Cardiff Blues moved closer to the EDF Energy Cup semi-finals with a hard fought 23-9 victory over Leicester at the Arms Park on Saturday.
Despite a gruelling two weeks in Europe both sides fielded strong teams, but in the end Cardiff Blues had too much intensity and power in the second half. Derick Hougaard's boot gave Leicester a sniff going into the final stages, but Jason Spice's try was enough to seal the win.
Having suffered a slow start to the season Cardiff Blues are moving into top gear, following up a perfect start in the Heineken Cup with a well-deserved victory here. They now know a win over Bath and they are in the semi-finals.
The first half was a messy affair, punctuated by moments of individual brilliance from Leigh Halfpenny and Jamie Roberts, but any moments of magic petered out due to a lack of support.
Ben Blair continued his fine form with the boot, kicking his side into a six-point lead with two well-taken kicks. Leicester had their chances, but Derick Hougaard fluffed a penalty attempt before sending two drop kicks well wide.
Jordan Crane and Tom Croft look dangerous with ball in hand, but the home side defended with superb character and ensured their try line remained in tact going into the break. Leicester did finally get on the board, albeit with the final kick of the half.
With both sides knowing victory would put them on the brink of the semi-finals it seemed as if neither was prepared to chance their arm too much in the first half. That tactic was abandoned after the break as both back-lines began to show some adventure.
Again Halfpenny and Roberts were at the fore as Cardiff Blues began to expose some gaping holes in the Leicester defence. Leicester, showing plenty of purpose of their own through Seru Rabeni and Dan Hipkiss, weathered the first waves of the storm.
But they were helpless when Cardiff Blues increased the pressure, Jamie Roberts ghosting between Hipkiss and Toby Flood to send his fellow centre Jamie Robinson in under the posts for a converted try.
Leicester stayed in touch through Hougaard's boot and were lucky not to be out of the game with ten minutes to go. First John Yapp made a telling break, before a twenty metre run from Taufa'ao Filise saw the home side within inches of scoring. The ball was sent wide but Robinson could not hold on under pressure.
They were not to be denied for too much longer, as with Leicester chasing the game chances were coming thick and fast. A poor cross-field kick from Flood went straight to Leigh Halfpenny and two phases later Jason Spice was gliding over for the try that secured the result and edged the home side ever closer to the semi-finals.
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: J.Robinson, Spice
Cons: Blair 2
Pens: Blair 3
Pens: Hougaard 3
Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Jamie Robinson, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Richard Mustoe, 10 Nick Robinson, 9 Jason Spice, 8 Andy Powell, 7 Robin Sowden Taylor, 6 Maama Molitika, 5 Paul Tito (c), 4 Deiniol Jones, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Gareth Williams, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Gary Powell, 17 T. Rhys Thomas, 18 Scott Morgan, 19 Martyn Williams, 20 Richie Rees, 21 Ceri Sweeney, 22 Tom Shanklin.
Leicester: 15 Johne Murphy, 14 Seru Rabeni, 13 Danny Hipkiss, 12 Toby Flood, 11 Matt Smith, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Harry Ellis, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Tom Croft, 6 Martin Corry (c), 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Richard Blaze, 3 Julian White, 2 George Chuter, 1 Boris Stankovich.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Dan Cole, 18 Ben Kay, 19 Brett Deacon, 20 Julien Dupuy, 21 Ayoola Erinle, 22 Tom Varndell.
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
Touch judges: JP Doyle (England), Paul Dix (England)
Assessor: Tony Lynch (Wales)
Television match official: Huw Lewis (Wales)