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Six minutes of magic ends three-game home losing streak for Connacht

By PA
Abraham Papalii and Bundee Aki. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Connacht ended a run of three successive Guinness PRO14 home defeats with a 32-17 bonus point win over Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground.

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Rhys Carre’s first-ever try for Cardiff looked an important score, until Alex Wootton’s quickfire brace just before half-time handed the hosts a 20-10 lead.

Corey Domachowski became the second Cardiff prop to touch down in the 64th minute, but Connacht captain Jarrad Butler and replacement Abraham Papali’i sewed up the result with final-quarter tries.

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Cardiff controlled the early possession and Lloyd Williams’ snipe and a forward-looking pass set up Aled Summerhill for a massive surge downfield.

The hosts leaked a penalty close to their own line, and after a 10th-minute maul drew the Blues closer, Carre was well supported by Liam Belcher as he drove over for Jason Tovey to convert.

A Jack Carty penalty opened Connacht’s account soon after, and he landed a second kick in the 21st minute to make it a one-point game.

Connacht had blown an overlap before that, though, and Cardiff hit back through Tovey’s right boot for a 10-6 lead, following a no-clear release penalty against Dave Heffernan.

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However, winger Wootton’s six minutes of magic before the interval really lifted Connacht. He surged in between Mason Grady and Belcher, past the visitors’ 10-metre line, and evaded Matthew Morgan’s tackle to finish to the left of the posts.

With the clock in the red, the 26-year-old showed great feet again to score at the end of 16 phases and stun what had been a reliable Blues defence for the opening 35 minutes.

Carty tagged on both conversions for a 14-point swing, and after Tovey hit the post with an early second-half penalty, Connacht had the better of the play up to the hour mark.

They turned down a kickable penalty but emerged scoreless, and their own indiscipline allowed the Blues to bite back.

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Ellis Jenkins increased his influence at the breakdown before replacement Domachowski burrowed over.

Full-back Morgan’s conversion made it 20-17, but it was then Cardiff’s turn to fall foul of referee Andrew Brace’s whistle. It gave Connacht prime maul position and Butler was quickly bundled over for an unconverted score.

A unlikely bonus point was the westerners’ reward late on, with big back rower Papali’i – backed up by Ultan Dillane – powering over in the 77th minute for his third try in five appearances.

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finn 8 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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