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Cardiff pay the price for early red card

MATCH REPORT: Cardiff could not overcome an early red card for centre Rey Lee-Lo as Connacht claimed a 16-12 United Rugby Championship victory at Arms Park.

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Lee-Lo was dismissed after just 15 minutes by Italian referee Andrea Piardi following a dangerous, high challenge on Connacht wing Shayne Bolton.

It left the Welsh team with a mountain to climb, but they led until the final quarter before Connacht finally overhauled them.

Flyhalf JJ Hanrahan was the architect of Connacht’s win, kicking three penalties and converting replacement prop Peter Dooley’s try.

Cardiff outscored Connacht on tries, with centre Ben Thomas and No.8 Lopeti Timani touching down and flyhalf Tinus de Beer adding a conversion, but Connacht had just enough in the tank.

Cardiff were boosted by Wales squad members Mackenzie Martin and Seb Davies being released from international commitments for the game, which started after a tribute to the club’s former Wales and British and Irish Lions flyhalf Barry John.

His famed halfback partner Gareth Edwards led a moving ceremony in front of John’s family and many of his former club and international playing colleagues, placing a Cardiff shirt on a plinth next to a pair of John’s boots.

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Connacht went ahead through a fourth-minute penalty by Hanrahan, and it looked bleak for Cardiff when Lee-Lo was sent off.

But the red card stirred Cardiff, and Thomas scored a well-worked try that De Beer converted, yet they finished the first-half temporarily down to 13 players after Timani was yellow-carded for a high tackle.

Connacht knew they needed to make the numerical advantage count, but they were restricted to a second Hanrahan penalty as Cardiff claimed a 7-6 interval lead.

The visitors could not erase their deficit, and Tomani made them pay on his return to the pitch when he rounded off a powerful line-out drive by crossing for Cardiff’s second try.

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An outstanding defensive display by Cardiff continued to dominate the game, yet Connacht’s patience and territorial dominance was finally rewarded through an opening try after 62 minutes.

Cardiff initially kept the Connacht forwards at bay, but they could not stop Dooley from going over following a relentless spell of pressure, and Hanrahan’s conversion edged Connacht in front.

Hanrahan then kicked a penalty, and Cardiff could find no way back as Connacht claimed only a second away win of the season.

The scorers:

For Cardiff:
Tries: Thomas, Timani
Con: De Beer

For Connacht:
Try: Dooley
Con: Hanrahan
Pens: Hanrahan 3

Red card: Rey Lee-Lo (Cardiff, 14- – foul play, high challenge)

Yellow card: Lopeti Timani (Cardiff, 35′ – foul play, high challenge)

Teams:

Cardiff: 15 Jacob Beetham, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Ellis Bevan, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ben Donnell, 5 Seb Davies, 4 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 3 Will Davies-King, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Rhys Carré.
Replacements: 16 Efan Daniel, 17 Rhys Barratt, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Alun Lawrence, 20 Mackenzie Martin, 21 Jamie Hill, 22 Arwel Robson, 23 Willis Halaholo.

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Shayne Bolton, 13 David Hawkshaw, 12 Cathal Forde, 11 Andrew Smith, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Caolin Blade (captain), 8 Cian Prendergast, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Shamus Hurley-Langton, 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Niall Murray, 3 Jack Aungier, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Tadgh McElroy, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Sam Illo, 19 Oisín Dowling, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Tom Farrell.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Craig Evans (Wales), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Italy)

Photo: @Cardiff_Rugby

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