Ireland hooker Dave Heffernan delivered a man-of-the-match performance as Connacht ran out 29-0 bonus-point winners over Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground.
Tries from Heffernan and Peter Robb, who celebrated his two-year contract extension, gave Connacht a deserved 15-0 interval lead as Jack Carty recaptured his pre-Rugby World Cup form at number 10.
Carty, who failed to make Ireland’s Six Nations squad, had a hand in John Porch’s 49th-minute score before Kyle Godwin bagged a breakaway bonus-point effort as the westerners ended their five-match losing run in all competitions.
Despite Nick Williams’ solid impact off the bench and a Denis Buckley yellow card, Cardiff continued to make errors and they now trail fourth-placed Connacht by six points in the Conference B table.
Cardiff were on the back foot for much of the first half, losing three of their own lineouts and missing a dozen tackles.
James Ratti and Olly Robinson led their resistance, popping up with some crucial defensive interventions and turnovers.
Carty opened the scoring with a fifth-minute penalty from in front of the posts, and his kicking out-of-hand kept Connacht on top of the territorial battle.
⛷️ Hooker slalom skills ⛷️— United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) February 15, 2020
Serious turn of pace from @connachtrugby's Dave Heffernan - give him a shot Andy Farrell, give him a shot 🎯
🇮🇪 Watch Live Now on @TG4TV
🇬🇧 Watch Live Now on @PremierSportsTV #GuinnessPRO14 #CONvCBL pic.twitter.com/jZb6e5dfmB
Full-back Tiernan O’Halloran also pinned Cardiff back with a clever touch-finder.
Lineout pressure from Gavin Thornbury, who worked brilliantly in tandem with Ultan Dillane, forced a loose throw from Cardiff’s Liam Belcher, who watched Heffernan gobble it up at the tail and weave his way past two defenders, crashing over past a poor Jason Tovey tackle to make it 10-0.
With Hallam Amos caught too narrow, Paul Boyle burst forward to set the wheels in motion for a 33rd-minute try. Carty slid a superb left-footed kick towards the right corner which was finished over the line by Robb, despite Dan Fish’s despairing tackle.
Carty’s conversion attempt blew wide on the near side, and Cardiff had to scramble to avoid leaking another try before the interval.
Jason Harries scrambled to bring down O’Halloran a few metres out, following Carty’s inviting offload out of a tackle.
Connacht did more damage in the third quarter, Carty’s skip pass putting Buckley into space and the replacement prop’s instinctive behind-the-back pass, under pressure from two defenders, found its way to Porch who finished off, with TMO Charles Samson ruling out a forward pass.
Carty converted and also added the extras to Godwin’s opportunistic 57th-minute touchdown, Robb reacting quickest to the ball squirting out of a Cardiff ruck just outside the Connacht 22 and sending his centre partner romping clear up the right wing.
The visitors failed to capitalise on a Will Boyde break and replacement Lewis Jones knocked on at a subsequent scrum.
Repeated infringements led to Buckley seeing yellow in the 64th minute, but Kristian Dacey’s crooked lineout throw meant the increasingly-frustrated Blues remained scoreless in Galway.