Blair boot keeps Connacht on hop

High hopes of Connacht repeating their famous victory of 10 years ago in Cardiff Arms Park were dashed last night when the Blues claimed victory on home soil.

On that occasion in 2001, current Connacht coach Eric Elwood was the hero, kicking the two winning penalties on a miserable night, but this time it was Cardiff’s Ben Blair who took that mantle, kicking 17 of the home side’s 22 points on a perfect night for running rugby.

The home side had taken a slender 12-10 lead at the break, all through Blair’s boot, and then pushed on in the second half, forcing Connacht to defend before taking their try chance, despite a knock-on from Martyn Williams in the lead-up.

Tiernan O’Halloran had put Connacht briefly ahead with a well-worked try but the home side took advantage of a 7-1 penalty count to go in at the break leading.

Blair added three more points at the start of the second half, before O’Connor hit back with a kick of his own.

The Blues stepped up a gear in the last quarter and although Williams knocked-on when punching a hole through the cover, Cardiff battled the way to the line before prop Sam Hobbs dived over.

Blair added the conversion and from a three-point lead at the break, the home side were in the driving seat, extending the lead to 22-10.

But Connacht never gave up and earned their bonus point when O’Halloran ran nearly the length of the pitch before finding replacement scrum-half Dave Moore with an inside pass to finish off. Matthew Jarvis missed the conversion.

Scorers for Cardiff: Try: Hobbs. Con: Blair. Pens: Blair 5. Scorers for Connacht: Tries: O’Halloran, Moore. Con: N O’Connor. Pen: N O’Connor.CARDIFF BLUES: B Blair, R Mustoe, T James, C Laulala, C Czekaj, C Sweeney, R Rees, J Yapp, R Thomas, S Hobbs, M Paterson, P Tito (capt), M Molitika, M Williams, X Rush.

Replacements: G Davies for Laulala 37, R Tyrell for Thomas 48, C Hill for Molitika 59, R Harford for Hobbs 60, M Cook for Yapp 67.

CONNACHT: G Duffy (capt); F Vainikolo, K Tonetti, D McSharry, T O’Halloran; N O’Connor, P O’Donohoe; B Wilkinson, A Flavin, R Loughney, M Swift, M McCarthy, J Muldoon, R Ofisa, G Naoupu.

Replacements: D Gannon for Ofisa 24, H Fa’afili for McSharry 45, E Reynecke for Flavin 55, D Moore for O’Donohoe and M Jarvis for O’Connor 60, D Buckley for Wilkinson and M Kearney for Naoupu 66.

Referee: A McMenamy (Scotland).

RaboDirect Pro12 result: Edinburgh 14 Ospreys 15.

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