Cardiff hold on to claim the rewards

Rugby Union: Leinster 14 Cardiff 23
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The Independent Online

reports from Dublin

Leinster 14 Cardiff 23

The inaugural Heineken Five Nations Cup, the European Cup of rugby union, got the lift it needed most when Cardiff shut out the newly crowned, and hitherto unbeaten, Irish Inter-Provincial champions so successfully in the second half that they secured a place in Sunday's final.

At the start of this season's pilot tournament, the organisers could not have wished for a better final than a battle between the Welsh and French title holders, Cardiff and Toulouse, at Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday.

There were 7,350 fans at Lansdowne Road to cheer on Leinster - the Cardiff contingent due to fly into Dublin on Saturday morning were grounded at Cardiff-Wales Airport by heavy frost - and there is every chance that three times that many may turn out on Sunday.

Cardiff may have lost two successive home league matches in the build up to this semi-final, but when push came to shove they were well prepared and motivated to progress through to arguably the biggest game in the club's illustrious history.

The fact there was an alleged pounds 500 per man bonus on the end of a win against Leinster, who had won all previous 10 matches this season, no doubt contributed to that second half shut-out of the home side when most people at the ground were expecting Chris Pim's men comfortably to bridge the six-point half-time deficit.

Pim chose to play into the strong, icy wind in the first half and had it not been for two pieces of clumsy and headstrong defence, they could have been even better placed than 14-20 in arrears at the break.

Cardiff captalised on both errors in trying to break out of defence by scoring a try through Mike Hall and a penalty by Adrian Davies.

Hall's try came from a training move which the new Cardiff coach, Terry Holmes, confessed he did not think would ever work, the international centre running to the narrow side of a scrum to receive from the No 8 Hemi Taylor.

The first Cardiff try owed everything to the pace and punch of their back row. Emyr Lewis charged through the first and second lines of defence before passing inside to his captain, Taylor, who merely charged 15 metres to the line.

Those two tries left Leinster reeling at 17-6 midway through the first- half, yet Pim was able to urge his proud men to respond just when crisis was looming. The flanker crashed over for a try himself, Alan McGowan kicked a third penalty and at the interval the game was there to be won by Leinster and lost by Cardiff.

The difference in the second half was the control that the Cardiff pack put on the ball at the line-out and in the loose. They locked-up Leinster in their own half for long periods and snatched the only points of the second half, a snap drop-goal by Andy Moore.

Toulouse will provide a much bigger challenge but home advantage, and no doubt even bigger cash incentives, should help to make it a heck of a game.

Leinster: Try Pim; Penalties McGowan 3. Cardiff: Tries Taylor, Hall; Conversions Davies 2; Penalty Davies; Drop goals Davies, Moore.

LEINSTER: C Clarke (Terenure College); P Gavin (Old Belvedere), V Cunningham (St Mary's College), K McQuilkin (Bective Rangers), C O'Shea (London Irish); A McGowan, A Rolland (both Blackrock College); H Hurley (Old Wesley), S Byrne (Blackrock College), P Wallace (Blackrock College), S Jameson (St Mary's College), N Francis (Old Belvedere), C Pim (Old Wesley, capt), V Costello (St Mary's College), S Rooney (Lansdowne). Replacement: R Hennessy (Lansdowne) for Clarke, 54.

CARDIFF: M Rayer; S Ford, M Hall, M Ring, S Hill; A Davies, A Moore; A Lewis, J Humphreys, L Mustoe, J Wakeford, D Jones, E Lewis, H Taylor (capt), O Williams.

Referee: B Campsall (England).