Planet Rugby

Top seeded Blues destroy Calvisano

23rd January 2009 21:42

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Ben Blair

Star man: Blair was in fine kicking form

Cardiff Blues secured the bonus-point victory they required to go into the Heineken Cup quarter-finals as top seeds, breezing past Calvisano 62-20.

But while their record-breaking nine-try victory was predictable against the whipping boys from Italy - Calvisano have not won a match in their last five seasons in the competition - they were made to work by the enthusiastic visitors.

The Blues, however, had the fire-power and the fitness to make sure that last weekend's phenomenal victory at Gloucester was not followed by embarrassment at home.

Full-back Ben Blair, back after a wrist injury, contributed 22 points and claimed the man-of-the-match award.

Calvisano's chances, already slim, were not helped when captain Leonardo Ghiraldini limped off after only seven minutes, yet 60 seconds later the Italians were ahead.

Kiwi fly-half Gerard Fraser charged down opposite number Nicky Robinson's kick and centre Gonzalo Garcia won the race to touchdown. Fraser converted.

The Blues responded with wing Gareth Thomas breaking through two tackles to score a try awarded after consultation with the video referee.

Blair missed the conversion and then conceded an easy penalty which Fraser slotted over, but the New Zealander was soon a hero again.

He fed winger Leigh Halfpenny and took a return pass to race clear to the posts, providing himself with a simple conversion, and then added a penalty to further settle the Arms Park nerves.

Continued home pressure led to a move which spread quickly to the right, where the flying Halfpenny raced over close to the flag, Blair's conversion giving the scoreboard the sort of appearance most had expected.

Xavier Rush replaced Andy Powell at half-time and within three minutes of his arrival he broke from a scrum and strolled over without a hand laid on him to secure the bonus point.

Fraser kicked a penalty for Calvisano, but it was only a brief interruption before a neat cross-kick from Robinson was taken by Gareth Thomas, who handed replacement kicker Rhys Thomas the try.

As both sides rang the changes, the Italians grabbed another breakaway try, from Matteo Pratichetti, but Rhys Thomas stretched over to cancel it over with his second score.

A yellow card for Calvisano prop Gabriel Bocca, who had only just entered the fray, shattered the visitors' spirit and the floodgates opened.

Flankers Martyn Williams and Maama Molitika, with a 50-yard gallop, and wing Gareth Thomas all crossed, sending the Blues past the 56 points they recorded in Italy in October and establishing a new best for the region in this competition.

The Scorers:

For Cardiff Blues:

Tries: G.Thomas 2, Blair, Halfpenny, Rush, TR Thomas 2, M.Williams, Molitika

Cons: Blair 7

Pen: Blair

For Calvisano:

Tries: Gonzalo, Pratichetti

Cons: Fraser 2

Pens: Fraser 2

Yellow card: Bocca (Calvisano, 68th minute - professional foul)

The Teams:

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

Replacements: 16 Taufa'ao Filise, 17 T Rhys Thomas, 18 Bradley Davies, 19 Xavier Rush, 20 Darren Allinson, 21 Ceri Sweeney, 22 Jamie Robinson.

Calvisano: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Garcia Gonzalo, 11 Daniele Forcucci, 10 Gerard John Fraser, 9 Pino Patelli, 8 Alessandro Zanni, 7 Aaron Persico, 6 Filippo Cristiano, 5 Cameron Treloar, 4 Peter Sidoli, 3 Ben Evans, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alistair McKenzie.

Replacements: 16 Gabriel Bocca, 17 Alejandro Moreno, 18 Luca Beccaris, 19 Matteo Galluppi, 20 Paul Griffen, 21 Nanni Raineri, 22 Luke McLean.

Referee: Romain Poite (France)

Touch judges: Eric Soulan (France), Jean-Paul Vermande (France)

Television match official: Jean-Christophe Gastou (France)

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