Planet Rugby

Blues see off the Sharks

16th January 2010 17:37

Share:

Xavier Rush Cardiff Sale 16jan

Xavier Rush scored for Cardiff

Cardiff Blues gave their Heineken Cup hopes a huge shot in the arm with a 36-19 win that also starved Sale of four tries and a losing bonus point.

Sale's Heineken Cup quarter-final hopes were left hanging by a thread after they were battered into submission by the Blues.

Victory for the Sharks at Cardiff City Stadium would have set up a winner-takes-all Pool Five showdown with French giants Toulouse in Stockport tomorrow week.

But three Ben Blair penalties and a long-range Leigh Halfpenny strike took the wind out of Sale, despite tries by their Fijian number eight Sisa Koyamaibole, England centre Mathew Tait and lock James Gaskell.

A 12-5 interval deficit proved too much to overcome amid the heavy downpours, and Cardiff put Sale out of their misery through second-half touchdowns from scrum-half Richie Rees, lock Bradley Davies and number eight Xavier Rush.

An immaculate Blair finished with 18 points and, although the Blues or Sale could still conceivably progress as a best runner-up, Toulouse are now overwhelming favourites for a quarter-final place.

A bonus-point victory over already-eliminated Harlequins in France tomorrow would be enough for Toulouse to win the group a week inside the distance.

And the Sharks could have few complaints after being knocked out of their stride by a more organised and direct Blues outfit, who comfortably preserved their unbeaten European home record this term.

Both Sale and the Blues now need to win their final pool fixtures next weekend - Cardiff visit Quins - and realistically hope that one of two best tournament runners-up spots comes from Pool Five.

Sale had lost on three of their four previous Heineken Cup trips to Wales, including a 22-7 defeat against the Blues in 2004.

But a powerful starting line-up featured five international backs - an England quartet of Tait, Charlie Hodgson, Mark Cueto and Ben Cohen plus Wales scrum-half Dwayne Peel.

Blues boss David Young included southern hemisphere imports Sam Norton-Knight and Paul Tito on the bench, with Richie Rees handed the task of shackling Peel, rather than Peel's Wales squad colleague Gareth Cooper.

The Blues knew there would probably be no way back in their group if they failed to win, and they were rewarded for a bright start when Blair booted a second-minute penalty.

But Sale hit back within five minutes, capitalising on indecision at the base of a scrum close to Cardiff's line as Koyamaibole powered over.

It was a soft score for the home side to concede, yet they quickly settled into a rhythm and kept Sale at a safe distance, largely through some robust work by Rush and Wales prop Gethin Jenkins.

Blair's second penalty edged the Blues in front, and Sale were given further food for thought 11 minutes before half-time when Halfpenny drilled a 50-metre penalty between the posts.

Trailing 9-5, Sale needed their forwards to match Cardiff's intensity, but another Blair penalty stretched the home advantage and secured a healthy interval lead.

It was effectively game over within eight minutes of the restart after Rees' blindside dart and Davies' short-range surge left Sale with a mountain to climb at 26-5 adrift.

Tait's well-worked try, converted by Hodgson, provided a glimmer of hope, but Blair's fourth successful penalty snuffed out any Sale revival.

Peel then limped off, giving Wales coach Warren Gatland possible cause for concern three weeks before his team's Six Nations opener against England at Twickenham.

Gatland has already lost ankle injury victim Mike Phillips from his early Six Nations plans, so any long-term damage to Peel would leave the New Zealander with a king-sized headache.

Cardiff went in search of further points during the final quarter, although an inevitable raft of substitutions on both sides disrupted any flow.

The Blues were content to hammer home their superiority up front - confirmed when Sale prop Martin Halsall was sin-binned - and Cardiff went all out for a bonus point.

Even when Sale desperately tried to run scraps of possession from inside their own half, they floundered on poor handling or sub-standard passing.

Gaskell scored wide out two minutes from time and Hodgson effortlessly slotted the touchline conversion, but it was a case of too little, too late.

And Rush's interception of a Hodgson pass took Cardiff past 30 points, despite the late sin-binning of their Wales flanker Martyn Williams.

