Cardiff Blues’ Guinness PRO14 hopes were dealt a blow as Connacht dominated proceedings in Galway to claim an important bonus-point win.
Following three weeks without a fixture the Blues returned to Championship action with a vital clash against their Conference B rivals.
They travelled with high hopes but Connacht were in control from the first to last minute with Jack Carty controlling affairs expertly.
The hosts claimed four tries in total, through Dave Heffernan, Peter Robb, John Porch and Kyle Godwin, while Cardiff Blues were held scoreless.
The defeat sees Connacht pull six points clear in the race for a play-off spot, while the Blues will be desperate to respond against Benetton Rugby a week Sunday.
Connacht opened the scoring at the storm swept Sportsground with a penalty on five minutes but the Blues would be grateful it was not more.
Tiernan O’Halloran had sliced through the midfield creating a three on one with support on either side. It could and should have been a try but Dan Fish was ice cool and while the Connacht full-back eventually fed Kiernan Marmion on the inside, Fish had bided enough time for his side to recover.
The Irish outfit laid siege to the Blues line but were made to settle for the three points from the boot of Jack Carty.
They continued to dominate both territory and possession, with the gale-force winds appearing to benefit the home side, but the Blues defended manfully with their powerful scrum and three turnover penalties from Olly Robinson proving decisive.
It was a scrum penalty that gave Cardiff the first opportunity to attack the Connacht half but just as they built momentum, a stray boot dislodged the ball from the ruck and alarm bells rang again.
As the half progressed, Wales’ Capital Region grew into the encounter, forcing Connacht into mistakes but they were dealt a major blow on the 25 minute mark.
The Irish province continued to expertly use the wind to pin the Blues into the left hand corner and when the line out miss-fired, Dave Heffernan pounced for a crucial try.
Carty converted to give his side a 10-0 lead and within 10 minutes they had claimed a second try.
The Galway-based outfit were fortunate to still be in possession after referee Stuart Berry failed to reward Will Boyde, who attempted a legitimate jackal. However, from the next phase Carty threaded an intelligent grubber through the Blues defence to the corner and Peter Robb collected.
Carty failed to add the extras but the home side were now in possession of a 15-point lead, which they took into the break.
Connacht continued to turn the screw and they claimed a third try ten minutes into the second-half thanks to an audacious offload from Dennis Buckley put John Porch away.
It appeared as though the replacement prop has blown a gilt-edged chance as he failed to move possession to the left but as he was tackled by two men with the try-line just metres away, he somehow flicked the ball away and Porch collected for an unopposed run in.
Berry went to the TMO, who adjudged that the ball had not gone forward, and the try was given.
Carty slotted the simple conversion and the Blues were dealt a devastating blow as Connacht snatched the bonus-point try on the hour mark.
Mulvihill’s men had been building pressure in the Connacht 22 when the ball popped out of the breakdown allowing Kyle Godwin an easy, albeit long, run in.
The hosts remained in control of the final quarter, camped in the Cardiff Blues half to seal the victory and send the visitors back to Wales empty handed.