Flat Blues see off Connacht
September 30, 2010
Blues centre Casey Laulala crossed for the only try of the game in Cardiff
© Getty Images
Cardiff Blues eased past Connacht to go equal top of the Magners League on Thursday night but they failed to secure the expected bonus point that would have put them clear of Munster.
Only once did they cross the Connacht line - a brilliant individual effort by man of the match Casey 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.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the remarkable events in Brisbane and the first round of the European Rugby Champions Cup
Following Saturday's shock announcement, we look at the highs and the lows of Ewen McKenzie's brief stint as Wallabies coach.
"I think the work I do in defence gets spoken of a little too much as it comes at the expense of what I do in attack." Brad Barritt talks to Tom Hamilton
The European Champions Cup: what's changed and what's new in the revamped competition previously known as the Heineken Cup?