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Page last updated at 14:46 GMT, Sunday, 23 May 2010 15:46 UK

Cardiff Blues 28-21 Toulon

Cardiff Blues (6) 28
Tries: Roberts, Halfpenny, B Davies Cons: Blair 2 Pens: Blair 2, Halfpenny
Toulon (13) 21
Tries: Williams, Sourice Con: Wilkinson Pens: Wilkinson 2, May

Jamie Roberts brings the Blues back into the game
Jamie Roberts brings the Blues back into the game after they trailed 13-6 at the break in Toulon

By Bruce Pope
BBC Sport Wales at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille

Cardiff Blues made history as the first Welsh team to win a European trophy after beating Toulon in Marseille to claim the Amlin Challenge Cup.

A try from Sonny Bill Williams helped Toulon lead 13-6 at half-time but Jamie Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny and Bradley Davies all crossed after the interval.

Toulon lost Jonny Wilkinson to injury but Thomas Sourice's late try ensured a tense finale at the Stade Velodrome.

But the Blues held on to also send the Scarlets into next year's Heineken Cup.

Cardiff, before the advent of regional rugby in Wales, had reached the inaugural final of the elite tournament in 1996 and lost out only on penalty kicks in last year's semi-finals.

But having finished runners-up in their Heineken Cup group this year and narrowly missed out on the knock-out stages, they made the most of moving into the second-tier competition to end a 15-year quest in Europe after a pulsating contest.

606: DEBATE
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Stade Velodrome rocked in the sun to Toulon's traditional pre-match chant of "Pilou Pilou", a haka-esque song taken up by the majority of the 48,990 fans who descended on Marseille.

The noise abated little as referee Alain Rolland got the afternoon under way, with Toulon almost scoring from the start as Juan Fernandez Lobbe got a hand to reclaim the kick-off.

His fellow back-row Joe van Niekerk raced through on the right but did not spot two men in support outside him, instead looking left and the chance was gone.

Blues struggled to clear their lines but eventually broke the mini-siege to earn a penalty almost on halfway and in front of the posts.

Halfpenny is the Blues' long-range specialist and the wing, accompanied by deafening whistling from the Toulon fans, sent his kick sailing between the posts.

Stung by falling behind, Toulon again pinned the visitors in their own 22, with centre Williams providing an eye-catching tackle on Maama Molitika that smashed the flanker backwards.

Martyn Williams found a half-gap to move Blues upfield, but found himself isolated in the tackle and the Blues piled over the top of the ruck as they tried to come to the flanker's aid.

Wilkinson's kick levelled the scores, earning ear-splitting applause from the Toulon support.

But the England fly-half blotted his copybook moments later when his kick from hand rolled through the in-goal area, handing Blues their best field position of the match back from where the kick was taken.

At last the Blues' power-runners, Xavier Rush and Roberts, were able to test Toulon's mettle in sight of the French 22.

Toulon held firm though and were soon back in the ascendancy thanks to Wilkinson's alertness.

The fly-half took a quick throw to himself from Halfpenny's long touch-finder and spotted Fernandez Lobbe lurking on the left.

A long pass gave the Argentina flanker space and time to lope forward, but he failed to pick the right men in support and Blues escaped again.

It was not all black and red though and a half-break from centre Casey Laulala earned Blues their second penalty chance, Ben Blair putting them into a 6-3 lead after 23 minutes.

Wilkinson's second penalty restored parity before Toulon put together a series of lightning attacks.

Halfpenny did well to snuff out one break down his flank, but Toulon switched play swiftly to the right and it was number eight Fotunuupule Auelua who had the Blues defence scrambling.

Quick recycling switched the point of attack once more and Kiwi centre Williams cut back against the grain to go over by the posts, Wilkinson converting for 13-6 as Toulon took the lead for the first time.

Halfpenny had a chance just before half-time to narrow the gap but the penalty chance from his own 10-metre line asked too much from even the wing's powerful boot.

Jonny Wilkinson writhes in agony after taking a shot at goal
Jonny Wilkinson writhes in agony after taking a shot at goal

The Blues' inspirational skipper and prop Gethin Jenkins failed to re-emerge for the second half, replaced by John Yapp with Martyn Williams taking over as captain.

But Toulon soon lost their own star as Wilkinson was helped from the pitch.

The fly-half had just missed a difficult penalty kick and seemed to strain his back in the process, collapsing in pain.

Wilkinson's English colleague Tom May, who had also made the move from Newcastle to Toulon, switched from centre to take over the fly-half duties.

His inexperience at 10 told as he failed to clear his lines and Blues capitalised to force an attacking scrum five metres from the Toulon line.

Toulon held up Roberts and Molitika initially on their own line but the power and pace of Roberts at last broke the resistance to crash over, Blair's conversion levelling things at 13-13.

May, taking over the place-kicking duties as well as Wilkinson's position, inched Toulon back ahead but Blair replied for Blues to leave things deadlocked entering the final quarter.

Both sides were showing signs of tiring in the heat and the coaches made full use of their replacements to try to conjure one match-winning moment.

Crucially it was Blues who produced two within five minutes, as first Halfpenny, in the right corner, and lock Davies crashed over.

Rush had a major hand in both scores, first providing the link and a looped long pass to find his wing for a precious five points.

Then the New Zealand number eight drove from the base of a scrum to give Blues another great attacking platform.

The Welsh side surged forward and although Roberts was repelled at the first attempt, Davies battered his way between two Toulon tacklers to touch down.

Blair's conversion gave Blues a 28-16 lead going into the last 10 minutes but Toulon - who last week had forced extra time in the dying moments of their Top 14 semi-final against Clermont Auvergne - launched a desperate series of attacks.

With ex-All Blacks captain Tana Umaga on the field and skipper Van Niekerk leading from the front, they hit back as replacement Sourice scored in the right corner with two minutes to go.

But crucially May missed the conversion and Toulon still needed a converted try to draw level.

Perhaps last week's effort had taken too much out of Toulon's collective tank and the French side were unable to repeat their heroics this time as Blues held out for a famous win.


Toulon: Marienval; Lovobalavu, May, S Williams, Sinzelle; Wilkinson, Henjak; Taumoepeau, Fitzgerald, Kubriashvili, Lozada, Skeate, Van Niekerk (capt), Fernandez Lobbe, Auelua.
Replacements: Umaga for Sinzelle (70), Kefu for Wilkinson (46), Mignoni for Henjak (56), Emmanuelli for Taumoepeau (56), Bruno for Fitzgerald (34), Ryan for Kubriashvili (40), Suta for Lozada (51), Sourice for Auelua (68).

Blues: Blair; Halfpenny, Laulala, Roberts, Czekaj; Sweeney, Rees; Jenkins (capt), Thomas, Filise, Davies, Jones, Molitika, M Williams, Rush.
Replacements: Hewitt for Laulala (80), Yapp for Jenkins (40), G Williams for Thomas (46), Andrews for Filise (56), Tito for Jones (51), Warburton for Molitika (62). Not Used: Allinson, Flanagan.

Att: 48,990

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).



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European rugby archive
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BBC Sport Wales coverage
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