Connacht opened their United Rugby Championship campaign with a 33-21 defeat in Cardiff.

Kieran Marmion scored two tries, while fellow Ireland cap Jack Carty kicked 11 points for the visitors at Cardiff Arms Park but a brace of tries from Owen Lane along with touchdowns from Hallam Amos, Willis Halaholo and Liam Belcher saw the hosts claim a bonus-point victory.


Carty kicked Connacht into an early lead after Cardiff were penalised at the scrum but the hosts were then dealt a severe injury blow when fly-half Rhys Priestland was forced to depart the field early after taking a heavy knock to the head.

But it did not deter the Welsh side with Lane's grubber kick forcing John Porch to conceded a five-metre scrum. And Cardiff took advantage with Halaholo stepping past the first defender before a long pass from Lloyd Williams allowed Hallam Amos to touch down. Jarrod Evans converted but Connacht hit back immediately.

Conor Oliver barged through some weak Cardiff defence before drawing in Amos to allow Marmion to run in unopposed from 30 metres out, with Carty adding the extras. In a cruel twist of fate replacement fly-half Evans was also forced off as he hurt his ribs attempting to win the ball in the air.

This resulted in scrum-half Tomos Williams having to play the rest of the game in the unfamiliar position of fly-half.

Carty kicked 11 points but was sin-binned in the second half

Connacht extended their lead after a clean break from loosehead prop Matthew Burke resulted in Carty kicking another penalty.

But Cardiff struck on the stroke of half-time when Tomos Williams took advantage of a solid scrum to break through and put Halaholo over for a try. Tomos Williams added the extras meaning Cardiff held a 14-13 lead at the break.

Cardiff made it a two-score game in the 51st minute with a well-worked try. With a lineout in the Connacht 22 the ball was put through the hands, with Ellis Jenkins putting Lane over for a try at the far left-hand corner.
Despite not being a regular goal kicker Tomos Williams converted from the touchline.

But Connacht fought back with Carty kicking another penalty after Rhys Carre was penalised for being offside.

Connacht began to apply pressure and Cardiff were reduced to 14 men when Seb Davies was sent to the sin bin for not rolling away.

But just a minute late Connacht out-half Carty suffered the same fate as he was shown a yellow card for entering a ruck illegally. And Cardiff took full advantage with Lane powering over from short range for the bonus-point try.

Tomos Williams converted and Cardiff were now full of confidence with replacement hooker Belcher touching down following a powerful driving lineout. Connacht grabbed a late consolation try with Marmion running in from 30 metres out but it proved too little too late for Andy Friend's side.