Pro12: Connacht 18-7 Cardiff Blues
|Connacht (10) 18|
|Tries: Cooney, Aki Con: Cooney Pens: Cooney 2|
|Blues (7) 7|
|Tries: James Con: Shingler|
John Cooney and Bundee Aki scored tries as champions Connacht saw off Cardiff Blues 18-7 in Friday's Pro12 game at the Sportsground in Galway.
Scrum-half Cooney scored 13 points in the Irish province's third win in the competition this season, with a try, two penalties and a conversion.
Wales international winger Tom James crossed for the Blues but his side trailed 10-7 at the interval.
The last quarter of the game was scoreless after Aki touched down.
Connacht captain and veteran number eight John Muldoon made some key defensive plays as Pat Lam's men ended a three-match losing streak against Welsh opposition this season.
With Wales due to play their last international of the year this weekend against South Africa, the Blues saw several of their international stars return.
But the visitors opted to leave winger Alex Cuthbert on the bench, while fly-half Gareth Anscombe was not involved.
Cooney's 15th-minute try was executed from close range after a powerful scrum by the home side, with the number nine converting to make it 7-0.
The Blues fought back and were back on level terms soon after when James intercepted a loose Jack Carty pass to score his seventh try of the season, Steve Shingler adding the additional two points.
And the Welsh side had a chance to take the lead after the referee awarded them a kickable penalty, but Shingler pulled his effort wide.
The Blues continued on the front foot as full-back Dan Fish narrowly missed out on a try after he was marginally beaten in a foot race to his kick over the top.
But Connacht led at the break after another powerful scrum forced a penalty, which Cooney comfortably knocked over.
Cooney extended the advantage after the break with his second penalty after the referee spotted a tackle off the ball, before being replaced by 22-year-old Caolan Blade.
Blade almost made an immediate impact as he burst through the Blues defence, before the ball was later knocked on.
The hosts' second try arrived minutes later when winger Niyi Adeolokun split open the defence and centre Aki touched down to finish off a flowing move.
Now trailing by 11 points, Cardiff started to play with more urgency as Rey Lee-Lo and substitute Matthew Morgan linked up nicely down the left wing, but the ball was lost by Tomos Williams at the base of a ruck.
And minutes later they thought they were back in it when Morgan touched down in the corner, only for the TMO to rule it out for a knock-on.
The Blues continued to ask questions of the Connacht defence with a series of line-outs in the Irish side's 22, but the home side's defence remained firm to the end.
Connacht: Cian Kelleher; Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Stacey Ili; Jack Carty, John Cooney; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey; Quinn Roux, James Cannon; Eoin McKeon, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: Dave Heffernan for McCartney (55), Ronan Loughney for Buckley (65), JP Cooney for Carey (67), Lewis Stevenson for Roux (65), Nepia Fox-Matamua for E McKeon (62), Caolin Blade for J Cooney (55), Marnitz Boshoff for Carty (67), Tiernan O'Halloran for Ronaldson (28), Dave Heffernan for McCartney (55)
Cardiff Blues: Dan Fish; Blaine Scully, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Tom James; Steve Shingler, Tomos Williams; Rhys Gill, Kristian Dacey, Scott Andrews, George Earle, Jarrad Hoeata, Josh Turnbull, Ellis Jenkins (capt), Josh Navidi.
Replacements: Matthew Rees for Dacey (67), Brad Thyer for Gill (71), Taufa'ao Filise for Andrews (71), Macauley Cook for Hoeata (52), Alex Cuthbert for James (69), Matthew Morgan for Fish (38).
Not Used: Shane Lewis-Hughes, Rhodri Davies.
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant referees: Simon Rees (WRU), John Carvill (IRFU)
Citing commissioner: Eddie Wigglesworth (IRFU)
TMO: Charles Samson (SRU)
Fox-Matamua for E. McKeon (62).