line before side-stepping Rory Scholes to touch down under the posts.
Connacht more threatening against the breeze
Connacht looked more threatening playing against the breeze in the second half with the introduction of Stacey Ili boosting their attack.
After intense pressure, Ili's floated pass set up Leader's 60th-minute try which moved Connacht into an 8-7 lead only for a Shingler penalty to quickly restore Cardiff's advantage.
But after Connacht had a Thomas Farrell try correctly ruled out for Eoin McKeon's obstruction on Alex Cuthbert, Delahunt's score after a well-executed lineout drive appeared to have won the contest for the home side helped by Leader's conversion.
However, the Blues were not finished, with Halaholo's last-gasp try and Evans' nerveless conversion sealing the away win as Connacht suffered a third defeat in their four opening games.
Connacht: Darragh Leader; Cian Kelleher, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Rory Scholes; Andrew Deegan, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Coulson, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, Tom Farrell, Stacey Ili.
Cardiff Blues: Rhun Williams; Alex Cuthbert, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Tom James; Steve Shingler, Lloyd Williams (capt); Brad Thyer, Kristian Dacey, Taufa'ao Filise, Seb Davies, Damian Welch, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Nick Williams.
Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Corey Domachowski, Keiron Assiratti, George Earle, Olly Robinson, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Matthew Morgan.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Nigel Correll (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Roscini (Italy)