On a grey and drizzly night in Galway, the Cardiff Blues' tyros come away with a good victory.
The game started well for Connacht having some periods of sustained possession and dominating an early scrum. The handling errors from Connacht though meant that they failed to turn this possession into sustained pressure. Against a Cardiff side with the wind at their backs and an experienced kicker in Ceri Sweeney, these lapses of judgement and/or concentration were severly punished. Sweeney had no trouble finding his range and landed two penalties and a conversion in the first half, with the try from Lewis Jones also coming from a contested Connacht lineout. This sloppy play meant that Connacht had a lot to do in the second half after emerging from the tunnel thirteen points to nil in arrears.
In the second half Connacht attempted to hold more of their possession and it certainly was a more measured and patient display. However at key time the rustiness of certain players and the lack of experience of others told, and convertible chances were left untaken. Nikora kicked well when he was given the opportunity, however the required cutting edge and precision play required to open up a well organised Cardiff defense was missing.
In general Connacht had the better of the up-front exchanges, frequently marching the Blues backwards in the scrum and in the maul. A more patient mauling game was required on a night when not only the weather suggested it, but also when attempts to create a running game ended with countless knock-ons. If Connacht had pressed their advantage there then perhaps the scoreline may have looked differently, as the Scottish referee would no doubt have been forced to card for persistent infringements.
Next week Connacht take on the new lads, Zebre, away in Parma. It is now more imperative than ever that a full 5 points can be squeezed from the encounter.