A double from Willie Faloon handed Connacht back-to-back RaboDirect PRO12 victories for the first time since April as the province prevailed 26-22 against Cardiff Blues.
Faloon’s two tries, added to Danie Poolman’s early effort and 11 points from Miah Nikora, secured just a second away win of the season for Eric Elwood’s side, who are now up to eighth in the RaboDirect PRO12 table.
It’s a third win in 20 matches over the Blues for Connacht and a first at the Arms Park since 2001. For the Blues, it’s now just one win in seven at their home ground in the RaboDirect PRO12 this year.
Poolman again demonstrated he is a fast starter and two weeks after scoring against the Scarlets inside the first minute, it took him just two to open Connacht’s account.
The South African burst over for his fifth try of the RaboDirect PRO12 season but fly-half Nikora, a late replacement for former Blue Dan Parks, failed with his conversion attempt.
Cardiff were shell-shocked and the visitors took full advantage, scoring their second try of the night with the match just five minutes old.
This time it was flanker Faloon who scored his second try in as many matches before Nikora nailed the conversion to hand Connacht a healthy 12-0 lead.
Slowly but surely the Blues worked their way back into the match and Rhys Patchell opened the hosts’ account with a seventh-minute penalty.
With a foothold in the match, the Blues came back at Connacht and trimmed the deficit to just four midway through the first half with winger Harry Robinson finishing off the try following a scrum on the visitors’ five-metre line.
But ten minutes later, Connacht stretched their lead again when Blues indiscipline handed Nikora the simplest of penalties in front of the posts, just ten metres out – and the Kiwi duly converted.
Patchell was then given a tricky chance to respond in kind from the halfway line but the 19-year-old’s kick was short and wide, ensuring Connacht went into the half-time interval 15-8 to the good.
Cardiff began the second half the stronger and were handed a route back into the match when Connacht hooker Jason Wright-Harris was shown a yellow card on 47 minutes after he was penalised for being offside.
Patchell was on target with his second penalty of the evening to again bring the Blues to within a score of the lead and the Blues set about making their numerical advantage count.
Five minutes later, Patchell brought his side to within just a point of the visitors as Connacht’s defence – stoic in the first half – became desperate in the second.
Much to the annoyance of the Cardiff Arms Park faithful however, Nikora was the next on the scoresheet after the Blues were pinged at the scrum inside their own 22 on 56 minutes before Patchell missed another for the hosts soon after.
But with 20 minutes remaining, Robin Copeland forced his way over and dotted down to give Cardiff the lead for the first time in the match, only for Patchell to miss the conversion, meaning the hosts’ lead was just one.
Back came Connacht however and they retook the lead when Faloon grabbed his second score of the night on 64 minutes before Patchell slotted a penalty three minutes later ensuring Connacht led by a solitary point.
But with four minutes remaining, up stepped Nikora to nail a superb penalty, giving Connacht the breathing space they needed to close out the victory.