A try from centre Casey Laulala helped the Blues beat Connacht 22-6 in a dire Magners League game at Cardiff City Stadium.
A try from centre Casey Laulala helped Cardiff Blues beat Connacht 22-6 in the Magners League on Thursday.
The result sees Cardiff go top of the Magners League on points difference over previous leaders Munster but the expected flood of tries were not forthcoming.
Only once did they cross the Connacht line – a brilliant individual effort by man of the match Laulala – with the stout defence of the visitors helped by the Blues' error-strewn display.
Coach Dai Young clutched at straws as he said: “It shows how far we've come that we can play really poorly and still win.”
But it was dire entertainment for the 11,000-plus crowd, swelled by hundreds of schoolchildren on free passes.
A tedious opening quarter saw Blues fly-half Dan Parks outkick opposite number Ian Keatley by two penalties to one, with the only excitement resulting from a couple of scything runs by dangerous Connacht wing Fionn Carr.
The first decent move put together by the Blues backs fizzled out when Parks sent a cross-kick straight to a waiting defender, but the Australian-born Scot used his boot to better effect with a drop goal to extend the lead.
Connacht fly-half Keatley dispossessed Blues flanker Michael Paterson on halfway and reached the home 22 before a desperate last-ditch tackle by Leigh Halfpenny saved the day.
After half an hour's huffing and puffing, the game finally saw some flair, Laulala celebrating his return from injury by cutting inside two hapless Irishmen to cross for a superb touchdown, converted by Parks.
Connacht opened the second half with a Keatley penalty, before a kick ahead by Blues wing Chris Czekaj forced a lineout near the visitors' line, but the opportunity was squandered when Parks' drop-goal attempt was charged down.
It was typical of an evening when both sides' attacking efforts were ruined by basic handling errors, with the Blues in particular suffering at the set-piece and the breakdown, frequently being turned over or penalised after the tackle.
The usual stream of substitutes did nothing to help the teams find any rhythm, but Connacht almost broke through with an angled run by hooker Adrian Flavin, who was held up just short.
With try chances in short supply, the Blues were grateful for a penalty from halfway by Parks and another, from even further, by Halfpenny to make the game safe and instal them – temporarily – in the top spot.
Pens: Parks 3, Halfpenny
Pens: Keatley 2
Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Gareth Cooper, 8 Xavier Rush (capt), 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 Deiniol Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Tafa'ao Filise, 2 Rhys Williams, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Paul Tito, 20 Andries Pretorius, 21 Kristian Baller, 22 Ceri Sweeney, 23 Tom Shanklin.
Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Troy Nathan, 13 Niva Ta'auso, 12 Keith Matthews, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Frank Murphy (capt), 8 Mike McComish, 7 Ray Ofisa, 6 Michael McCarthy, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Adrian Flavin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Dermot Murphy, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Rob Sweeney, 19 Bernie Upton, 20 Johnny O'Connor, 21 Cillian Willis, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Darragh Fanning.
Referee: Andy Macpherson