Planet Rugby

Cardiff in control over Connacht

06th December 2009 17:58

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Tom James Cardiff Oct 2009

Key player: Sam Norton-Knight

Cardiff Blues moved above the Scarlets in the Magners League table with a 21-9 victory over bottom side Connacht which hinged on two tries in a six-minute spell by Tom James.

Winger James touched down twice shortly before half-time, while Ben Blair kicked 11 points and centre Casey Laulala was impressive on his debut after signing from Canterbury in a deserved win.

Ian Keatley replied with three penalties from five attempts for the Irish province.

Connacht, seeking a first double over the Welsh region, dominated the early stages, with lively fly-half Keatley prominent, but he blotted his copybook when he missed a simple drop goal after a sustained period of pressure.

The Blues gradually began to show some flowing rugby, with a kick-and-catch by Richard Mustoe sparking a fine move wrecked by a poor pass from Australian Sam Norton-Knight, still not looking the answer to his team's problem at number 10.

Connacht had strayed offside, however, and full-back Blair kicked a straightforward penalty.

Keatley responded with a 40-yard effort for the visitors, but another from Blair regained the lead for the Blues.

Then came the double from James. The scrum-capped winger crashed through in midfield to round off another move started by the excellent Mustoe, who was only in the team because of Leigh Halfpenny's Barbarians call-up. Blair converted.

James grabbed his second wide out as the heavens opened and although Blair missed the kick the game looked as good as won with the hosts taking a 18-3 half-time lead.

Connacht, however, did not agree and began the second period with renewed enthusiasm. Keatley landed a penalty when the Blues were deemed guilty of a scrum offence, but missed another from a wider angle.

On the Blues' first second-half visit to Connacht territory they spurned a kickable penalty, but over complicated in mid-field and found themselves back on their own 22.

Keatley narrowed the gap further with another three-pointer, but when Blair sent a long distance kick over via a post the visitors never looked likely to recover.

The scorers:

For Cardiff:
Tries: James 2
Pen: Blair
Con: Blair

For Connacht:
Pens: Keatley 3

Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Richard Mustoe, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Tom Shanklin, 11 Tom James, 10 Sam Norton-Knight, 9 Gareth Cooper, 8 Xavier Rush, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Paul Tito (c), 4 Deiniol Jones, 3 Faao Filise, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Gethin Jenkins.

Replacements: 16 Gareth Williams, 17 Gary Powell, 18 Scott Morgan, 19 Andries Pretorius, 20 Richie Rees, 21 Ceri Sweeney, 22 Gareth Thomas.

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Liam Bibo, 13 Nava Ta'auso, 12 Aidan Wynne, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 Mike McComish, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Bernie Upton, 4 Michael McCarthy, 3 Robbie Morris, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.

Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Michael Swift, 19 Ray Ofisa, 20 Conor O'Loughlin, 21 Miah Nikroa, 22 Brian Tuohy.

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