Planet Rugby

Paris survives Welsh siege

09th December 2007 16:43

Share:

Julien Saubade Tom James Stade Cardiff

Flower Power: Stade Franšais wing Julien Saubade gets past Tom James of Cardiff

Stade Franšais leapfrogged Cardiff Blues into second of Pool Three of the Heineken Cup courtesy of a gritty 12-6 victory over the Welsh region at soggy Stade Jean Bouin in Paris on Sunday.

This was vintage Heineken Cup rugby. While there was not a try on offer there was everything else you could have hoped for, and somehow Stade Franšais emerged victorious, their daunting home record still intact, but only just. Cardiff Blues pushed the French champions to within inches of surrendering not just the record but their interest in this tournament.

The Paris skies, a moody grey, threatened to ruin this game as they spilt forth their content. Yet both teams served up a tension-filled game, one that the home side deserved to edge. For their efforts the Blues came away with a priceless bonus point but it could have been so much more.

Looking back, there were several turning points, none more important than in the 25th minute when Nicky Robinson hobbled from the fray, leaving the Blues without a recognised fly-half and two scrum-halves forming the half-back pairing. Whilst a major problem, it failed to halt the Blues' efforts as their pack threw down the gauntlet in fine fashion, but it severely hindered their kicking game.

Stade may look at their own injury problem as a blessing, Juan Martin HernÓndez joining Robinson on the crocked list on the half hour, allowing the more tactically-minded David Skrela to take control. With the game hanging in the balance the Blues laid siege to the Stade Franšais line, only to be repelled by a stout defence and costly errors on their own behalf.

Playing with a howling wind at their backs, the home side ground their opponents down, kicking and driving their way around the Blues' territory in the opening half. That the Blues trudged off at half-time trailing by only six points was a testament to their gritty defensive efforts. HernÓndez slotting two penalties, and Skrela one, to Ben Blair's solitary effort in reply.

As tight fives go Stade have one of the best in the business, capable of sucking the very life out of most opposition packs. But credit to the Blues who stood toe-to-toe with them, and but for a slight lack of patience they may well have trumped them late on.

Skrela stretched the lead with his second penalty, only to see Blair trim it back to six points five minutes later. The stage was set for the final quarter and the Blues took centre, gifted field position from a Mathieu Blin infringement. Xavier Rush turned down the three points, not such a bad choice with a swirling wind and driving rain, and so began the Blues' monster effort at winning the game.

Phase after phase they came at the blue wall that confronted them, and time and again they were sent back. When it did seem they would make a telling drive the ball was lost, spilt forward in treacherous conditions, first by Gethin Jenkins and then by Rush himself. Both times it seemed as if Stade would clear, both times they granted the Blues a reprieve with their own uncharacteristic errors.

With every drive the Blues edged forward but never enough to make a difference, and eventually Paul Tito was penalised for holding on and the ball was finally cleared. Then came the Stade effort, fifteen phases of tight play, grinding their way forward slowly but surely. They also lost the ball in a vital position, as they looked to leave the Blues with nothing.

A last chance for the Blues but with over sixty metres to go they opted not to risk their bonus-point and as Jamie Robinson kicked long he did so knowing the game was up, Stade had survived an almighty onslaught. The relief was there for all to see as the hands were raised in victory, they had survived and in doing so threw the pool right open.

Six days is all these two sides will have to recoup before the second act; if it provides as much entertainment as the first offering then we are in for a thriller. For now though, the Blues head home with a mixture of confidence and thoughts of what might have been.

Man of the match: Stade were forced to dig deep and in doing so RÚmy Martin and Dimitri Szarzewski produced fine displays. But, despite losing, the award goes to the Blues. Their forwards were superb but it was Maama Molitika who stole this one by a whisker. His driving thrusts caused the defence problems all game, and his work-rate in the tight was tremendous. A deserved winner, but in truth it was a complete forward effort.

The scorers:

For Stade Franšais:

Pens: HernÓndez 2, Skrela 2

For Cardiff Blues:

Pens: Blair 2

Stade Franšais: 15 Ignacio Corleto, 14 Julien Saubade, 13 Geoffroy Messina, 12 Brian Liebenberg, 11 Julien Arias, 10 Juan Martin HernÓndez, 9 JÚr˘me Fillol, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 RÚmy Martin, 6 Antoine Burban, 5 Pascal Pape, 4 Cliff Milton, 3 Pieter de Villiers, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (capt), 1 Rodrigo Roncero.

Replacements: 16 Mathieu Blin, 17 Franck Montanella, 18 Pedro Ledesma, 19 Arnaud Marchois, 20 Alexandre Albouy, 21 David Skrela, 22 StÚphane Glas.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Jamie Roberts, 13 Jamie Robinson, 12 Gareth Thomas, 11 Tom James, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Jason Spice, 8 Xavier Rush (c), 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Maama Molitika, 5 Paul Tito, 4 Deiniol Jones, 3 Gary Powell, 2 Gareth Williams, 1 Gethin Jenkins.

Replacements: 16 Taufa'ao Filise, 17 T Rhys Thomas, 18 John Yapp, 19 Scott Morgan, 20 Andy Powell, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Tom Shanklin.

Referee: David Pearson (England)

Touch judges: David Rose (England), Paul Dix (England)

Television match official: Graham Hughes (England)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Saturday , October 25
Scarlets vs LeicesterScarlets vs Leicester Preview
Sunday , October 26
Clermont Auvergne vs Sale SharksClermont Auvergne vs Sale Sharks Preview
Castres vs LeinsterCastres vs Leinster Preview
Wasps vs HarlequinsWasps vs Harlequins Preview
Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 92Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 92 Preview
More European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 31
Leinster vs Edinburgh19:35
Glasgow vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Ospreys vs Connacht19:35
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Saturday , October 25
Oyonnax vs Gloucester19:45
More European Rugby Challenge Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Saturday , October 25
Ulster 13 - 23 ToulonUlster vs Toulon Report
Bath 19 - 21 ToulouseBath vs Toulouse Report
Montpellier 13 - 15 GlasgowMontpellier vs Glasgow Report
Northampton 34 - 6 OspreysNorthampton vs Ospreys Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Rovigo 18 - 33 Cardiff Blues
Bucuresti 9 - 13 Stade Francais
Exeter 33 - 13 Connacht
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Currie Cup
Western Province 19 - 16 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Taranaki 36 - 32 TasmanTaranaki vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster 14 - 3 SaracensMunster vs Saracens Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Grenoble 15 - 25 London Irish
Edinburgh 25 - 17 LOU Rugby
Newport Gwent D'gons 26 - 30 Newcastle
Brive 21 - 26 Zebre
La Rochelle 25 - 13 Bayonne
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh 20 - 52 Bordeaux-BeglesLondon Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
Toulouse 30 - 23 MontpellierToulouse vs Montpellier Report
Toulon 28 - 18 ScarletsToulon vs Scarlets Report
Leinster 25 - 20 WaspsLeinster vs Wasps Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
London Irish 70 - 14 RovigoLondon Irish vs Rovigo Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
International Match
Saturday , October 18
Australia 28 - 29 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More International Match results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sale Sharks 26 - 27 MunsterSale Sharks vs Munster Report
Saracens 30 - 23 Clermont AuvergneSaracens vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro 92 20 - 11 NorthamptonRacing Metro 92 vs Northampton Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton625
2Saracens622
3Exeter620
4Bath620
5Wasps615