Connacht secure URC play-off place after victory over Cardiff
Connacht marked Andy Friend’s final home game as their director of rugby with a 38-19 bonus-point win over Cardiff at the Sportsground.
They confirmed their place in the BKT United Rugby Championship play-offs and Champions Cup qualification with the victory.
Connacht led 26-7 at half-time thanks to tries from Diarmuid Kilgallen, Diarmuid Tierney-Martin, Conor Oliver and Mack Hansen.
Thomas Young doubled Cardiff’s try tally in the 48th minute, adding to a Seb Davies effort, but a penalty try and a late score from Bristol-bound scrum-half Kieran Marmion wrapped up the result.
Despite flanker Young squeezing in a last-minute try, Cardiff fell short of a bonus point ahead of their crunch Judgement Day clash with Ospreys next weekend.
Connacht hit the front in the 13th minute, Tom Farrell taking advantage of a mismatch in midfield to send winger Kilgallen over to the right of the posts. Jack Carty converted.
Profiting from James Botham’s sin-binning for a high tackle on Oliver, a patiently-worked maul sent hooker Tierney-Martin over in the right corner.
Connacht’s scrum did some damage before Caolin Blade broke past Tomos Williams and offloaded out of a tackle for Oliver to dive in under the posts.
The visitors pulled back seven points on the half hour mark, a dummying Liam Belcher making the initial break before Williams’ speedy pass sent lock Davies over.
However, the Irish province pocketed their bonus point when Hansen cruised in under the posts via a Bundee Aki offload, with Carty restoring the 19-point gap.
Cardiff took Connacht through 33 phases early on the resumption, eventually using a well-controlled drive to put Young over, leaving it 26-12.
The Welsh side’s lineout let them down on two more occasions, though, and an accidental clash meant Owen Lane had to be stretchered off.
Connacht regained control past the hour mark, Aki joining a maul that earned a penalty try due to two Cardiff players infringing. Young was singled out for a yellow card.
Cardiff’s Welsh Shield hopes now rest on their final round date with Ospreys – Young did get over after Max Llewellyn had botched an earlier chance – but a 75th-minute snipe from Marmion had the hosts, who reclaim sixth place, out of sight.
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