Blair boots Blues to victory
Seventeen points from the boot of Cardiff Blues full-back Ben Blair proved decisive in a 22-15 over Connacht where the attendance was as significant as the scoreline.
A capacity 8,000 crowd turned out on a cold evening as the Blues went back for a one-off game at their old Arms Park home, many of them former supporters who opposed the region's move to share the state-of-the-art Cardiff City Stadium with the npower Championship football team.
No doubt the attendance will be used to support calls for a permanent return, although the numbers will also have been boosted by the fact that the game was not televised live, the first such occasion this RaboDirect PRO12 season.
They had little to cheer, however, in a scrappy, error-strewn opening period. Connacht fly-half Niall O'Connor kicked an early penalty for a scrum offence, but New Zealander Blair, in his first league outing for 16 months, responded with two of his own before the visitors claimed the half's only try.
The pack ensured possession in the Blues' 22 and a long pass found left wing Tiernan O'Halloran in splendid isolation to trot over. O'Connor converted superbly from the touchline.
A high tackle by Irish prop Ronan Loughrey on home flanker Maama Molitika might have merited more than just a penalty, but Blair exacted his own punishment and a fourth kick gave the Blues an interval lead.
O'Connor was just short with a long-range attempt, but Blair was on target to open the second-half scoring before the Blues at last put together a decent move to create a try.
Veteran flanker Martyn Williams, in his first outing since breaking an arm in September, burst into the Connacht 22 and Tom James, scorer of four tries last weekend against Harlequins, was tackled short of the line.
The ball was quickly recycled and a short pass enabled prop Sam Hobbs to force his way under the post. Blair converted. Connacht should have hit back, but after skipper Gavin Duffy broke through with two men outside him, the final pass went to ground. It was typical of the poor handling by both sides.
But the Irish province had the last word when O'Halloran caught an inch-perfect kick by Duffy inside his own half and raced down the line. As he was tackled by last defender Chris Czekaj, the winger passed inside for replacement scrum-half Dave Moore to touch down for an unconverted try.