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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 December 2007, 15:20 GMT
Blues 31-21 Stade Francais
Tom James
Tom James scorched in for a try just before half-time
Blues (20) 31
Tries: Robinson, James, Tito
Cons: Flanagan (2)
Pens: Flanagan (3)
DG: Flanagan

Stade Francais (7) 21
Tries: Arias, Burban
Con: Skrela
Pens: Skrela (3)

Cardiff Blues went top of Heineken Cup pool three with an impressive Arms Park win over an erratic Stade Francais.

A Jamie Robinson try gave the home team a flying start, Julien Arias replying before Tom James' individual score gave the Blues a 20-7 half-time lead.

Dai Flanagan and David Skrela had fine goal-kicking games, but Paul Tito charged down Skrela for a key try.

Antoine Burban's strong try ensured a nervous finish, but Flanagan's injury time drop-goal denied Stade a bonus.


The Blues' preparations had suffered a blow as the late withdrawal of full-back Ben Blair with a hamstring injury prompted a reorganisation of their back line.

The home side made a terrific start, though, a charge down after the kick-off sparking a move that sent James over in the corner, only for the wing to be called back for Robinson's forward pass.

Flanagan held his nerves to give his side the lead with an early penalty, the rookie fly-half handed the kicking duties in the absence of Blair.

The youngster then played a key role in the opening try, his sleight of hand releasing Gareth Thomas in midfield, the wing finding Robinson on his shoulder who crossed under the posts.

The win has underlined the progress we have made

Blues coach Dai Young

The visitors were rattled and barely protected their line before Flanagan added his second penalty to extend the lead to 13-0.

Stade finally began to gain a foothold in the opposition half, but resolute defence and repeated turnovers blunted their attacking edge.

The French side's momentum finally told, the Blues defence stretched by repeated batterings to allow Skrela to send wing Arias into a half gap for a converted try.

The Blues responded with the last move of the first half, James shrugging off a weak Skrela tackle in midfield then bursting away at lightning pace to scorch in under the posts.

A Skrela penalty reduced the deficit to 20-10 straight after the break, but from the restart the France fly-half had his clearance kick charged down by Tito.

The Kiwi lock followed through quickly to ground the ball for his side's third try, beating Gethin Jenkins and the covering Arias to the touchdown.

Stade clawed back to 25-16 with two Skrela penalties, but Flanagan replied for the Blues, then Rodrigo Roncero was yellow-carded for a blatant block on Thomas.

With the Blues seeking a bonus point the visitors' resolve seemed to strengthen, though, and after seeing out the sin-bin period flanker Burban struck back, shrugging off Thomas in a bullocking run down the flank for his side's second try.

That brought Stade to within seven points at 28-21, before youngster Flanagan showed his composure with the late drop-goal that could prove crucial in the final group shakedown.

  • Blues coach Dai Young:
  • "The win has underlined the progress we have made, we're not the finished article, but we are going in the right direction and we have shown we are competitive with the biggest teams around.

    "We have had lean years in Europe, not because we have underachieved as a team, but because we haven't been good enough.

    "But we have come a long way, and although we are not in the quarter-finals, we are in a position to challenge."

    Cardiff Blues: J. Roberts, G. Thomas, Shanklin, J. Robinson, James, Flanagan, Spice, Jenkins, G. Williams, Filise, Jones, Tito, Molitika, Sowden-Taylor, Rush.
    Replacements: Rees for Spice (73), Yapp for Jenkins (68), R. Thomas for G. Williams (58), M. Williams for Sowden-Taylor (58). Not Used: Morgan, A. Powell, Selley.

    Stade Francais: Corleto, Arias, Glas, Liebenberg, Saubade, Skrela, Fillol, Roncero, Szarzewski, De Villiers, du Plooy, Pape, Burban, Martin, Taylor.
    Replacements: Messina for Glas (47), Bastareaud for Liebenberg (36), Albouy for Fillol (41), Montanella for Roncero (68), Ledesma for De Villiers (41), Blin for Martin (41). Not Used: Milton.

    Sin Bin: Roncero (57).

    Att: 12,114

    Ref: Wayne Barnes (England).

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