Planet Rugby

Blues hold on to take Toulouse

11th April 2009 17:23


Bradley Davies at his peak

Kings of Cardiff: Brad Davies rises high for the Blues

Cardiff Blues made it to the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup on Saturday, holding out for a 9-6 win over Toulouse and ending French interest in the competition at the Millennium Stadium.

A terrific defensive performance in the final 15 minutes got the Blues to their target in a game that simmered unappetisingly for an hour and then bubbled into life for the final quarter.

The tension took a hold of the occasion far more than either of the teams did during a cagey first half. Cardiff Blues went in at half-time ahead by the odd penalty in three but rode their luck to get there.

Toulouse had the more meaningful attacks, not least the two lunges for the line by Thierry Dusautoir, one of which was short by a whisker, the other adjudged - after fully two and a half minutes' examination by the TMO - to have been knocked on.

Cardiff rarely threatened to break through but did enjoy more of the possession and forced more penalties as a result.

Ben Blair landed one in the first minute after Patricio Albacete had been penalised for some over-enthusiasm at the first ruck, and another after 32 minutes when Jean Bouilhou strayed offside.

Frédéric Michalak, who has been widely criticised for his inaccurate place-kicking in France since his return from South Africa, landed one of his own after six minutes following a philosopical discussion between Martyn Williams and Byron Kelleher.

By contrast to the Blues, whose intend was to bash away and waity patiently for the gaps, Toulouse looked to attack from deep where possible and keep the Blues at bay.

The movement that led up to Dusautoir's ill-fated assaults on the line was sparked by a terrific tackle from Dusautoir on Paul Tito and steal from Pelous, followed by some classic running and jinking from Vincent Clerc down the right.

Many other attempts at such counter-attacks were snuffed out, but the intent, and the inherent danger, were there.

The second half did not improve much. Some poor kicking and some unenterprising structure on the game was only briefly livened by a scintillating break from Médard on 50 minutes.


Nick Robinson finally broke the line and accelerated down the middle. Perhaps Tom James should have backed himself and stayed to Robinson's left, but he opted to cut inside for a switch which Robinson read too late and spilled.

Médard picked up the spilt ball and booted it ahead into the space where Tito covered and did marvellously well to stand in protection of the ball. Out it came to Robinson, who fed James who went on a jinking run which ultimately came to nothing, but the whole passage of play inspired everyone else.

Robinson made a quarter-break, just enough to slip a delicious pass behind his would-be tackler and into the hands of the onrushing Jamie Roberts who got to within 5m, sparking a heavy spell of Cardiff pressure that culminated in a drop goal attempt from Robinson that bounced meatily off the post.

From the rebound, Cardiff's pack won a penalty for not releasing the tackled player, much to the disgust of the Toulousains nearby, and Blair landed it for a 9-3 lead.

Guy Novès reacted by bringing on David Skrela, who immedaitely slipped a tackle and sparked the kind of handling movement between forwards and backs for which Toulouse have become famous. Five passes later, Dusautoir was brought to ground and the ball was cynically killed by Martyn Williams who should surely have been yellow-carded.

As it was, Skrela landed the penalty and it was 9-6.

Jauzion broke cleanly as Toulouse upped the pace further, but the cover was just numerous enough to prevent him passing out to Clerc, just present enough to prevent Médard taking the scoring pass out of the tackle. Ten minutes to go and the Blues were stretched.

James chipped and regathered and was unfortunate to lose the ball in contact with Kelleher to give Toulouse another scrum, from which the ball went wide to Médard threateningly but was then turned over.

That was it. Toulouse had shot their bolt. The ball moved through their hands left and right but there were no more breaks to be had and most importantly, no penalties forthcoming from the blue line that could have taken the game to extra time. The semi-finals will return to the Millennium Stadium where Leicester or Bath will be the visitors - let them be the ones to try and crack this defence!

Man of the match: Martyn Williams? He saved a certain try with his kill of the ball but, purists as we try to be, we can't give a gong to negative play. Maxime Médard had some sublime moments but blotted his copybook with some bizarre errors in the first half. So we'll look elsewhere, and we find that Gethin Jenkins' display in Cardiff's engine-room was the pick of the player performances.

The scorers:

For Cardiff Blues:

Pens: Blair 3

For Toulouse:

Pens: Michalak, Skrela

Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom James, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Jason Spice, 8 Xavier Rush, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Maama Molitika, 5 Paul Tito (c), 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Tauf'au Filise, 2 Gareth Williams, 1 Gethin Jenkins.

Replacements: 16 John Yapp, 17 T Rhys Thomas, 18 Deiniol Jones, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Richie Rees, 21 Ceri Sweeney, 22 Gareth Thomas.

Toulouse: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11 Cédric Heymans, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Byron Kelleher, 8 Shaun Sowerby, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Jean Bouilhou, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Fabien Pelous, 3 Salvatore Perugini, 2 William Servat, 1 Daan Human.

Replacements: 16 Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 17 Yohan Montes, 18 Grégory Lamboley, 19 Yannick Nyanga, 20 David Skrela, 21 Maleli Kunavore, 22 Clément Poitrenaud.

Referee: Chris White (England)

Touch judges: Roy Maybank (England), Stuart Terheege (England)

Assessor: Brian Stirling (Ireland)

Television match official: Huw Lewis (Wales)

Forthcoming Fixtures
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs ExeterGloucester vs Exeter Preview
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs ZebreMunster vs Zebre Preview
Cardiff Blues vs UlsterCardiff Blues vs Ulster Preview
Connacht vs LeinsterConnacht vs Leinster Preview
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs ToulonBrive vs Toulon Preview
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse14:45
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:30
Castres vs Oyonnax18:30
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:30
Montpellier vs Stade Francais20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs PumasLions vs Pumas Preview
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Friday , September 19
Counties Manukau vs CanterburyCounties Manukau vs Canterbury Preview
Saturday , September 20
Hawkes Bay vs Bay Of Plenty14:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
All times are local
Thursday , September 18
Northland 20 - 31 TaranakiNorthland vs Taranaki Report
Wednesday, September 17
Southland 14 - 38 TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
3Leicester Tigers29