By Declan Harte
Connacht survived Storm Dennis and won comfortably 29-0 to keep their Pro 14 play-off hopes alive.
Connacht endured severe windy conditions and heavy rain and were deserving of their dominant win over a poor Cardiff Blues.
“I think that’s the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve held a team to ‘nil’ so our defence coach Pete Wilkins is very happy,” said Connacht head coach Andy Friend after the game.
“To get his block off to that sort of start is great.
“It wasn’t pretty but there was just a lot of intent. We put Cardiff under pressure and they coughed up ball. We turned over a lot of their ball.
Connacht immediately applied pressure on Cardiff’s defence and never let up over the course of the 80 minutes. The pressure finally told in the 27th minute when Dave Heffernan took advantage of a gap in the Cardiff defence from the lineout to get over for Connacht’s first try of the evening.
An inventive kick from Jack Carty played in Peter Robb for Connacht’s second try of the match, to give them a 15-0 lead at half time.
The second half continued in much the same way as the first, as Connacht dominated possession and territory. After ten minutes of pressure, the third try of the night would come after a smart offload from substitute Denis Buckley handed the score to John Porch, which Carty easily converted.
A fabulous breakaway try from Kyle Godwin, who ran the length of the pitch, sealed the bonus point victory for the home side on the 60th minute.
Up next for Connacht is an away trip to Edinburgh, who are top of Conference B in the Pro 14. After the match, Friend spoke of the importance of Connacht’s upcoming fixtures.
“It’s a really crucial three-game block. We said as a group that this’ll define our season. If we can get three out of three – which is our target – we’re very much on track for where we want to get to, which is a home quarter-final,” said Friend.
“We’ve started the way we wanted to start and it’s about making sure we take that into next week and hopefully it’s another four or five points.”
Scorers – Connacht: D Heffernan, P Robb, J Porch, K Godwin tries; J Carty pen, 3 cons.
Connacht: T O’Halloran; J Porch, K Godwin, P Robb (T Daly 59), M Healy; J Carty (C Fitzgerald 65), K Marmion (C Blade 57); P McAllister (D Buckley 49), D Heffernan (S Delahunt 62), F Bealham (D Robertson-McCoy 57); U Dillane, G Thornbury (J Maksymiw 35); P Boyle (E McKeon 65), C Fainga’a, J Butler (McAllister 68-76).
Cardiff Blues: D Fish (R Edwards 60); J Harries, R Lee-Lo (B Thomas 31-40 HIA), G Smith (Thomas 65), H Amos; J Tovey, L Williams (L Jones 60); R Gill (C Domachowski 50), L Belcher (K Dacey 48), D Arhip (S Andrews 40); F Paulo (S Davies 40), J Ratti; J Turnbull, O Robinson (Boyde 49 HIA), W Boyde (N Williams 48).
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa).