Calvisano 10 Cardiff Blues 25: Lomu delighted with hour of honest effort

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The Independent Online

Perhaps Calvisano's humble Centro Sportivo San Michele home could be a launching pad for Lomu in his wish to once more play for the All Blacks. Even in Italy, where football, food and religion are worshipped, Lomu was afforded a hero's welcome for his first competitive game in more than two years following a kidney transplant and shoulder operation.

There was not a spare inch to be found as the ground's modest capacity was easily surpassed. In the end Lomu's hour-long appearance for Cardiff Blues passed with little incident.

His first surge led to the game's opening try by Robert Sidoli, who refused to allow sentiment to deny him a score when he saw Lomu unmarked outside him. After that contribution, Lomu was well shackled both during and after the game, when he struggled to wade through the hordes clambering for an autograph following a frenzied post-match press conference.

"I thought Jonah did remarkably well and the most important thing was that he came through his first game back after so long out of the game. This has made me all the more excited about bringing him to Cardiff Blues," said the club's chairman, Peter Thomas, who has funded Lomu's short-term deal.

"It speaks volumes for the guy that he was even out there. Not many other men would have made it. He will take a lot of confidence from this game and he will go from strength to strength the more he plays."

Whether Lomu will succeed in putting as many points on the scoreboard as bums on seats remains to be seen following this performance. The 30-year-old wing is struggling to find the explosive pace that struck fear in the hearts of defences around the world, though these are early days.

Lomu said: "I was fine until about five minutes before the game, when the nerves kicked in. It was like running out for my first game, which is exactly what it was after 28 months since my last competitive game. I was just so happy to be playing again and to come through without any injuries."

The Arms Park should be a sell-out for Saturday's return match. The Cardiff faithful will also have been encouraged by the return of their British and Irish Lions prop Gethin Jenkins after shoulder surgery, which passed unnoticed as renewed hopes of qualification took precedence.

The crowds had come to watch Lomu but the power and pace of Michael Phillips sealed Cardiff's win as the outstanding No 9 made tries for Martyn Williams, Rhys Williams and Chris Czekaj.

Calvisano: Try Vodo; Conversion Kruger; Penalty Kruger. Cardiff Blues: Tries Sidoli, M Williams, R Williams, Czekaj; Conversion N Robinson; Penalty N Robinson.

Calvisano: J van Schalkwyk; E Mulieri, M Pratichetti, C Zanoletti, A Vodo; H Kruger, P Griffen (E Candiago, 74); S Perugini, G Intoppa (L Ghiraldini, 66), M Castrogiovanni, M Ngauamo, J Purll, R Mandelli (L Cittadini, 55-62; A Zanni, 68), W Brosnihan, M Zaffiri (capt).

Cardiff Blues: R Williams (capt); C Czekaj, M Stcherbina, T Davies (L Thomas, 79), J Lomu (J Robinson, 60); N Robinson, M Phillips (R Powell, 75); J Yapp, R Thomas, M Jones (G Jenkins, 18-27, 40-45, 60), D Jones, R Sidoli, A Powell (R Sowden-Taylor, 68), X Rush, M Williams.

Referee: M Changleng (Scotland).