There is great expectation attached to Connacht this season but they failed to deliver on their Pro12 opening day as they were unable to master an understrength Cardiff side and the difficult conditions at the Sportsground.
A bonus point was scant reward for the amount of possession Connacht enjoyed and they now face a tricky trip to Italian newcomers Zebre in a bid to get their first win.
Connacht enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening half but they failed to make this count on the scoreboard despite having the Cardiff scrum in all sorts of trouble.
Cardiff, on the other hand, made the most of what came their way with Ceri Sweeney stroking a penalty between the posts after 20 minutes from the 22. He doubled their lead five minutes later before disaster struck for Connacht.
They failed to get clean possession from their own lineout on the 22 and in the ensuing confusion Cardiff's debutant scrum-half Lewis Jones pounced and the 19-year-old dived over in the right corner. Sweeney turned the screw by adding the difficult conversion to leave Connacht trailing by 13-0 at the interval.
Connacht dominated the second-half but never looked like scoring a try. Nikora reduced the deficit with a penalty from 40 metres after 46 minutes but several promising moves broke down in midfield as the errors continued in the wet conditions. They looked set to secure the win when Nikora again found the range after 66 minutes to make it 13-6 and then landed another a minute later but that was as close as they got.
Scorers -- Connacht: Nikora 3 pens. Cardiff: Jones try, Sweeney 2 pens, con.
Connacht: G Duffy; T O'Halloran, E Griffin (M Jarvis 62), M Fifita, F Vainikolo (R Henshaw 62); M Nikora, K Marmion; D Buckley, E Reynecke (A Flavin 62), R Loughney (R Ah You 62); M Swift, M McCarthy (D Gannon 54); J Muldoon, J O'Connor (W Faloon 51), G Naoupu.
Cardiff Blues: D Fish; H Robinson, G Evans, G Davies, T James; C Sweeney, L Jones (L Williams 67); T Davies (B Bourrust 47), A Kyriacou, T Filise (N Trevett 75); R Copeland (L Reed 47), J Down; R Watts-Jones (L Hamilton 70), J Navidi, A Pretorius.
Referee: A McMenemy (SRU)
Sunday Indo Sport