Connacht 18 Cardiff Blues 16
Friday 18 September 7.00pm kick off Sportsground Galway
The conditions at the Sportsground were ideal for open rugby as the Blues aimed to register their first win in this season's Magners League.
A good kick by Sweeney early on saw the Blues positioned in the Connacht twenty two and they aimed to force their way through the midfield with Molitika and Roberts using their power. They eventually won a scrum and worked the phases well with Roberts breaking the line, feeding Czekaj and Blair supporting on the outside to score. The Fullback added the touchline conversion to give the Blues an early lead.
The match turned into a kicking contest somewhat with both teams looking for field position. Eventually Connacht won a penalty that outside half Miah Nikora struck just wide. However, Connacht broke strongly with Ray Ofisa slipping a tackle and sprinting all the way into the twenty two before the Blues were penalised. Again Nikora was wide of the mark with his effort.
Blair was more accurate with his effort minutes later - Ofisa was penalised for coming in from the side and the Blues took the chance to extend their lead. Having missed an earlier attempt substitute Ian Keatley had another effort at the posts, following Xavier Rush being penalised for crossing. This time he was accurate and Connacht had their first points of the night to give the half time score Connacht 3 Cardiff Blues 10.
Half Time Connacht 3 Cardiff Blues 10
The Blues had an early fright at the start of the second half as a loose ball was hacked through by Fionn Carr and it was only Czekaj covering from the other wing that saved the day, touching down the ball for a drop out twenty two before Carr could pounce.
Connacht seemed to have lifted the tempo in the second half and looked far more threatening, with some powerful runs through the midfield where Gavin Evans had replaced Jamie Roberts at half time. They eventually got the breakthrough when they spread the ball wide, again Carr hacked through, this time he had the pace to touch down first. Keatley was wide with the touchline conversion.
The Blues reacted well to the score and looked to attack whenever possible. However, they were dealt a blow when Molitika was shown the yellow card for killing the ball only yards from his tryline. Connacht opted for the lineout and drive before spreading the ball right, where Carr had popped up to score. Keatley converted and added another penalty minutes later. The Blues had 15 minutes to fight back.
The Blues brought on Powell, Jones, Norton Knight and Thomas as they looked to score and soon after they won a penalty that Blair converted. Blair added another to cut the deficit to 2 point with only 7 minutes left.
The Blues won a penalty in the last minute but this time Blair didn't quite have the angle. It was an agonising end to the game for the Blues who had been here before two years ago.
They left Ireland with just a losing bonus point.
15 Ben Blair 14 Leigh Halfpenny 13 Gareth Thomas 12 Jamie Roberts 40 off 11 Chris Czekaj 10 Ceri Sweeney 60 off 9 Richie Rees 70 off
1 John Yapp 2 Gareth Williams 60 off 3 Taufa'au Filise 4 Bradley Davies 65off 5 Paul Tito (c) 6 Maama Molitika 65off 7 Sam Warburton 8 Xavier Rush
16 Gary Powell 17 T Rhys Thomas 60 on 18 Deiniol Jones 65on 19 Andy Powell 65on 20 Gareth Cooper 70on 21 Sam Norton-Knight 60 on 22 Gavin Evans 40 on
Referee N Patterson (SRU)
Yellow card Molitika
Try Blair x 1
Penalty Blair x 3
Con Blair x 1
Try Carr x 2
Penalty Keatley x 2
Con Keatley x 1