Cardiff Blues secured a second win of the season with a battling bonus point victory over Connacht at Rodney Parade on Friday night.
John Mulvihill’s men came into the game on the back a 14-man triumph over Zebre in week one, with the starting XV largely unchanged to face a Connacht team that also got off to a flying start with a win over Glasgow. Dillon Lewis came in for Dmitri Arhip, Kirby Myhill for Liam Belcher and Olly Robinson replaced Josh Turnbull with James Botham moving around to number eight.
The home side started brightly in attack, with Matthew Morgan racing through a gap with Lloyd Williams in support before being pulled down, while Hallam Amos was bundled into touch just short of the try line on the left wing after Cardiff Blues set up camp in the red zone. In the end though it was the boot of Jarrod Evans that opened the scoring after Connacht went off their feet.
After that the away side were able to get their hands on the ball, Jack Carty kicking cleverly into the corner and the Cardiff lineout falling foul of the referee. However, the home defence was superb again, particularly Willis Halaholo who’s chop tackle on Bundee Aki take the legs clean out from underneath the danger man.
As the game settled down through the mid-point of the first half there was a real back-and-forth feel to it, as Connacht won a penalty on the floor before coughing up possession, but scrambling well enough to haul down Lloyd Williams once again, this time after a Jarrod Evans break.
The away side camped once again on our try line with half an hour gone, but this time Dillon Lewis popped up with the crucial turnover, and when Cardiff won a second penalty two minutes later it set up a dangerous attacking lineout in the opposition half.
Off first phase Rey Lee-Lo came on the out-to-in line and tied up three Connacht defenders, before quick ball allowed Jarrod Evans to throw a perfect miss-pass for Matthew Morgan to draw the outside man and release Josh Adams, with the winger producing a fine offload to put Hallam Amos over for his first Cardiff Blues try.
Evans converted and the hosts saw the rest of the first half out with a 10-0 lead at the break, but whatever was said in the away dressing room worked wonders as the Irish side came out firing at the start of the second half.
Carty’s kicking out of hand pinned Cardiff in our own 22 again, and some poor exit work allowed Connacht to pile on the pressure. A scrum penalty led to a kick to the corner, and the away side’s driving maul caused all sorts of problems until eventually Dillon Lewis was sent to the sin bin.
The home side continued to defend resiliently, and it took Connacht all of 16 minutes after the break to finally get over the try line as Sammy Arnold got his hands free in a tackle and offloaded for Conor Oliver to dive over under the posts, with Carty adding the extras.
Cardiff needed something special to turn the game back in their favour, and luckily there are two very special players in the back line.
Firstly, Jarrod Evans was able to turn defence into attack as he covered a kick in his own 22 and went on a stereotypically jinking run which ended with Lloyd Williams tackled in the Connacht 22. That attack didn’t quite work out but moments later a kick return allowed the home side to get Rey Lee-Lo into space and the centre beat three defenders before putting Hallam Amos away for a second try of the game.
Evans couldn’t quite convert but it didn’t matter as Cardiff Blues were rocking and rolling by now, back up to 15 men and looking supremely confident. Josh Adams broke a tackle and found Shane Lewis-Hughes in support. He was stopped short but as the ball went out to the left, away winger Peter Sullivan slapped it down. Penalty try awarded and yellow card issued.
With 10 minutes to go against 14 men the try bonus point was right on the cards and the home side wasted little time. Dmitri Arhip won a turnover in midfield, Evans took us to the corner and although Connacht defended their line valiantly, eventually Kris Dacey powered over to secure all five points.
Tovey converted for a 29-7 lead which held to the end of the game as Cardiff Blues, despite having the bonus point win wrapped up, maintained a superb level of defensive intensity to keep the away side out and round off an excellent performance.
The first time that the capital city side have won their opening two games of the season since 2016/17, and the first time three games have been won on the bounce since February/March 2019. Not a Cardiff Blues fan out there who wouldn’t have taken nine points from the first two rounds going into a week off.