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Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Saturday, 11 April 2009 17:16 UK

Cardiff Blues 9-6 Toulouse

Cardiff Blues (6) 9
Pens: Blair 3
Toulouse (3) 6
Pens: Michalak, Skrela

Andy Powell and Leigh Halfpenny celebrate
Andy Powell and Leigh Halfpenny celebrate the Blues beating Toulouse

Cardiff Blues knocked three-times winners Toulouse out of the Heineken Cup in a tense quarter-final at the Millennium Stadium.

It means there will be no French team in the semis for only the second time.

The Welsh hosts had the boot of full-back Ben Blair to thank for victory. The New Zealander kicked two first-half penalties and another in the second.

Toulouse's points came from Frederic Michalak and his second-half replacement David Skrela.

The Blues will face Leicester in the semi-final on the weekend of 2-3 May after the Tigers beat Bath 20-15 in the day's second quarter-final.

The opening period in Cardiff was tense, tight and dominated by tactical kicking with neither side able to prise open the opposition defence.

Toulouse could claim to have edged it in terms of territorial domination, but the hosts were narrowly ahead at the break and would have been 12-3 up had Leigh Halfpenny and Blair succeeded with long-range penalties.


As it was, the Blues had to be content with Blair's double strike to Frederic Michalak's solitary effort.

Blair opened the scoring after two minutes, profiting from the Blues' aggressive opening salvo, but Michalak levelled four minutes later.

The Blues full-back edged his side in front again after 32 minutes, ending the scoring in a half in which home number eight Xavier Rush, prop Gethin Jenkins and opponents Shaun Sowerby and scrum-half Byron Kelleher were hugely influential.

Kelleher was denied on the line by a timely Martyn Williams tackle after the visitors' best period of attack midway through the first half, but the Blues had no such opportunity.

But if the opening period lacked attacking excitement, that was not the case in the second half as the teams gradually threw off the shackles.

Yannick Jauzion's forward pass denied full-back Maxime Medard a clear run and a Blues chance was blown when Jamie Roberts could not hold Nicky Robinson's pass after the fly-half's 45-metre run.

A Tom James counter-attack was also thwarted while Michalak and Robinson, whose attempt rebounded off an upright, were also denied drop-goals.

However, despite the increased attacking ambition, it fell to Blair's boot to provide three more points, his kick after 58 minutes giving the Blues a 9-3 lead.

Michalak's replacement David Skrela struck back in the 64th minute after Martyn Williams illegally killed the ball in the shadow of the Blues' posts.

Veteran flanker Williams may have been fortunate not to be banished to the sin-bin for that offence.

The hosts were also fortunate when Robinson allowed Jauzion through with 10 minutes left, but the celebrated centre again failed to deliver the scoring pass to Medard.

Back-row replacement Andy Powell proved his value as an impact player with some powerful running, but Toulouse continued to threaten as the minutes ticked away.

However, long kicks from Skrela to James and Blair failed to put pressure on the home defence, both back-three players calling for a mark.

Halfpenny's chase and tackle on Clement Poitrenaud summed up the Blues effort two minutes from time, denying as it did another Toulouse chance.

And the Blues held out amid frantic defence in the remaining moments.

Blues boss Dai Young:
"[We're] absolutely thrilled to get to the semi-finals. We did it the hard way - no good for the nerves, but at the end of the day the win was the important thing and we were lucky enough to come away with the win.

"We knew the quality of the opposition and their off-loading skills are immense and a lot of our scramble defence was excellent and it had to be, because otherwise Toulouse are just going to put you to the sword.

"I'm really pleased with that… I think we've matured as a team. I think we've got self-belief and huge determination."

He added: "It doesn't do your ticker any good [being 9-6 ahead for 16 minutes at the end] and the last five minutes as well when they were chucking everything at us.

"But we didn't play as we would have liked. We'd have liked to play with a bit more field position.

"We had enough possession, but we didn't really control the pitch. In saying that it's a win, and we are really pleased to be in that semi-final."

Toulouse lock Fabien Pelous:
"I am disappointed above all, because we had the chances to win this game four or five times.

"There were too many errors in the first half, especially in the first 10 or 15 minutes when we were dominating in terms of territory.

"The Cardiff defence made it very hard for us to break the gain-line. It was very difficult to play our rugby."

Cardiff Blues: Blair; Halfpenny, Shanklin, J Roberts, James; N Robinson, Spice; Jenkins, G Williams, Filise, Davies, Tito (capt) Molitika, M Williams, Rush.
Replacements: Yapp for Filise (70), D Jones for Davies (59), A Powell for Molitika (65). Not Used: T R Thomas, Rees, Sweeney, G Thomas.

Toulouse: Medard; Clerc, Fritz, Jauzion, Heymans; Michalak, Kelleher; Human, Servat, Perugini, Pelous, Albacete, Bouihlou (capt), Dustautoir, Sowerby.
Replacements: Kunavore for Fritz (58), Poitrenaud for Heymans (73), Skrela for Michalak (58), Montes for Human (59), Lamboley for Pelous (66), Nyanga for Bouihlou (58). Not Used: Vernet Basualdo.

Att: 36,728

Ref: Chris White (RFU).

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see also
Leicester 20-15 Bath
11 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Young says Blues can go all the way
11 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Heineken Cup 2008/9
17 Jul 08 |  Rugby Union
European rugby archive
16 Aug 06 |  Rugby Union
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Scrum V's Welsh rugby webguide
14 Aug 07 |  Welsh
Welsh regions & their opponents
17 Aug 07 |  Welsh

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