Red card proves costly for Cardiff as Connacht snatch victory

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

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.

Fly-half 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 number eight Lopeti Timani touching down and fly-half 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 fly-half Barry John.

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

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 lineout drive by crossing for Cardiff’s second try.

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.

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