Pro14: Blues close gap on Pro14 rivals Connacht with 8-7 win

Kristian Dacey prepares to take a pass
Hooker Kristian Dacey was back after injury to lead Cardiff Blues
Guinness Pro14: Cardiff Blues v Connacht
Cardiff Blues (8)
Try: Lane Pen: Shingler
Connacht (7)
Try: Boyle Con: Fitzgerald

Cardiff Blues closed the gap on Pro14 Conference A rivals Connacht to two points as they held out at the Arms Park.

Owen Lane's spectacular finish of Blues' try helped them to lead 8-0 at the break with Steven Shingler having earlier kicked a penalty.

Blues were down to 13 men through yellow cards when Lane dived over.

Paul Boyle hit back late on for Connacht and Conor Fitzgerald converted as they stayed fourth.

Blues ended the day where they had started it, in fifth. But with Ospreys also on 38 points, John Mulvihill's side are two points behind their Welsh rivals.

With a host of players absent as they prepare for the Six Nations that begins next weekend, Wales hooker Kristian Dacey made a timely return after suffering a shoulder injury at the beginning of January.

Dacey's inclusion was one of eight changes from last week's Champions Cup victory over Lyon.

Connacht made 10 changes from the side that beat Bordeaux, with second row Cillian Gallagher making his first start of the season.

Shane Lewis-Hughes made his first league start for the Blues, alongside Olly Robinson and Nick Williams in the back row.

Having won eight of their previous 10 games, Connacht were in good form.

But even when home prop Brad Thyer and number eight Nick Williams were absent after overlapping sin-binnings in the opening period, the visitors were unable to breach the home defence.

What's more, Lane's decisive try came while Thyer and Williams both were absent.

Scrum-half Lloyd Williams broke free to give Lane the time and space to squeeze along the touchline before scoring with a spectacular dive as the Connacht cover closed in.

Shingler's earlier penalty accounted for the rest of the opening period's points.

The second-half was scoreless despite the often frenetic action until replacement back-row Boyle rewarded Connacht's endeavours for Fitzgerald to convert.

Tiernan O'Halloran was well wide with a long-range drop-goal attempt as Blues kept the Irish province at bay in the dying moments.

Cardiff Blues boss John Mulvihill said: "We gave all we could there today. I didn't know if eight points was going to be enough playing into that wind in the second half.

"But the boys hung tough. The penalty count against us in the first half was 11-5 and that was one of the keys things we talked about [at the break] because discipline allows teams to get out of pressure.

"And our discipline in the second half was outstanding. I think we only gave away two penalties to about six and that's what kept us in the game."

Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Owen Lane, Harri Millard, Rey Lee-Lo, Aled Summerhill; Steven Shingler, Lloyd Williams; Brad Thyer, Kristian Dacey (capt), Dmitri Arhip, George Earle, Rory Thornton, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Liam Belcher, Rhys Carré, Scott Andrews, Macauley Cook, James Botham, Lewis Jones, Dan Fish, Willis Halaholo.

Connacht: Tiernan O'Halloran; Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Tom Daly, Matt Healy; David Horwitz, James Mitchell; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, James Cannon, Cillian Gallagher, Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga'a, Jarrad Butler (capt).

Replacements: Tom McCartney, Matthew Burke, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Paul Boyle, Angus Lloyd, Conor Fitzgerald, Stephen Fitzgerald.

Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)

Assistant referees: Adam Jones (WRU), Lloyd Linton (SRU)

TMO: Ian Davies (WRU)

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