Cardiff will test Connacht’s mental resolve

Connacht need to change a poor record over Cardiff when they head to the Welsh capital for tomorrow evening’s Guinness Pro 12 fixture.

Connacht have beaten the Cardiff Blues only once in 10 fixtures, two seasons ago at the Arms Park, and this season they let slip another win when they allowed the Blues to grab a dramatic equalising try on 78 minutes.

Connacht have the chance to address that defeat tomorrow and, given Connacht’s current form, it is well within their remit.

“It’s a big game,” says coach Pat Lam. “ If we can go there and do the job, we put ourselves in a strong position if we can get the outcome.”

It has been a difficult week for Connacht. In addition to the unusual five-day turnaround which has necessitated changes to training and all schedules this week, Connacht Rugby have been hit hard by the sudden death of Jim Swift, father of veteran player Michael. Originally from Wexford, Jim Swift and his wife Frances had moved from London to Galway four years ago, supporting their son’s career with both Galwegians and Connacht. The entire Connacht squad performed a guard of honour at his funeral Mass yesterday before heading to Wales today.

It will require more mental resolve when they face Cardiff in Arms Park, having destroyed Treviso with a 53-5 win on Sunday.

“We started well, there were a few ropey bits, but we were playing into a strong wind. We spoke at half time about really going for it and applying the pressure, starting from the set piece. Fair play to the boys, it was a great team effort and we got everyone on the pitch.”

Connacht have been boosted with the return of both Mils Muliaina and Darragh Leader, which creates even more competition after Tiernan O’Halloran’s fine outing last week as Connacht maintained their push for Champions Cup rugby with their ninth Pro 12 win.

It was a great day for the province. Having celebrated Robbie Henshaw's first try and man of the match display in an Ireland shirt, Pat Lam's men produced a seven-try haul to pull five points clear of the chasing Scarlets.

Although Treviso put up a first-half fight, Connacht wrapped up the fourth try and bonus point by the 57th minute.

O’Halloran kickstarted the try fest when sidestepping his opposite number to touch down, while outhalf Craig Ronaldson added the first of his 18 points followed by two penalties.

Treviso struck through centre John Samuel Christie for a try and kept Connacht pinned inside their own half, but it was all one-way traffic in the second half. Connacht profited from a dominant scrum and secure line-out, which resulted in flanker Jake Heenan touching down, Matt Healy grabbed try number 3 on 51 minutes, finishing off a sparkling back-line move in the left corner, and the bonus point arrived courtesy of the pack, which again sent Treviso reeling, with prop Denis Buckley securing the touchdown. Before the end Muldowney, Healy, with his second, and Danie Poolman, in his 50th appearance, crossed the line for a convincing win.

Connacht: T O'Halloran, N Adeolokun, D Poolman, D McSharry, M Healy, C Ronaldson, J Cooney, D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You, Q Roux, A Muldowney, J Muldoon (cpt ), J Heenan, E Masterson. Replacements, C Finn for Adeolokun (41m ), M Kearney for Roux (42m ), G Naoupu for Masterson (52m ), S Delahunt for McCartney, R Loughney for Buckley and I Porter for Cooney (all 57m ), F Bealham for Ah You (62m ), J Carty for O'Halloran (66m ).

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