Cardiff Blues 22 Connacht 26
Friday 22 February 7.30pm Cardiff Arms Park
Both teams made late changes with Jason Tovey pulling out with illness to be replaced by Gareth Davies on the bench and former Blues fly-half Dan Parks pulling out of the Connacht starting line up with a hamstring problem, to be replaced by Miah Nikora.
It was Connacht who started the brightest with a try from Daniel Poolman within two minutes after the visitors had taken a quick tap penalty and spread the ball right, working the overlap well, for the winger to touch down in the corner. Things got worse for the Blues when Connacht doubled their try tally minutes later when Willie Faloon crashed through the middle to score under the posts. Nikora slotted the easy conversion.
Patchell got a penalty back for the Blues to get them on the scoreboard, which started a period of dominance for the Blues. A clever break and chip ahead by Lewis Jones saw Connacht pinned back in their own twenty-two with a lineout that James Down stole superbly. When the ball was moved left Copeland took out a couple of Connacht defenders before Patchell showed his strength to take out another two and feed Robinson to touch down in the corner.
The Blues were looking enterprising with Harry Robinson looking sharp, coming off his wing proving a threa,t but it was Connacht who got the final score of the half with a penalty for Nikora after the Blues strayed offside.
Half time Cardiff Blues 8 Connacht 15
Patchell kicked a Blues penalty early in the second half after Jason Harris-Wright was shown a yellow for interfering with a Blues attack when they were only yards from the Connacht try-line. Patchell got another penalty soon after to narrow the deficit to a point.
However, Nikora slotted a penalty but the Blues soon struck back again. Substitute Liam Davies, who was making his debut for the Blues, made an instant impact, sprinting down the right touchline before flipping back inside to Robin Copeland to gather and run in for the try. Patchell kicked wide with the conversion.
The lead didn’t last long when Willie Faloon scored his second try for the visitors after breaking from a lineout but Nikora was wide with the extras.
Patchell and Nikora exchanged penalties to make it a four-point margin with ten minutes left and despite a late rally the Blues ran out of time to go down 22-26.
Cardiff Blues 15 Chris Czekaj 14 Owen Williams 13 Richard Smith 12 Gavin Evans (c) 11 Harry Robinson 10 Rhys Patchell 9 Lewis Jones (59off)
8 Robin Copeland 7 Rory Watts-Jones 6 Michael Paterson 5 James Down 4 Macauley Cook 3 Benoit Bourrust (59off) 2 Kristian Dacey (65off)) 1 Taufa’ao Filise
16 Rhys Williams (65on) 17 Nathan Trevett 18 Scott Andrews (59on) 19 Luke Hamilton 20 Thomas Young 21 Liam Davies (59on) 22 Ceri Sweeney 23 Jason Tovey
Connacht 15. Gavin Duffy (c) 14. Danie Poolman 13. Eoin Griffin 12. Brian Murphy 11. Fetu'u Vainikolo 10. Miah Nikora 9. Kieran Marmion
1. Brett Wilkinson 2. Jason Harris-Wright 3. Nathan White 4. Michael Swift
5. Andrew Browne 6. John Muldoon 7. Willie Faloon 8. Eoin McKeon
16 Ethienne Reynecke 17 Denis Buckley 18 Ronan Loughney 19 Mick Kearney 20 TJ Anderson 21 Paul O'Donohoe 22 Matt Healey 23 Matthew Jarvis
Tries Robinson x 1 Copeland x 1
Pen Patchell x 4
Tries Poolman x 1 Faloon x 2
Con Nikora x 1
Pen Nikora x 3
Yellow Cards: Jason Harris-Wright