Round-up: Thomas' speed too much for Connacht

Nathan Thomas found himself at the centre of a controversial refereeing decision when he kicked away a conversion attempt during Cardiff Blues' 18-8 Celtic League victory over Connacht at The Sportsground, Galway, yesterday.

Nathan Thomas found himself at the centre of a controversial refereeing decision when he kicked away a conversion attempt during Cardiff Blues' 18-8 Celtic League victory over Connacht at The Sportsground, Galway, yesterday.

As the Irish province's Australian fly-half Paul Warwick prepared to convert centre James Downey's first-minute try in front of the posts, the Welsh international back-row forward charged out and hoofed the ball off its tee.

Despite heated Connacht protests, Scottish referee Malcolm Changleng ruled that 24-year-old Warwick had begun his run-up despite still being in a crouched position. The decision seemed to disrupt Connacht who led 8-5 at half-time thanks to an injury-time penalty by Warwick but crumpled after the interval.

Jonny Vaughton, Cardiff's right wing, celebrated his 23rd birthday by touching down in each half as the Blues extended their unbeaten record against Connacht to three and a half years. And fly-half Nick Macleod sealed the win for Dai Young's side - their second in six days following an eight-game losing streak - with two second-half penalties and a conversion.

Steve Diamond, the Saracens coach, has urged his players to put last weekend's extra-time defeat by Brive in a European Challenge Cup quarter-final behind them when they bid for a Powergen Cup semi-final place against London Irish at Vicarage Road this afternoon.

The north London side have not featured in a Twickenham final since beating Wasps 48-18 six years ago, when the likes of Michael Lynagh and Philippe Sella were in their line-up.

But Diamond said: "Overall, I'm happy with the progress we've been making. We're playing a game that's based on discipline, defence and hard work, and we need to continue to do the same. We were all disappointed with the result last weekend. After the strides we'd made in the previous four or five weeks, we drifted back to our old mentality. We let ourselves down in the last few minutes with a lack of discipline."

Thomas Castaignède, Kyran Bracken and Hugh Vyvyan all return to the Saracens line-up after recovering from injuries while Ben Johnston takes over on the wing from Richard Haughton.

Irish, who have had an enforced three-week break due to their European Challenge Cup second-round exit to Pau, welcome back prop Neal Hatley after two months out, but five first-team regulars are still sidelined with injuries.

Exeter pulled to within four points of joint leaders Bristol and Plymouth Albion in National League One with a 39-20 success away to Bedford. The visitors' five tries all came from New Zealanders - two for Sione Kepu and one each for Tont Walker and brothers Mark and Junior Fatialofa.

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