In this final home game of the season, a departing trio of home players; long-serving leader Gavin Duffy, competition record points scorer Dan Parks and 101-capped Frank Murphy, made second-half cameo appearances, but it was not the farewell performance the three deserved.
With European qualification out of the equation for both sides, coach Pat Lam’s major remit was a best-place finish for the season having moved from 10th to eighth over the last three seasons. And for the opening half it looked entirely possible when Connacht took a lead courtesy of two well-executed tries.
After an early Darragh Leader penalty attempt hit the upright, Duffy’s heir apparent to full back opened the scoring on 22 minutes when the Blues were penalised at the ruck. Good work from John Muldoon at the line-out forced a penalty, and Kieran Marmion sent through a delightful kick from a scrum which bounced perfectly for the in-rushing winger Matt Healy. Miah Nikora added the conversion for a 10-0 lead.
The Blues, who had threatened through Alex Cuthbert in the first half, stuck a penalty to narrow the gap at the break. Connacht immediately grabbed the initiative and, from a penalty to touch, they worked their way through the phases before Henshaw dived over for 15-3.
However, Connacht found themselves increasingly penalised as Cardiff gained the upper hand in the scrum. Despite an early push, Cardiff had Connacht reeling and referee Neil Paterson awarded the penalty try, which Gareth Davies converted. Two minutes later Henshaw lost possession in the tackle, and from turnover ball replacement Lewis Jones raced through for a second converted effort, giving the visitors the lead for the first time. Connacht were undone by a series of penalties which resulted in two yellow cards, leading to Cardiff’s third try after 68 minutes.
CONNACHT: D Leader, D Poolman, R Henshaw, E Griffin, M Healy, M Nikora, K Marmion, R Loughney, J Harris-Wright, R Ah You, A Muldowney, M Kearney, J Muldoon (cpt), C Gilsenen, E McKeon.
Replacements: D Buckley for Loughney and D Parks for Nikora (50), D Heffernan for Harris-Wright (53), M Swift for Kearney and A Browne for Gilsenan (57), F Bealham for Ah You (60), G Duffy for Leader (62) F Murphy for Marmion (75).
CARDIFF BLUES: D Fish, A Cuthbert, C Allen, D Hewitt, H Robinson, G Davies, L Williams, G Jenkins, M Rees (cpt), T Filise, B Davies, F Paulo, M Cook, J Navidi, E Jenkins.
Replacements: S Andrews for Filise (HT), L Jones for Williams (54), S Humberstone for Davies (63), T Davies for G Jenkins and K Dacey for Rees (68), L Hamilton for E Jenkins (75).
Referee: N Paterson (Scotland).