Connacht have booked their place in the Guinness Pro14 play-offs following a thrilling victory over Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground.

Tries from Caolin Blade, Gavin Thornbury, Jack Carty and Matt Healy pushed Connacht over the line, with the result also ensuring they will compete in next season's Champions Cup.

Healy's 73rd-minute try appeared to have Connacht sailing comfortably through, but a Jason Harries effort in the final minute ensured a grandstand finish.

The hosts absorbed one last blast of Cardiff pressure before kicking the ball clear in the 83rd minute to seal the win.

Connacht led 14-7 at the interval thanks to tries from Blade and Thornbury with Owen Lane crossing over for Cardiff. The opening score needed TMO approval before the referee allowed it to stand.

A clever piece of play from Paul Boyle engineered the attack as he scooped to pick up a loose ball in the ruck and race through yards of space in the Cardiff 22.

Blade timed his run perfectly to collect the offload and apply the finish under the posts to give Jack Carty an easy run at the conversion in windy conditions. There was suspicion of a forward pass but the referee was happy to put the score on the board after reviewing the move. 

Jack Carty touches down for Connacht

Thornbury's try was more straight-forward as he dotted the ball down on the back of a well worked rolling maul in the 26th minute. The gale-force winds interfered with Carty's conversion on that occasion and his shot trailed wide.

Man-of-the-match Carty got Connacht rolling on the scoreboard again after the restart with a penalty before finishing a brilliant team move to cinch his side's third try, dinking ball ahead of himself to run onto and dive over the try-line.

Cardiff then had a try disallowed when Jason Harries was adjudged to have simultaneously grounded the ball on the hour mark. But the visitors' persistence was rewarded 10 minutes later when Josh Turnbull touched down from a rolling maul.

Connacht's response was instant as they sent Matt Healy over from the resultant kick-off. The TMO was required for that score as well to rule out a knock-on before the referee allowed it to stand.

That appeared to be the clincher as Connacht's advantage stood at 12 points on 73 minutes, but Cardiff rallied again.

Harries brought Cardiff back to within seven points of the hosts with one minute remaining to set-up a nervy finish but Connacht held on to secure the vital win.