Connacht 9 Cardiff Blues 13
Saturday 1 September 5.00pm Sportsground
The first RaboDirect match of the season saw the Blues travel to Connacht and it was the usual weather on arrival for the Welsh region, with the rain lashing down and the wind blowing in off the Atlantic.
The Blues started with a mixed team of some experienced players and exciting youngsters. Connacht were without former Blues fly half Dan Parks, who was unavailable with a calf injury.
The Blues started with a strong gale behind them but Connacht gained ground through some pick and drives, forcing their way into the Blues twenty-two. They won a penalty but Nikora missed with his kick held up by a strong wind and eventually the Blues cleared after a period of pressure from the home side.
Somewhat against the run of play it was the Blues who got the first points through a Ceri Sweeney penalty on 19minutes. The score lifted the Blues who soon increased their lead with another Sweeney penalty, following O’Connor coming in from the side of a ruck forty metres out.
The Blues had obviously spotted a weakness on the left with up’n’unders being targeted at winger Vainikolo, who knocked on twice and let a third bounce.
Eventually the Blues got the try. Lewis had kicked to the corner and Connacht fumbled in the lineout. Navidi was quick to pounce on the stray ball and flicked it to Lewis who scored in the corner. Sweeney added the extras to give the Blues a 13-point lead at the break.
Half time Connacht 0 Cardiff Blues 13
Bourrust and Reed both came off the bench at half time to make their Blues debuts, but it was Connacht who got best start to the second half with a long distance Miah Nikora penalty, that gave the home side their first points of the campaign.
The rain was still pouring at the Sportsground and now the Blues were playing into the wind. Some clever kicks from Dan Fish was keeping Connacht pinned back in their own half, however a penalty saw them kick in the corner for the lineout. Connacht won it and drove for the line, but some solid Blues defence kept them out before Nikora needlessly chipped over the top for Fish to gather and call the mark to clear the danger.
Connacht narrowed the gap with two penalties in the 66th and 69th minute meaning it would be a tense final 10 minutes with only a 4-point lead for the Blues. Despite a late charge from Connacht the Blues defence remained solid and they clung on to record a great win in their opening RaboDirect encounter.
Cardiff Blues 15. Dan Fish 14. Harry Robinson 13.Gavin Evans 12. Gareth Davies 11. Tom James 10. Ceri Sweeney 9. Lewis Jones (60off)
8. Andries Pretorius (c) 7. Josh Navidi 6. Rory Watts- Jones (70off) 5. James Down 4. Robin Copeland (40off) 3. Taufa’ao Filise (75off) 2. Andi Kyriacou 1. Thomas Davies (40off)
16. Rhys Williams 17. Beniot Bourrust (40on) 18. Nathan Trevett (75on) 19. Lou Reed (40on) 20. Luke Hamilton (70on) 21. Lloyd Williams (60on) 22. Cory Allen 23. Tom Williams 24. Owen Williams
Connacht 15. Gavin Duffy (Captain)? 14. Tiernan O'Halloran? 13. Eoin Griffin ?12. Mata Fifita ?11. Fetu'u Vainikolo ?10. Miah Nikora? 9. Kieran Marmion ??
1. Denis Buckley? 2. Ethienne Reynecke? 3. Ronan Loughney ?4. Michael Swift ?5. Mike McCarthy? 6. John Muldoon? 7. Johnny O'Connor? 8. George Naoupu
Replacements (from):?16. Adrian Flavin?17. Rodney Ah You? 18. Finlay Bealham ?19. Dave Gannon? 20. Willie Faloon? 21. David Moore? 22. Matthew Jarvis ?23. Robbie Henshaw
Tries Lewis x 1
Pen Sweeney x 2
Con Sweeney x 1
Pen Nikora x 3
MoM. James Down