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Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Saturday, 19 December 2009

Toulouse 23-7 Blues

Toulouse (8) 23
Try: Dusautoir Pens: Michalak 5 DG: Michalak
Blues (7) 7
Try: FiliseCon: Blair

Frederic Michalak was in fine form for Toulouse as the scrum-half kicked 18 points
Michalak was in fine form for Toulouse as the scrum-half kicked 18 points

Toulouse took command of Pool Five as they smothered Cardiff Blues at the Municipal Stadium in their Heineken Cup match on Saturday.

Scrum-half Frederic Michalak ran the show for the French side, also kicking five penalties and a drop-goal.

Thierry Dusautoir had forced his way over from close range for a try to reward Toulouse's early dominance.

The Blues only trailed 8-7 at half-time thanks to Taufa'ao Filise's converted try, but Toulouse then took control.

The hosts' bossed the first quarter, pinning the Blues deep in their own territory, but the French giants had just a solitary kick from Michalak to show for their efforts.

Martyn Williams, the Lions and Wales open-side, had given away that penalty as he came in from the side of a ruck to knock Michalak off his feet as the scrum-half reached for the ball.

That act was enough for referee Alan Lewis to issue a final warning to the Blues, who had infringed regularly in their desperation to keep Toulouse at bay.

When Paul Tito hung on to Louis Picamoles for too long after tackling the Toulouse number eight minutes later, the Blues lock found himself sin-binned for 10 minutes as Lewis made good his threat.

The Blues survived being a man light, some desperate defence holding up Florian Fritz after his centre partner Yannick Jauzion had brushed through Ben Blair.

But no sooner had New Zealand lock Tito rejoined his team-mates than Toulouse finally breached the Blues line.

Michalak took a quick tap but was just hauled down short by Xavier Rush only for Dusautoir to pick up and drive over, touching down on the second surge.

Although the conversion was missed, Michalak unfortunate to see his kick from the right rebound off the far post, Toulouse seemed totally in control.

The Blues needed some inspiration to add to their perspiration and it came from Sam Norton-Knight, the Australian stand-off picking out Jean-Baptiste Poux in the line and breaking past the prop.

Norton-Knight looked for support and it came from Filise, the Tonga prop showing great mobility, pace and determination to brush aside Vincent Clerc's half-hearted tackle and reach the try line.

Blair's conversion brought the Blues back to just 8-7 down and the Welsh could even have taken a half-time lead.

Four minutes before the break Toulouse had lock Patricio Albacete sin-binned by the even-handed Mr Lewis, but Blair was just wide with the tricky penalty on the left touchline.

The Blues survived a long-range penalty kick from Fritz soon after the restart but then saw Andy Powell yellow carded for a late challenge on Clement Poitrenaud.

The Toulouse full-back was caught by Powell's shoulder but the contact did not seem particularly deliberate or forceful, despite Poitrenaud's writhing on the floor.

Michalak dispatched the resulting penalty and then put Toulouse a score clear with a drop-goal, the French side gifted territory by a poor clearance kick from Blair.

bopa's return

Toulouse were content to keep the pressure on and wait for mistakes, confident that Michalak would extract full punishment with the boot.

The scrum-half kicked his third penalty of the afternoon to allow Toulouse to deny the Blues a losing bonus point, then struck a long-range fifth to leave the visitors needing two scores if they were to take an improbable win.

Gareth Thomas, who earlier in the day had revealed in a national newspaper that he is gay, came off the bench to try and inspire a fight-back.

But despite some encouraging runs against his former club, neither Thomas nor his Blues colleagues were able to find that crucial breakthrough.

The last chance disappeared when having patiently worked their way into range, the Blues spilled the ball and Poitrenaud kicked deep to turn the Welshmen.

The Blues survived a five-metre scrum after Norton-Knight had knocked on trying to gather the awkwardly bouncing ball in his own in-goal area, but gave up another penalty.

Michalak turned the screw again to take his afternoon's tally to 18 points and make Toulouse favourites to top the pool.

Toulouse captain Thierry Dusautoir:
"We are satisfied with the result and it was important to win.

"We were disappointed with the defeat in Cardiff last weekend but we are very happy today."

Cardiff Blues director of rugby Dai Young:
"We are up against it but we are not dead and buried. We probably have to rely on others to do us favours.

"There are two games left and we want to win those two games.

"It has to be bonus points all the way for us and if we could have got one we could have been in with a shout.

"It is not going to be easy because Sale and Harlequins are two very good sides."

Toulouse: Clement Poitrenaud; Vincent Clerc, Florian Fritz, Yannick Jauzion, Yves Donguy; David Skrela, Frederic Michalak; Jean-Baptiste Poux, William Servat, Benoit Lecouls, Yoann Maestri, Patricio Albacete, Jean Bouilhou, Thierry Dusautoir, Louis Picamoles.
Replacements: Virgile Lacombe for Servat (75), Census Johnston for Lecouls (40), Daan Human Poux (50), Shaun Sowerby for Picamoles (58), Romain Millo-Chluski for Maestri (49), Maxime Medard for Poitrenaud (74), Cedric Heymans for Clerc (70), Nicolas Bezy for Skrela (76).

Sin Bin: Albacete (36).

Blues: Ben Blair; Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Roberts, Richard Mustoe; Sam Norton-Knight, Gareth Cooper; Gethin Jenkins, Gareth Williams, Taufa'ao Filise, Deiniol Jones, Paul Tito (capt), Andy Powell, Martyn Williams, Xavier Rush.
Replacements: T Rhys Thomas, Sam Hobbs, Gary Powell, Scott Morgan for Tito (62), Sam Warburton for A. Powell (71), Richie Rees for Cooper (60), Ceri Sweeney for Norton-Knight (77), Gareth Thomas or Mustoe (72).

Sin Bin: Tito (14), A. Powell (44).

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland).

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see also
Ex-Lion Thomas reveals he is gay
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Young upbeat about Toulouse trip
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