Connacht lack cutting edge
Connacht 9 Cardiff 13:Connacht opened the new league campaign with defeat as Cardiff Blues began life under new director of rugby Phil Davies with victory at the Sportsground.
The visitors made the most of the wind at their backs in the first half, albeit in unseasonably wet conditions, and showed a clinical edge to be 13-0 ahead at the break.
Ceri Sweeney peppered the wings with intelligent kicks and was in fine form from the kicking tee, landing two penalties and converting Lewis Jones’s 30th-minute try from the touchline.
Connacht launched their comeback bid on the back of three Miah Nikora penalties, yet they lacked the killer instinct to overhaul the Blues who deservedly hung on to take the result.
Missing a hatful of internationals and hampered by injuries, Davies fielded a number of new combinations and they took their time to settle.
Nikora missed a tricky penalty from the Cardiff 22 after a good bout of set-piece pressure from the Connacht forwards, who included recent Ireland debutant Ronan Loughney.
Cardiff had a strong wind at their backs and began to make headway entering the second quarter, led by their excellent captain Andries Pretorius.
Sweeney booted two penalties in five minutes to edge the visitors ahead against the run of play. As Connacht’s error count increased, the Blues capitalised with Josh Navidi disrupting a home lineout and teenage scrum-half Jones pouncing to score in the corner.
The youngster’s first senior try was converted with aplomb by Sweeney whose opposite number Nikora missed a late penalty chance to reply. But Connacht rallied after a frustrating opening 40 minutes and Nikora got them off the mark from a central penalty.
As the hour mark approached, clever kicking from Sweeney and Jones allied to the Blues’ ability to pinch Connacht lineouts kept them on top tactically.
Too many times the hosts wasted decent possession, a close-in rolling maulshould have led to a score. They gained some consolation in the form of a second penalty from Nikora and suddenly Cardiff were the ones making mistakes.
George Naoupu forced another penalty which Nikora did terrifically well to convert from the right. However, Eric Elwood’s men were let down by indecision and knock-ons at crucial stages as the Blues took home the four RaboDirect PRO12 points.