Cardiff Blues made it back-to-back wins in the Heineken Cup after beating a 14-man London Irish outfit 24-18 at Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff Blues made it back-to-back wins in the Heineken Cup after beating a 14-man London Irish outfit 24-18 at Cardiff City Stadium on Friday.
The victory sees the Welsh side maintain pole position in Pool 2, while the Exiles drop anchor at the bottom following their second defeat on the trot.
The hosts started the match with plenty of promise after opening a 10-0 lead with barely seven minutes gone on the clock, courtesy of a Dan Parks penalty before hooker T Rhys Thomas went over for the opening try from a line-out converted by Parks.
London Irish struggled to get a foothold on the game as Cardiff launched several more attacks, but failed to convert pressure into points.
It went from bad to worse for the visitors, after inside centre Steven Shingler was shown a red card for a tip tackle on his opposite number Dafydd Hewitt in the 19th minute of the match which meant London Irish would be forced to play the remaining three quarters of the match with 14 men.
The writing was on the wall for the Exiles, but Toby Booth's men erased any thoughts of one-way traffic as the visitors managed to cut the deficit to just four points (13-9) with thanks to three penalty kicks from full-back Tom Homer.
But from a Cardiff Blues restart – following Homer's third penalty two minutes before the break – Michael Paterson did tremendously well to win the ball back for his team, which set up scrum-half Lloyd Williams to race through untouched for a crucial try on the stroke of half-time.
Parks missed the conversion from far out, but the half-empty stadium would have breathed a sigh of relief that their team managed to extend their lead to 18-9 following a brave comeback from the Exiles.
But it didn't end there for the visitors.
The Blues pressed hard for a third score immediately after the break but the second period soon became a cagey affair dominated by the boot.
Parks kicked the Blues further ahead on 50 minutes after Homer had produced a try-saving tackle on Cuthbert three minutes earlier.
Homer then produced the goods at the other end of the field with a brace of penalties on 53 and 63 minutes to narrow the gap to 21-15 and keep Irish's hopes of an upset on the cards.
Parks looked to have settled matters by opening up an eight-point gap once again with just over 10 minutes to go but Homer's 74th-minute strike led to a nervy finish and ensured Toby Booth's men left with the least they deserved for a fully-committed display at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Tries: Thomas, Williams
Pens: Parks 4
For London Irish:
Pens: Homer 6
Cardiff Blues: 15 Chris Czekaj, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Tom James, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Xavier Rush, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 Paul Tito, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Tau Filise, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 John Yapp, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Maama Molitika, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Ceri Sweeney, 23 Gavin Evans.
London Irish: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Joe Ansbro, 12 Steven Shingler, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Dan Bowden, 9 Ross Samson, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Richard Thorpe, 6 Declan Danaher, 5 Matthew Garvey, 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Faan Rautenbach, 2 David Paice, 1 Clarke Dermody.
Replacements: 16 James Buckland, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Paulica Ion, 19 James Sandford, 20 Jamie Gibson, 21 Jonathan Spratt, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Paul Hodgson.
Referee: JÃ©rÃ´me Garces (France)