Planet Rugby

Blues leave Stade empty handed

15th December 2007 15:27

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Paul Tito of Cardiff Blues has a rest in the Heineken Cup

Tito: Scored a vital try in the second half

A late Dai Flanagan drop goal ensured Stade Français left the Arms Park with nothing from their Heineken Cup encounter as the Blues won 31-21.

The Blues lead all the way through the Parisians mounted late pressure with the gap at just seven points. Then with the clock showing eighty minutes young fly-half Flanagan slotted a superb drop goal to send the home crowd into raptures.

Knowing they needed to win to keep their Heineken Cup hopes alive the Blues set about their task in superb fashion, literally starving the Parisians of ball and field position.

It was a vintage Blues performance, although they will feel disappointed not to have secured the four-try bonus point, having over thirty minutes to do so. As it was they will settle for a four point win that leaves them top of the pool and Stade Français on the edge of elimination.

The manner in which the Blues defended was superb, and their attack was class personified at times. Jamie Robinson, a late inclusion to start with Ben Blair pulling out injured, was the cutting edge behind, although he has his forward pack to thank for such clean ball.

The hosts built up a 13-point lead by half-time and although the French side responded in a pulsating second period, the Blues somehow managed to withstand the late pressure.

The Blues suffered a pre-match blow when Kiwi full-back Ben Blair withdrew with a hamstring pull, meaning that 21-year-old Jamie Roberts had to switch from the wing.

International centre Jamie Robinson came off the bench and, had his long pass to wing Tom James not been marginally forward, the home side would have had the boost of a first-minute try.

It mattered little. After Flanagan had kicked a penalty, Robinson made amends for his error, finishing off a move sparked by a clever inside pass from the young fly-half.

Another Flanagan penalty extended the Blues lead, with Stade looking rattled in the face of tigerish tackling and a determination by Dai Young's men to be first to any breakdown.

The visitors turned down an easy kick at goal and were rewarded when wing Julien Arias finished a sweeping move with a try.

Watching Wales coach Warren Gatland will have been impressed by the manner of the Blues' response.

In first-half injury time James popped up in midfield and the 20-year-old showed incredible acceleration to leave half-a-dozen Frenchmen grasping at air as he scorched to the line.

Flanagan restored the 13-point margin with the conversion.

Stade coach Jerome Galthie made three changes in a bid to shake things up and the French were encouraged by an early second-half penalty from fly-half David Skrela.

But the French fly-half quickly turned into the villain, with a clearance kick charged down by Blues' lock Paul Tito, who then won the chase to touch down as the ball rolled over the line.

Skrela pulled three points back with another penalty and the French were showing greater urgency. Runs from replacement Geoffroy Messina and Argentinian prop Rodrigo Roncero putting them into the home 22 for Skrela to punish another indiscretion.

A break by Tongan prop Taufa'ao Filise earned the position for Flanagan to reply with a penalty for the Blues and there was a further set-back for the visitors when Roncero was sin-binned for a late tackle on Gareth Thomas.

But the Blues failed to take advantage of the extra man and Stade were back to full strength when flanker Antoine Burban broke a weak tackle to cross in the corner.

The Blues were to have the last word, however, with Flanagan's neatly taken drop goal sending the crowd into delirium.

Man of the match: So much was made of the inclusion of Robin Sowden-Taylor in front of Martyn Williams, but the open-side produced a superb display of rugby. He rightly recieved a standing ovation as he left the field after sixty minutes.

The Scorers:

For Cardiff Blues:

Tries: Robinson, James, Tito

Cons: Flanagan 2

Pens: Flanagan 3

Drop goal: Flanagan

For Stade Français:

Tries: Arias, Burban

Con: Skrela

Pens: Skrela 3

Yellow card: Roncero (Stade Français - 57th minute)

The Teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Jamie Roberts, 14 Gareth Thomas, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Jamie Robinson, 11 Tom James, 10 Dai Flanagan, 9 Jason Spice, 8 Xavier Rush (c), 7 Robin Sowden Taylor, 6 Maama Molitika, 5 Paul Tito, 4 Deiniol Jones, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Gareth Williams, 1 Gethin Jenkins

Replacements: 16 John Yapp, 17 T Rhys Thomas, 18 Scott Morgan, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Martyn Williams, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Tal Selley.

Stade Français: 15 Ignacio Corleto, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Stéphane Glas, 12 Brian Liebenberg, 11 Julien Saubade, 10 David Skrela, 9 Jérôme Fillol, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Rémy Martin, 6 Antoine Burban, 5 Pascal Pape, 4 Boela Du Plooy, 3 Pieter de Villiers, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (c), 1 Rodrigo Roncero.

Replacements: 16 Mathieu Blin, 17 Franck Montanella, 18 Pedro Ledesma, 19 Cliff Milton, 20 Alexandre Albouy, 21 Mathieu Bastareaud, 22 Geoffroy Messina.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

Touch judges: Martin Fox (England), Robin Goodliffe (England)

Television match official: Graham Hughes (Wales)

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