Connacht’s winning run since early October came to an end tonight as Cardiff Blues edged out a 20 – 16 win at Arms Park.

A losing bonus point was small consolation for Pat Lam’s side as they were left counting the cost of injuries to Craig Ronaldson, Ian Porter, Kieran Marmion, Quinn Roux and Eoin McKeon who were all forced off early.

Porter and McKeon both crossed for tries in the first half with Porter’s conversion attempts both hitting the uprights. The scrum half kicked a penalty before he was forced off with injury at the break. Jack Carty kicked a further three points late in the second half to close the gap to four points.

The Blues started the game stronger when a penalty allowed fullback Patchell kick to the corner. The ensuing lineout lead to a driving maul that saw Number 8 Manoa Vosawai get over for the opening score. Patchell converted to give the home side a 7 – 0 lead after seven minutes.

Peter Robb made his PRO12 debut replacing Ronaldson who suffered a concussion early on. A five-metre scrum for Connacht saw the ball go through the hands of the backline and wing Matt Healy broke up the left win and offloaded for Porter to score in the corner. The touchline conversion hit the right post but Connacht had closed the gap to 7 – 5.

And ten minutes later, the tally was doubled when a lineout driving maul allowed number 8 McKeon to touch down after a well-won ball in the air by Roux. Porter’s attempt hit off the post once again.

Both side’s exchange successful penalty kicks through Patchell and Porter before the half hour mark and 10 minutes of attacking play from the visitors yielded no result as Roux was stretchered off the field with a suspected leg fracture.

Half time: Cardiff Blues 10 – 13 Connacht

The Blues had the wind in the second half and made the most of the advantage, putting pressure on Connacht and forcing handling errors. Patchell missed a penalty opportunity from in front of the posts after 47 minutes but he was up to the tee minutes later when Blues’ winger Tom Jones spotted an overlap on the left and was in for his side’s second try. And the fullback extended the lead again on the hour mark with a penalty kick to make it 20 – 13.

Carty reduced the gap to just four points with a penalty of his own and Connacht were still in the game with 13 minutes remaining. An impressive 50-metre break from Bundee Aki generated the start of some good attacking play but errors in the 22 cost the visitors who were forced to put wing Healy into the scrum half position when Marmion was concussed at the start of the second half.

In the end, the Blues held out for their second win of the PRO12 campaign and Connacht went home with just one point before attention switches to Europe for the back-to-back fixtures with Newcastle Falcons.

Full time: Cardiff Blues 20 – 16 Connacht   

Cardiff Blues: Rhys Patchell; Alex Cuthbert, Ray Lee-Lo, Gavin Evans, Tom James; Jarrod Evans (Dan Fish ‘55), Lloyd Williams; Gethin Jenkins (capt) (Sam Hobbs ’62)), Ethan Lewis (Kristian Dacey ’50), Taufa’ao Filise (Craig Mitchell ‘58), Jarrod Hoeata, Lou Reed (James Down ‘50), Macauley Cook, Josh Turnbull, Manoa Vosawai (Cam Dolan ’77).

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; Darragh Leader, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson (Peter Robb ‘8), Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Ian Porter (Kieran Marmion ’41, (Rory Parata ’42); Ronan Loughney (Conan O’Donnell ’72), Dave Heffernan, Rodney Ah You (Finlay Bealham ‘57); Quinn Roux (George Naoupu ’39), Aly Muldowney; John Muldoon (captain), James Connolly, Eoin McKeon (Sean O’Brien ’58)

Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU)

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