Rhys Patchell kicked Cardiff Blues to their first RaboDirect PRO12 victory of the season and got life on their new artificial pitch off to the perfect start with a 21-10 win against Connacht on Friday night.
Having lost their first clash of the season 22-15 against Glasgow Warriors, the Blues were desperate to mark their opening match at Cardiff Arms Park with victory and 21 points, all from the boot of Wales international fly-half Patchell, saw them home.
It was by no means an easy contest for the hosts, though, as they saw Matt Healy cross in the first half and Dan Parks kick five points.
Parks’ kick-off, however, flew into touch and in the third minute he dropped a penalty – exactly on the halfway line – just short of the posts as the scores remained untroubled.
It remained that way until 12 minutes with both sides playing a kicking game, that was until Kieran Marmion spotted a gap and fed Healy who slid home for his second RaboDirect PRO12 try of the season. Parks added the extras with ease.
The Blues secured their first home points of the new campaign through Patchell, his long-range penalty comfortably sailing over the posts on 20 minutes, and moments later the fly-half added another three points to reduce the deficit to one.
Chances remained few and far between for both sides, but the ever-reliable Patchell proved his prowess again just after the half-hour mark with a perfectly weighted drop-goal to give the Blues the lead.
Connacht began to apply the pressure, though, as the clock ticked towards half-time and Parks made amends for his first kick of the game with a three-pointer which was the last act of the half.
Cardiff came out after the break with the bit between their teeth and worked their way towards the Connacht line, but they had to make do with another Patchell penalty on 52 minutes that restored their slim advantage.
They almost added to that just two minutes later when a break from Alex Cuthbert – making his first start since returning from British & Irish Lions duty this summer – broke the Connacht line for the first time.
He found Tom Williams but some superb defence from the visitors pushed Lloyd Williams into touch and the chance was gone.
Parks had the chance to swing the pendulum back into Connacht’s favour with a penalty on the hour mark, but he dragged his 35-yard effort just wide of the posts.
Patchell then followed suit with a poor kick from the tee as neither side looked like taking a hold of the game.
Blues’ Taufa’ao Filise tried to force his way over the line after a prolonged drive from the hosts but the Irish defence again stood up to the challenge, although a fourth penalty of the evening from Patchell opened up a five-point lead.
Connacht appeared to have run out of steam, and six minutes from time another penalty from Patchell put the game beyond doubt.
Rodney Ah You’s late yellow card and a sixth penalty of the night for Patchell rubbed salt into the Irish province’s wounds.