By Gareth Axenderrie
Connacht clawed back a 13 point deficit and slotted a late drop goal to win at The Arms Park and close the gap on the Blues’ in seventh place.
Coach Danny Wilson admitted that Connacht did a job on the Blues as his side struggled as the game went on.
“We didn’t play particularly well against the conditions and our opposition. We overplayed a bit in the middle third. We probably should have kicked a little more.”
“We’ve let the supporters down and we’ve let ourselves down.”
“We targeted three out of four of this block of games. We’ve lost this one so the next three are must win games starting with Treviso next weekend.”
The Blues started the game on top with Gareth Anscombe slotting a couple of penalties early on as Connacht allowed sloppy errors to litter their game early on. .
The home side were patient in possession in the build up to the game’s first try as Willis Halaholo bounced off passive Connacht tackling to march the Blues deep into opposition territory. Several phases of play resulted in Nick Williams barrelling over the line.
Just as the Blues looked set to walk back to the changing rooms with a comfortable lead and a dominant first half display, Connacht carried possession into their danger zone as hooker Tom McCartney carried powerfully up to the five meter line. With the Blues’ defence stretched, the backs whipped the ball out wide for Matt Healy to touch down unchallenged in the corner.
The late score silenced the home crowd, and early optimism was replaced by a sudden feel that the game could be about to turn.
Connacht were first to strike after the break, as scrum half John Cooney kicked a penalty and as the visitors began to gain a foothold in the game, some stern defensive work furthered their early second half dominance.
Although the Blues maintained the lion’s share of possession, it was passive in their own half. A refusal to kick for territory resulted in them being penalised on halfway around the hour mark, and with a strengthening tailwind, John Cooney made it an even game with a fine kick from the halfway line..
With momentum swinging firmly in favour of Connacht, a dramatic final five minutes first saw winger Matt Healy spurn a golden chance as he knocked on with the line beckoning. Minutes later, Jack Carty failed with a drop goal attempt straight in front of the posts.
The Blues could not make the most of being let off the hook however, and missed tackles led to further sustained Connacht pressure. This time full back Tiernan O’Halloran had a shot at a drop goal, and his successful effort, Connacht’s first drop goal in four years, put them in the lead for the first time in the game.
The buoyant visitors went on to win a penalty straight from the restart, and with the seconds slipping away, centre Craig Ronaldson smashed over a 52 meter penalty to wrap the game up.