Connacht dig it out to give campaign a boost

Connacht 18 Cardiff Blues 7: Connacht gave their PRO12 campaign a badly needed boost with a hard-earned win at the Sportsground last night, when they scored their biggest ever win over Cardiff.
Connacht dig it out to give campaign a boost

Pat Lam will be the first to appreciate that they are still some way off the mark but with Treviso coming to Galway next weekend, Connacht have a great chance to build up a head of steam before their crucial Champions Cup games against Wasps next month.

Connacht enjoyed the bulk of the possession in the opening half but sloppy play meant they had to be content with a 10-7 interval advantage. They went into the contest with just six wins in 28 meetings with Cardiff but needed to win to give some momentum to what has been a poor start to the defence of their Pro12 crown.

But the sharpness which saw them win their first ever trophy last season has been absent in this campaign and it was again prevalent in the opening half at a freezing Sportsground.

The pressure did eventually yield an opening try after 16 minutes when a chip and chase by Stacey Ili secured a five-metre scrum and they got the shove on for scrum-half John Cooney to touch down after driving the Blues back.

Cooney was entrusted with the kicking duties and duly added the extras.

But, almost immediately, a wild pass from Jack Carty deep inside his own half presented Tom James with a soft try and Steven Shingler converted to tie the sides at 7-7.

Shingler missed a penalty from the left as Cardiff enjoyed a good spell, but Connacht responded with John Muldoon leading the way and they led at the break when winning a penalty off a Cardiff scrum and Cooney edged them in front at the break.

The scrum-half extended the lead ten minutes after the restart with a penalty to make it 13-7 and give Connacht a platform to push on for a win.

That prospect increased after 58 minutes when Niyi Adeolokun countered and while he and Tiernan O’Halloran were stopped, Bundee Aki was in support to crown his 50th appearance with a try.

Jack Carty was unable to convert from the left wing.

It took a combination of Cian Kelleher, Aki and Adeolokun to deny Matthew Morgan a try ten minutes from time as Cardiff came in search of a bonus point.

Connacht never looked like pushing for the bonus point on a night when Denis Buckley became their latest player to hit 100 caps for the province.

Scorers for Connacht:

J Cooney, B Aki tries; J Cooney 2 pens; J Cooney con.

Cardiff Blues:

T James try; S Shingler con.

CONNACHT:

C Kelleher; N Adeolokun, B Aki, C Ronaldson (T O’Halloran 28), S Ili; J Carty (M Boshoff 67), J Cooney (C Blade 55); D Buckley (R Loughney 65), T McCartney (D Heffernan 55), C Carey (JP Cooney 67); Q Roux (L Stevenson 65), J Cannon; E McKeon (N Fox-Matamua 62), J Heenan, J Muldoon.

CARDIFF BLUES:

D Fish (M Morgan 38); B Scully, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, T James (A Cuthbert 68); S Shingler, T Williams; R Gill (B Thyer 71), K Dacey (M Rees 67), S Andrews (T Filise 71); G Earle, J Hoeata (M Cook 52); J Turnbull, E Jenkins, J Navidi.

Referee:

Nigel Owens (WRU).

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