Connacht secured an ideal start to their Celtic League campaign as a Conor McPhillips try helped them defeat Cardiff Blues for the first time in five meetings.
CELTIC LEAGUE: Saturday, September 2
Connacht 13 Cardiff Blues 9, The Sportsground (Att: 2,000)
Scorers: Connacht: Try: Conor McPhillips; Con: Paul Warwick; Pen: Warwick; Drop: Warwick
Cardiff: Pens: Nicky Robinson 3
McPhillips' 53rd-minute score, converted by Paul Warwick, finally put some daylight between the sides at the Sportsground on Saturday. Although a brace of late penalties from Nicky Robinson - the Blues' only scorer of the afternoon - had Connacht supporters biting their finger nails at the finish, Michael Bradley's men deservedly held on.
The result marked the westerners' first win in a competitive home fixture since last January and continued their fine record of winning their opening Celtic League encounter each season since 2001.
The late withdrawal of loosehead prop Ray Hogan through injury seemed to cause the Connacht scrum some concern in the opening half as Hogan's replacement Dan McFarland, John Fogarty and Stephen Knoop, who was in the wars throughout, struggled to contain the Cardiff set piece.
The Connacht scrum coughed up a sixth-minute penalty that Robinson arrowed over with ease, and Dai Young's Blues looked ominously in the mood for an away win, especially with nine internationals on show.
Nonetheless, it was Connacht who got closest to making the try breakthrough in the first half. Nearing the half-hour, David Slemen and Darren Yapp combined to race play into Blues' territory, but the move fell apart.
By that stage, Connacht had levelled at 3-all. Following the thirteenth-minute sin-binnings of home flanker John Muldoon and Wales lock Robert Sidoli for an off-the-ball scuffle, Warwick dinked the resultant penalty through the uprights.
After Robinson missed a chance to reply early in the second half, skewing a drop goal shot wide, a Warwick skip pass and Yapp carry allowed McPhillips the chance to outpace two cover men for the corner.
Warwick did well to convert and the Australian held his nerve to kick a 74th-minute drop goal, sandwiched between Robinson's two late place kicks, to send Connacht temporarily third in the table.
Cardiff did have a late chance, near the home line, but Gareth Williams' lineout throw was wayward.
CONNACHT: David Slemen; Conor McPhillips, Darren Yapp, Keith Matthews, Matt Mostyn; Paul Warwick, Chris Keane; Dan McFarland (Adrian Clarke 72), John Fogarty (Chris Venter 46), Stephen Knoop, Christian Short, Andrew Farley (Capt) (Michael Swift 78), John Muldoon, Matt Lacey (Brendan O'Connor 67), Colm Rigney (Daniel Riordan 81).
BLUES: Nick Macleod; Chris Czekaj, Rhys Williams (Capt), Tristan Davies, Craig Morgan; Nicky Robinson, Mike Phillips; John Yapp, Gareth Williams, Martin Jones, Deiniol Jones (Craig Quinnell 74), Robert Sidoli, Maama Molitika, Andy Powell, Robin Sowden-Taylor.
Referee: Andy Ireland (Scotland)