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Page last updated at 17:28 GMT, Saturday, 16 January 2010

Cardiff Blues 36-19 Sale Sharks

Cardiff Blues (12) 36
Tries: Rees, B Davies, Rush Cons: Blair 3 Pens: Blair 4, Halfpenny
Sale (5) 19
Tries: Koyamaibole, Tait, Gaskell Cons: Hodgson 2

Cardiff Blues' Xavier Rush takes on the Sale defence
Man of the match Xavier Rush takes on the Sale defence

Cardiff Blues gave themselves a fighting chance of making the Heineken Cup quarter-finals by beating Sale.

The visitors also remain in the hunt when they host Toulouse next weekend while the Blues travel to Harlequins.

Three penalties from Ben Blair and one from Leigh Halfpenny gave the hosts a 12-5 half-time lead after Sisaro Koyamailbole 's try for the Sharks.

Richie Rees, Bradley Davies and Xavier Rush crossed after the break, Mathew Tait and James Gaskell hitting back.

A Sharks win would have set up a winner-takes-all Pool Five showdown with Toulouse next Sunday, 24 January.

But Blair's trio of first-half penalties and Halfpenny's long-distance effort subdued their efforts despite number eight Koyamailbole 's early effort.

England centre Tait and lock Gaskell also crossed after the break, but the interval deficit proved too much to overcome amid the heavy downpour and the hosts ensured victory as scrum-half Rees, lock Davies and number eight Rush went over in response.


Blair claimed 18 points with the boot and although the Blues or Sale could progress among the best runners-up, French giants Toulouse are overwhelming favourites for a quarter-final spot.

A bonus-point win over already-eliminated Harlequins in France on Sunday would be enough for Toulouse to win the group a week ahead of round six.

Kingsley Jones's Sharks were knocked out of their stride by a better organised and direct Blues outfit, whose unbeaten European home record this term was not challenged.

Sale have now lost on four of their five Heineken Cup trips to Wales, including a 22-7 loss to the Blues in 2004.

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 by Blair's second-minute penalty.

Sale struck back within five minutes, capitalising on indecision at the base of a scrum close to the home line for Koyamailbole to charge over.

Blair's second penalty put the Blues in front and Sale had more food for thought 11 minutes before half-time when Halfpenny sent a 50m penalty between the posts.

Another Blair penalty stretched the home advantage and secured a healthy lead at the break.

The contest was effectively over within eight minutes of the restart after Rees's blind-side dart and Davies's short-range surge left Sale 26-5 adrift.

Tait's well-executed try, converted by Hodgson, gave Sale a glimmer of hope, but Blair's fourth penalty snuffed it out.

The Blues confirmed their superiority up front when Sale prop Martin Halsall was sin-binned - and they went all out for a bonus point.

Gaskell scored wide out two minutes from the end and Hodgson slotted the touchline conversion.

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

Cardiff Blues boss Dai Young:

"It's [Pool Five] obviously tight. It's very much in Toulouse's hands, but we'll certainly all be shouting for our London [Harlequins] mates tomorrow [Sunday].

"Hopefully Harlequins can do a job for us and it goes into the last week then with still things to play for.

"But it's probably a little bit out of our hands. All we can do now is look after our own and make sure we prepare well this week and go to Harlequins and try to get a result there, but it's not going to be easy.

"I thought the players demonstrated a really professional performance today.

"We talked about how we wanted to play the game and they pretty much went out and delivered what we talked about and the way we trained.

"I was a little bit frustrated in how easy we gave away points, a little bit frustrated that we got ourselves into a position, but didn't get that bonus point.

"But in saying that I thought it was obviously a much better performance against a quality team."

Sale boss Kingsley Jones:

"I think any team in the Heineken Cup would have beaten us today with that performance.

"It was a five out of 10 display. Our basics were poor - our kicking and passing wasn't good enough, and our discipline let us down.

"There were not too many positives, and we will need a huge improvement to challenge Toulouse next week. I think it is unlikely that two teams will go through out of our group.

"We could, and should have done a lot better, but we will take the defeat as a group - players and coaches.

"I have been honest in the changing room. The players know when they perform and when they don't, and it is the same for the coaches - we all share responsibility."

Cardiff Blues: Blair; Halfpenny, Laulala, Roberts, T James; Sweeney, Rees; Jenkins, G. Williams, Filise, Davies, Jones, A Powell, M Williams, Rush.
Replacements: Shanklin for Laulala (69), Cooper for Rees (72), T Thomas for G. Williams (70), G Powell for Filise (65), Tito for Jones (57).
Not Used: Norton-Knight, Hobbs, White.

Sin Bin: M Williams (80).

Sale: MacLeod; Cueto, M Tait, Thomas, Cohen; Hodgson, Peel; E Roberts, Briggs, Halsall, Schofield, Gaskell, Fearns, Seymour, Koyamailbole.
Replacements: Kennedy for Thomas (59), Doherty for Cohen (69), Wigglesworth for Peel (53), M. Jones for Briggs (57), Abraham for Koyamailbole (61).
Not Used: Kerr, O'Donnell, C Jones.

Sin Bin: Halsall (65).

Att: 9,172

Ref: Romain Poite (France).

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