Connacht are heading to the BKT URC playoffs after a bonus point win over Cardiff at a packed Sportsground - their sixth straight win in the competition.
Tries from Diarmuid Kilgallen, Dylan Tierney-Martin, Conor Oliver, Mack Hansen and the departing Kieran Marmion, coupled with a penalty try, ensured a top 8 finish with a game to spare.
Playing with a strong wind in the first half, the home side had to make sure they built up a strong points tally to take into the dressing room, and that's exactly what they did with the bonus try wrapped up before the half-hour mark. Kilgallen was first off the mark after an excellent break from Tom Farrell, while Tierney-Martin was at the back of a strong maul to stretch the lead. Oliver was at the end of a Caolin Blade snipe in front of the posts, while Hansen linked up brilliantly with Player of the Match Bundee Aki to break through the middle of the field.
Cardiff had one try to their name at the break, leaving the score at 26-7 at the interval.
As was expected in the conditions, the visitors dominated proceedings in the 3rd quarter but Connacht put in some monumental defensive shifts to keep them at play. The first attacking set of the half from Cardiff saw them string together over 30 phases which eventually resulted in a penalty, but some great work from the men in green kept them at bay from the tryline.
A second try eventually followed to bring the gap down to 14 points, but the game was put beyond doubt after another excellent maul from the home side, resulting in referee Sam Grove-White awarding the penalty try.
Replacement Kieran Marmion, playing his final game at The Sportsground after 12 years, entered the field to a rapturous reception and it was only fitting that he were to score Connacht's final try of the game, spotting a gap down the near-side of the College Road end.
Cardiff were to score the last try of the game, but it couldn't dampen the spirits of the 5,223 in attendance. With the win Connacht are guaranteed a quarter-final fixture in the first weekend of May, with their opponents to be determined next weekend.
(credit Connacht Rugby)
Full time score from the Sportsground:
Connacht 38 - 19 Cardiff