The scorers:

For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Rees, Davies, Rush
Con: Blair
Pen: Blair, Halfpenny

For Sale:
Tries: Koyamailbole, Tait, Gaskell
Con: Hodgson

Cardiff: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom James, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Xavier Rush, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Andy Powell, 5 Deiniol Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Taufau Filise, 2 Gareth Williams, 1 Gethin Jenkins (capt).
Replacements: 16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Gary Powell, 19 Paul Tito, 20 Ben White, 21 Gareth Cooper, 22 Sam Norton Knight, 23 Tom Shanklin.

Sale: 15 Nick Macleod, 14 Mark Cueto, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Lee Thomas, 11 Ben Cohen, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 David Seymour, 6 Carl Fearns, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Dean Schofield, 3 Martin Halsall, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Eifion Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Gavin Kerr, 18 Rob O'Donnell, 19 Chris Jones, 20 Luke Abraham, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Jonny Kennedy, 23 David Docherty.

Referee: Romain Poite

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 29
Leicester Tigers vs WaspsLeicester Tigers vs Wasps Preview
Exeter vs SaracensExeter vs Saracens Preview
Sunday , November 30
London Irish vs GloucesterLondon Irish vs Gloucester Preview
London Welsh vs NorthamptonLondon Welsh vs Northampton Preview
Newcastle Falcons vs Sale SharksNewcastle Falcons vs Sale Sharks Preview
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
International Match
Saturday , November 29
Wales vs South AfricaWales vs South Africa Preview
England vs AustraliaEngland vs Australia Preview
More International Match fixtures
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , December 5
Montpellier vs Bath19:45
More European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Saturday , November 29
Zebre vs EdinburghZebre vs Edinburgh Preview
Leinster vs OspreysLeinster vs Ospreys Preview
Connacht vs ScarletsConnacht vs Scarlets Preview
Sunday , November 30
Glasgow Warriors vs DragonsGlasgow Warriors vs Dragons Preview
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Thursday , December 4
La Rochelle vs Exeter19:45
Friday , December 5
Brive vs Oyonnax18:30
Grenoble vs Rovigo18:30
Newcastle vs Stade Francais20:00
More European Rugby Challenge Cup fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 29
Toulon vs Clermont AuvergneToulon vs Clermont Auvergne Preview
Oyonnax vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:30
Castres vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Lyon vs Montpellier18:30
Toulouse vs Grenoble20:45
Sunday , November 30
Stade Francais vs Brive18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 28
Bath 25 - 6 HarlequinsBath vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 36 - 25 TrevisoCardiff Blues vs Treviso Report
Munster 21 - 20 UlsterMunster vs Ulster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 23
Saracens 24 - 31 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Welsh 5 - 26 Leicester TigersLondon Welsh vs Leicester Tigers Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Georgia 35 - 24 JapanGeorgia vs Japan Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Treviso 24 - 24 LeinsterTreviso vs Leinster Report
Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 22
London Irish 23 - 33 BathLondon Irish vs Bath Report
Exeter 31 - 15 WaspsExeter vs Wasps Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Italy 6 - 22 South AfricaItaly vs South Africa Report
Romania 18 - 9 CanadaRomania vs Canada Report
Wales 16 - 34 New ZealandWales vs New Zealand Report
France 13 - 18 ArgentinaFrance vs Argentina Report
England 28 - 9 SamoaEngland vs Samoa Report
Scotland 37 - 12 TongaScotland vs Tonga Report
Ireland 26 - 23 AustraliaIreland vs Australia Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 21
Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale SharksHarlequins vs Sale Sharks Report
Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 GloucesterNewcastle Falcons vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Fiji 20 - 14 USAFiji vs USA Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Dragons 12 - 38 MunsterDragons vs Munster Report
Ulster 25 - 16 OspreysUlster vs Ospreys Report
Connacht 43 - 3 ZebreConnacht vs Zebre Report
Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow WarriorsScarlets vs Glasgow Warriors Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 16
Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 SaracensLeicester Tigers vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath933
2Northampton830
3Exeter828
4Saracens825
5Leicester Tigers821