Pro12: Connacht 36-31 Cardiff Blues
|Connacht (19) 36|
|Tries: Marmion, Fox-Matamua, Poolman, O'Halloran, Muldowney Cons: Carty 4 Pens: Carty|
|Cardiff Blues (17) 31|
|Tries: Summerhill, Turnbull, Fish, Hobbs Cons: Patchell 3, G. Davies Pens: Patchell|
Connacht clinched a bonus-point win over the Blues in a thrilling Pro12 clash at the Sportsground.
Tries from Kieran Marmion, Nepia Fox-Matamua and Danie Poolman gave Connacht a 19-17 at the break.
Aled Summerhill and Josh Turbull went over for Cardiff in the first half and Dan Fish added a third on the restart.
Tiernan O'Halloran and Aly Muldowney touched down to take Connacht clear before a last-gasp try from Sam Hobbs earned two bonus points for visitors.
The Blues burst into a seventh-minute lead in Galway, their defence pushing up hard and winger Summerhill intercepted Tom McCartney's pass to race away from his 22 for a try that Rhys Patchell converted.
Connacht were level just three minutes later when Marmion showed great pace off the mark, sniffing out the try-scoring opportunity off the base of a ruck.
His half-back partner Jack Carty, who had missed an earlier penalty, split the posts with the conversion.
Back-to-back tries from man-of-the-match Fox-Matamua and Poolman catapulted Connacht into a 19-7 lead.
The former plunged over from a lineout maul and great hands from Bundee Aki and Rory Parata played in Poolman for a fine finish near the corner flag.
Carty tagged on one conversion, with the ball falling off the kicking tee for the second one as he drop-kicked wide.
Patchell missed a chance to punish a Finlay Bealham scrum offence, but Danny Wilson's side dominated the closing stages of the half.
Number eight Turnbull's pushover score was converted by Patchell, who also fired over a penalty after Connacht full-back O'Halloran was sin-binned for a professional foul - offside at a ruck.
Fourteen-man Connacht were under huge pressure on the restart, needing try-saving interventions from Marmion and Parata, but the pressure told when Blues full-back Fish chased down his own chip and dribbled through to score with Patchell converting.
Despite struggling to gain a foothold in Cardiff territory, Connacht managed to hit back in the 57th minute when Carty's crossfield kick bounced neatly for the unmarked O'Halloran to dot down.
The hosts then turned the screw with a brilliant 20-plus phase attack which resulted in Muldowney breaking through to leave the Blues trailing 33-24.
Replacement Gareth Davies missed two kickable penalties for the Welshmen while Patchell nursed an ankle injury.
All was not lost, though, as despite leaking a three-pointer to Carty, prop Hobbs ensured the battling Blues took home a brace of points.
Connacht: O'Halloran, Poolman, Parata, Aki, Healy, Carty, Marmion, Buckley, McCartney, Bealham, Roux, Browne, Muldoon, Fox-Matamua, McKeon.
Replacements: Carr for Poolman (66), Ronaldson for Parata (78), J. Cooney for Marmion (57), Heffernan for McCartney (74), O'Donnell for Bealham (80), Muldowney for Roux (53), Naoupu for Browne (80). Not Used: J. Cooney.
Sin Bin: O'Halloran (40).
Cardiff Blues: Fish, Summerhill, Isaacs, G. Evans, R. Smith, Patchell, Knoyle, Hobbs, Dacey, Mitchell, Hoeata, Reed, Navidi, E. Jenkins, Turnbull.
Replacements: G. Davies for Fish (60), Jones for Knoyle (74), Rees for Dacey (74), Down for Hoeata (66), Vosawai for E. Jenkins (75). Not Used: T. Davies, Lewis, G. Smith.
Ref: Neil Hennessy (Wales).