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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 April 2006, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Cardiff Blues 30-12 Connacht
Cardiff Blues centre Marc Stcherbina scored two tries
Blues: (9) 30:
Tries: Stcherbina 2, G Jenkins.
Cons: Macleod 3.
Pens: Macleod 3.
Connacht: (12) 12:
Pens: McHugh 4.
Att: 6,423
Cardiff Blues kept up the pressure on the Celtic League leaders with a solid win over bottom side Connacht.

Australian centre Marc Stcherbina led the way with two tries, while Gethin Jenkins also crossed and Nick Macleod kicked 15 points in a fine display.

Connacht led 12-9 at half-time as Mark McHugh punished any Welsh indiscipline with four penalty kicks.

But the Blues took control after the break, although they could not find a fourth try for a precious bonus point.

A scrappy first half turned into a personal kicking duel between Connacht fly-half McHugh and opposite number Macleod.

McHugh was on target with all four of his kicks, while Macleod also enjoyed a 100% record with three attempts as Cardiff Blues trailed 9-12 at half-time.

Macleod was a late swap for Nick Robinson, who picked up a small niggle before kick-off but was introduced from the bench early in the second half

It's a measure of how far we've come that we're disappointed we didn't get a bonus point
Blues coach Dai Young

Any first-half highlights came from Blues scrum-half Mike Phillips, who made several fine breaks that ultimately faded through a lack of support.

Things improved for the Welsh side soon after the break, when Macleod broke through to send Stcherbina over the try line.

Macleod continued his kicking success with the conversion, then added another two points on 62 minutes after Gethin Jenkins scored in the left corner.

By that time Robinson had arrived on the field, Macleod shifting to full-back, and it was his flat and fast passing that created the space for prop Jenkins to go over.

Connacht's struggles became worse on 70 minutes when Tom Tierney was sin-binned for cynically killing the ball in front of his own posts.

Blues wasted no time in making the extra man count, as Macleod and Chris Czekaj combined to send Stcherbina over for his second try, again converted by Macleod.

But the lacklustre handling that had already marred this game denied the Blues the fourth try that would have earned a bonus point.

Whether that lost point will come back to haunt the Cardiff side in the final standings remains to be seen.

But one consolation is that the Blues have now secured a spot in the Heineken Cup for next season.

  • Cardiff Blues coach Dai Young:
    "We've got to be pleased with the win, but I suppose it's a measure of how far we've come that we're disappointed we didn't get a bonus point.

    "We were messy on occasions, we weren't as accurate as we've been in the past, but we've got the win and we're still in with a shout of the title.

    "We've got a huge game next week and we'll have to pick our performance up quite a bit to go to Ulster and win."

    Blues: Rhys Williams (capt); Chris Czekaj, Marc Stcherbina, Tristan Davies, Craig Morgan; Nick Macleod, Mike Phillips; John Yapp, Rhys Thomas, Gethin Jenkins, Deiniol Jones, Rob Sidoli, Kort Schubert, Robin Sowden-Taylor, Xavier Rush.
    Replacements: Scott Roberts, Duane Goodfield, Mark Lewis, Martyn Williams, Ryan Powell, Nick Robinson, Lee Thomas.

    Connacht: Paul Warwick; Matt Mostyn, John Hearty, Gavin Williams, Conor McPhillips; Mark McHugh, Chris Keane; Dan McFarland, John Fogarty, Stephen Knoop, Christian Short, Andrew Farley (capt), Michael Swift, John Muldoon, Colm Rigney.
    Replacement: Joe Merrigan, Adrian Clarke, David Gannon, Matt Lacey, Tom Tierney, David Slemen, Ted Robinson.

    Referee: A McPherson (SRFU)



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