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Saturday, 5 January, 2002, 16:43 GMT
Cardiff edge thriller
Cardiff openside Martyn Williams
Martyn Williams was at the heart of the Cardiff effort
Cardiff 26-20 Montferrand

Cardiff kept their European hopes alive with a thrilling victory at the Arms Park, hauling back Pool 5 leaders Montferrand to within a point.

The Blue and Blacks' two-try hero was full-back Rhys Williams, whose horrendous errors had proved catastrophic in the away leg in France.

After Iestyn Harris kicked the home side into an eighth-minute lead, the game settled into attritional warfare, lit up by searing breaks from Montferrand backs Tony Marsh and David Bory.

  Scores and scorers
Cardiff 26
Tries: Rhys Williams (2)
Cons: Iestyn Harris (2)
Pens: Harris (4)

Montferrand 20
Tries: Jimmy Marlu
Pens: Gerald Merceron (5)
But Cardiff's powerful pack gradually exerted its influence and, after lock John Tait and French prop Alessio Galasso had been yellow-carded for fighting, the Welshmen almost scored in the corner.

Centre Jamie Robinson's grubber kick was perfectly weighted but escaped the hands of the chasing Matt Allen and Anthony Sullivan.

Cardiff had to settle for another Harris penalty to reward their pressure, but French fly-half Gerald Merceron responded in kind for the visitors.

Williams brought a flash of inspiration to a scrappy game when he collected from Rob Howley on halfway, kicked ahead and won the race for the line.

Harris converted, but Merceron narrowed the gap with penalties either side of the break.

Harris stepped up with two more successful kicks - passing 100 points in seven games for Cardiff in the process - but crucially missed two, while his opposite number landed another two.

Cardiff's John Tait and Alessio Galasso of Montferrand trade punches
John Tait and Alessio Galasso were sin-binned

With five minutes remaining, a further outbreak of fisticuffs saw Cardiff lose inspirational lock Craig Quinnell to the sinbin, though he was accompanied by Montferrand flanker Alex Audebert.

With a minute left Williams supported a Sullivan run to go over for the vital try, Harris' conversion going over via a post.

In a desperate finish, Montferrand full-back Jimmy Marlu was carried over by his team-mates to narrow the gap to six points.

Only desperate defence prevented Montferrand's sniping Italy scrum-half Alessandro Troncon from plunging over, and Cardiff held on.


Cardiff: R. Williams, Sullivan, J. Robinson, Allen, Morgan, Harris, Howley, John, Humphreys, Young, Quinnell, Tait, Appleyard, M. Williams, E. Lewis.
Replacements: Hudson, N. Robinson, Booth, Rogers, A. Lewis, A. Jones, Sititi.

Montferrand: J. Marlu, Rougerie, Ngauamo, Marsh, D. Bory, Merceron, Troncon, Tolofua, Pedrosa, Galasso, Barrier, Jaques, Audebert, Boome, Vermeulen.
Replacements: Reidy, Gomez, Lecomte, Machacek, Lazerges, Sadourny, Viars.

Referee: Tony Spreadbury (England).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Cardiff full-back Rhys Williams
"A great team performance"
BBC Sport's Alistair Hignell
"Cardiff only had to be muscular and efficient"
Cardiff coach Rudy Joubert
"We played the field position well"
See also:

02 Jan 02 |  European
Quinnell takes a back seat
03 Jan 02 |  European
Moore worry for Swansea
02 Jan 02 |  Celtic
Henry's camp causes concern
29 Dec 01 |  Celtic
Cull's kicks boost Ebbw
Links to more European stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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