Planet Rugby

Thomas brace sets Cardiff racing away

26th October 2007 21:50

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Blues v Sale

Gareth Thomas celebrates his second try

A superb first-half performance by the Cardiff Blues earned them a bonus-point 32-15 victory over Sale in the opening match of this season's EDF Energy Cup on Friday.

With Wales international Gareth Thomas in scintillating form on his first full appearance for the Blues, the Sharks were left shell-shocked and even a much-improved display after the break did not seriously threaten home dominance.

The Blues will need to repeat this sort of form if they are to qualify for the semi-finals with away games to come at Bath and Leicester.

They laid a marker with their opening attack, which needed a tackle from Rory Lamont to stop Thomas, but the first score was only briefly delayed.

Lock Deiniol Jones pounced on a loose ball and fed Jason Spice, who stretched and twisted to touchdown despite Charlie Hodgson's best efforts.

Sale came close when Lamont was just unable to reach a kick before it crossed the deadball line, but referee Dave Pearson was playing advantage and Lee Thomas, a former Blues player, slotted over the penalty.

Then the other Thomas came into his own. First he scythed through to go under the posts for Nicky Robinson to convert, before some fine interpassing with wing Jamie Roberts saw the Wales captain cross in the corner.

Thoroughly relishing his return to Cardiff after six years away, Thomas then sold an outrageous dummy to begin a move which saw full-back Ben Blair hauled down just short. He still managed to offload the ball to supporting skipper, Xavier Rush, who dotted it down. Robinson converted and the delirious home fans were celebrating a bonus point before half-time.

The Sharks reappeared with renewed determination and had a boost when home flanker Maama Molitika was sin-binned for using his hands in a ruck.

Some robust home defence enabled the Blues to survive their period with 14 men, but Sale eventually had their reward when the tireless Julien Laharrague broke a tackle to send Lee Thomas in for a try he improved himself.

The Blues, making a string of substitutions, lost some of their momentum, while Sale, having no doubt received a tongue-lashing in the interval, controlled possession but were rarely able to breach the Welsh lines.

The visitors thrilled their supporters with a length-of-the-field move ending with a fine try for Lamont.

But there was still time for Blues wing Tom James to claim an inch-perfect cross-kick from Robinson and cross for his sixth try in four matches.

The scorers:

For Cardiff Blues:

Tries: Spice, G. Thomas 2, Rush, James

Cons: Robinson 2

Pen: Robinson

For Sale Sharks:

Try: Lee Thomas, Lamont

Con: Lee Thomas

Pen: Lee Thomas

Yellow card: Molitika (Cardiff Blues, 45)

Cardiff Blues:15 Ben Blair, 14 Tom James, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Gareth Thomas, 11 Jamie Roberts, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Jason Spice, 8 Xavier Rush (c), 7 Robin Sowden-Taylor, 6 Maama Molitka, 5 Paul Tito, 4 Deiniol Jones, 3 Gary Powell, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Gethin Jenkins

Replacements: 16 John Yapp, 17 Gareth Williams, 18 Robert Sidoli, 19 Ben White, 20 Richie Rees, 21 Nick Macleod, 22 Rhys Williams

Sale: 15 Julien Laharrague, 14 Rory Lamont, 13 Rudi Keil, 12 Lee Thomas, 11 Oriol Ripol, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Sililo Martens, 8 Nathan Bonner-Evans, 7 Magnus Lund, 6 Chris Jones, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Dean Schofield, 3 Benoit Bourrust, 2 Sebastien Bruno, 1 Lionel Faure

Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Ben Evans/Stuart Turner, 18 Chris Day, 19 Michael Hills, 20 Richard Wigglesworth, 21 Chris Mayor, 22 Elvis Seveali'I/ Steve Hanley

Referee: Dave Pearson (England)

Touch judges: Paul Dix (England), Steve Terheege (England)

Television match official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

Assessor: Tony Lynch (Wales)

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