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Cardiff Blues 26-26 Leicester (aet)

Blues (12) 26
Tries: Roberts, James Cons: Blair 2 Pens: Blair 2, Halfpenny 2
Leicester (13) 26
Tries: Hamilton, Murphy Cons: Dupuy 2 Pens: Dupuy 4


Martyn Williams' penalty shoot-out miss leaves the way open for Leicester
Martyn Williams' penalty shoot-out miss leaves the way open for Leicester

Leicester advanced to the Heineken Cup final after a historic penalty shoot-out win over the Blues in Cardiff.

Jordan Crane landed the sudden-death kick after a Martyn Williams miss, Tom James having blown an earlier chance to win it for the home side.

James had looked like being the Blues' try hero as they completed a remarkable comeback to level in normal time.

They fought back from 26-12 down after 74 minutes, James and Jamie Roberts scoring, but Tigers kept their nerve.

The two-time champions advance to their fifth final, and will face Leinster at Murrayfield on 23 May.

The Blues, bidding to become the first Welsh region to reach the final in front of a packed Millennium Stadium, suffered a major injury blow after nine minutes when captain Paul Tito left the field, replaced by Deiniol Jones.

The Tigers were turning over ball at the set piece and breakdown, while their kicking led to a few shaky defensive moments for Leigh Halfpenny.

The young Lions tourist went close to the opening try with a dazzling break from a well-worked line-out, though, the outstanding Tom Croft making a desperate tackle but giving the penalty at the breakdown to allow Ben Blair to open the scoring.

Julien Dupuy missed three straightforward penalty chances, and the Tigers were denied a Geordan Murphy try by a stunning, last-gasp Maama Molitika tackle.

606: DEBATE

Their threatening back line then split the Blues apart, Toby Flood drawing in two tacklers in midfield and off-loading to Scott Hamilton, the winger flying in under the posts for a try converted by Dupuy.

The scrum-half added a penalty to make the gap 10-3, but a series of minor Tigers indiscretions allowed the home side to regain the lead with three penalties, two of them superb long-range efforts from Halfpenny.

A botched, quickly taken Blues line-out in their own 22 handed the initiative back to the English side, Dupuy's penalty from in front of the posts giving them a 13-12 lead at the break.

Ben Kay put pressure on a Nicky Robinson clearance in a storming Tigers start to the second period, Halfpenny missing a tackle as the fly-half's kick was run back.

Scott Hamilton congratulates Jordan Crane on his winning kick
Scott Hamilton congratulates Jordan Crane on his winning kick

Dupuy brought the attack inside, finding the supporting Flood whose delightful offload sent Murphy under the posts.

Leicester's bruising attacks and repeated turnovers saw the home side's penalty count mount, Dupuy adding two more penalties to take his side virtually out of sight at 26-12.

Flood limped off with a nasty looking ankle injury, and he was soon joined on the sidelines by Craig Newby, sin-binned for killing an excellent Blues attack.

The Tigers went down to 13 men when Murphy was sin-binned for diving out of the defensive line and making a deliberate knock on under the shadow of his posts.

With 74 minutes gone and Newby back, a delightful Robinson pass found Roberts who dummied before sprinting home for a try converted from wide out by Blair.

Leicester restarted deep, where the suddenly enlivened Roberts blasted through the defensive line and fed James.

The winger looked inside to the supporting Tom Shanklin, then backed his pace on the outside, sprinting home for an unbelievable try.

Blair landed a nerveless conversion from the widest of angles to take the game into extra time and leave looming the possibility of an unlikely penalty shoot-out.

Johne Murphy went close with a long-range drop-goal in a tense first period.

Aaron Mauger then had a drop-goal charged down, the final 10 minutes having a breathless, desperate conclusion that rarely seemed to threaten a score.

Each team had to nominate five kickers to take penalties from in front of the posts on the 22 in the competition's first shoot-out.

Blair, Dupuy, Robinson, Sam Vesty, Halfpenny, Geordan Murphy and Ceri Sweeney all converted, before Johne Murphy's miss left the door open for the Blues.

But James hooked his kick wide, leaving Hamilton, Shanklin, Mauger, Richie Rees and Newby to keep the shoot-out going with successful efforts.

Flanker Williams stepped forward confidently, but a wild hook allowed Leicester number eight Crane to deliver a nerveless winning kick.


Cardiff Blues: Blair, Halfpenny, Shanklin, J. Roberts, James, N. Robinson, Rees, Jenkins, G. Williams, Filise, Davies, Tito, Molitika, M. Williams, Rush.
Replacements: Sweeney for J. Roberts (99), Yapp for Filise (80), D. Jones for Tito (9), A. Powell for Molitika (60). Not Used: T. Thomas, Allinson, G. Thomas.

Leicester: G. Murphy, Hamilton, Hipkiss, Vesty, J. Murphy, Flood, Dupuy, Ayerza, Chuter, Castrogiovanni, Croft, Kay, Newby, Woods, Crane.
Replacements: Smith for J. Murphy (63), Mauger for Flood (60), Ellis for Dupuy (73), Kayser for Chuter (59), Wentzel for Castrogiovanni (50), Moody for Woods (74). Not Used: White.

Sin Bin: Newby (61), G. Murphy (67).

Att: 44,212

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)



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see also
Young feels for tearful Williams
03 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Blues v Leicester as it happened
03 May 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


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