Connacht lacked so much ‘attitude and commitment’ according to coach Kieran Keane who bristled with frustration as his side lost for the third time in four PRO14 games on Saturday.
The New Zealander pointed to a poor return with the advantage of the wind in the first-half as the root of his side’s downfall, but his annoyance afterwards was surely inflated by his side’s shocking defence of the lead they worked so hard to take with four minutes to go.
Tries from Darragh Leader and Shane Delahunt saw Connacht turn a 7-3 interval deficit into a five-point lead after 76 minutes, but their defensive system collapsed two minutes from time and Willis Halaholo ran in the easiest of tries two phases after a scrum on the left.
“Rugby is so much about attitude and commitment and we lacked so much in both of those areas,” said Keane, in a tense press briefing. “I put it down to panic. When I looked from up on high, you could see everything unfolding from that scrum. Everybody was too tight and not looking up, everybody was trying to react with their gut and not with their brain. They weren’t talking to each other and there were about five people on two players so that created space. That’s defence one-oh-one but you have got to take into consideration that they had fought all the way back. They were playing with their heart and for the crowd and families. They showed a lot of guts and determination but the smarts went out the window for the last minute and a half. They paid the price.”
Again Connacht’s discipline let them down badly – the 13 penalties conceded brings their tally to 38 in the last three games – and captain John Muldoon was at fault for his needless yellow card in the first-half when he pulled back Nick Williams and then tackled him without the ball. A man down Connacht conceded their first try to Halaholo through a yawning gap in their defensive line.
“We possibly could have pulled that one out of the bag and probably should have. But we dug a hole for ourselves in the first 40 and paid the price and got what we deserved in the end, we got nothing,” said Keane.
And how to get an immediate turnabout in fortunes? “Put people under pressure is the way I find it easiest. Lessons are sometimes hard learned we are learning them the hard way.”
Scorers for Connacht: D Leader, S Delahunt tries, D Leader con, C Ronaldson pen.
Scorers for Cardiff Blues: W Halaholo (2) tries, S Shingler con, pen, J Evans con.
CONNACHT: D Leader; C Kelleher, B Aki, C Ronaldson, R Scholes; A Deegan, K Marmion; D Buckley, A Heffernan, F Bealham; U Dillane, Q Roux; E Masterson, J Butler, J Muldoon.
Replacements: S Ili for Scholes (half-time), T Farrell for Ronaldson (51 mins), C Carey for Bealham (63), E McKeon for Masterson (63), G Thornbury for Roux (65), S Delahunt for Heffernan (67), C Blade for Marmion (67), D Coulson for Buckley (72).
CARDIFF BLUES: R Williams; A Cuthbert, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, T James; S Shingler, L Williams; B Thyer K Dacey, T Filise; S Davies, D Welch; J Turnbull, J Navidi, N Willliams.
Replacements: K Assiratti for Filise (43), O Robinson for Williams (49), G Earle for
Welch (55), E Lewis for Dacey (61), T Williams for Lloyd (65), C Domachowski for Thyer (65), J Evans for Shingler (72), M Morgan for Williams (72).
Referee: M Mitrea (FIR).
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