Cardiff 19 Toulon 15 match report: Gareth Davies secures shock win for battling Blues

Replacement proves fantastic on plastic with try to sink champions Toulon

Cardiff Arms Park

Jonny Wilkinson’s demeanour very rarely gives much away – when the celebrated fly-half won the Heineken Cup with Toulon in Dublin last season his wide smile was the equivalent of any other man doing laps of honour for half an hour – so to see him wearing a mask of anger as he left the field after this enormous upset was telling. The European champions and French league leaders had offered little more than a dominant scrum, and although that looked likely to be enough as Wilkinson chipped over five penalties, the Cardiff Blues pulled a rabbit out of the hat with Gareth Davies’s winning try two minutes from time.

Davies, 29, has had a so-so career, more often spent playing for Cardiff’s Premiership team rather than the region who, in common with the Scarlets, Ospreys and Dragons are all a-fluster as to the financial peril the arguments over future European competition might leave them in. On as a replacement for the much younger Rhys Patchell – who had an topsy-turvy match of knock-ons, over-ambitious drops at goal and a little glimpse of his running – Davies’s intervention turned a sombre Arms Park into an anthemic throng.

It began with a mistake typical of both teams on an afternoon of torrential rain and bright sun, as Toulon made a hash of a pass behind a scrum: Freddy Michalak’s scudding delivery fumbled by Maxime Mermoz. Presented with an unusually good position, Blues attacked through their backs. They could not have expected too much from the callow Cory Allen and Owen Williams up against the vastly more experienced Mermoz and Matt Giteau. But Allen jinked into the 22 and suddenly Toulon were broken. Davies shrugged off Wilkinson and although stopped by Michalak he regained his feet and dived over the goal-line. Leigh Halfpenny’s conversion finished the job, and with Heineken Cup Pool 2 now more open than expected, Toulon’s best consolation is that no team has ever won the trophy by going through the tournament undefeated. Wilkinson’s face suggested he was not interested in any such reflection.

Perhaps it was as well for the Côte d’Azur’s expensively assembled rugby galacticos that Toulon’s voluble owner, Mourad Boudjellal, was not present to see this, or to elaborate on his bizarre midweek comment that his club would snub the English and French clubs’ rebel Rugby Champions Cup next season, as a by-product of his dissatisfaction with Top 14 proposals to limit foreign players.

Cardiff Blues’ problem was a crisis of confidence in their coaching after last week’s first-round calamity at Exeter, who go to Glasgow today. Dale McIntosh has been hired as defence coach, though the “Chief” was finishing his stint at Pontypridd yesterday and maybe credit should go to his Blues predecessor Rob Powell. A new backs coach is due, rumoured to be Iestyn Harris, the former dual-code international. Phil Davies, the man in charge, had been assailed by negative headlines. Funny how things turn.

Toulon had smashed Glasgow in the first half when winning their Pool Two opener last weekend but here the see-saw turned horizontal as Patchell kicked the Blues – who quixotically play in pink in Europe – into the lead. Wilkinson’s first two penalties went over in the 21st and 28th minutes, as Halfpenny, Patchell and the No 8 Robin Copeland each committed gaffes of handling.

Toulon’s brigade of thirtysomethings overhauled the brilliant Clermont in during May’s final, but here they resembled journeyman plodders at times on Cardiff’s artificial pitch. A high tackle by Bakkies Botha allowed Halfpenny to make the score 6-6 just before half-time. It was the Blues’ fielding of four Lions – including the captain Sam Warburton and goal-kicking hero from Australia in June and July, Halfpenny – that made their Exeter performance so mystifying. At home they had to show more pride and nous. It looked dodgy though when Wilkinson steered Toulon 12-6 ahead in the third quarter before he and Patchell each missed once from long distance. Halfpenny’s 59th-minute kick rewarded a rare penalty to the Blues’ scrum, as Scott Andrews was launched skywards. Halfpenny levelled when Delon Armitage stuck a hand in a ruck; then it all looked done with Wilkinson’s fifth penalty after when Halfpenny was judged harshly to have unfairly halted a run blind off the scrum by Josua Tuisova as the wing chipped beyond the full-back. But no; and Copeland said there was a tear in Phil Davies’s eye in the changing room afterwards.

The director of rugby himself said: “It’s not about me. The win was important for lots of reasons. It was good to see Peter [Thomas, the chairman] smiling, good to hear the crowd singing ‘Hymns and Arias’. It shows the appreciation of Welsh rugby supporters – they’ve always admired battling commitment and pride in the shirt.”

Line-ups:

Cardiff Blues: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert (R Smith, 40), O Williams, C Allen, H Robinson; R Patchell (G Davies, 73), L Williams; G Jenkins (capt), M Breeze (K Dacey, 76), S Andrews (B Bourrust, 60), B Davies, F Paulo (L Reed, 76), J Navidi, S Warburton, R Copeland.

Toulon: D Armitage; J Tuisova, M Mermoz, M Giteau, R Wulf; J Wilkinson (capt), F Michalak; X Chiocci (E Felsina, 40), J-C Orioli (B Noirot, 40), M Castrogiovanni (C Hayman, 40), B Botha (J Suta, 47), A Williams, J Fernandez Lobbe, S Armitage (J Smith, 70), C Masoe.

Referee: JP Doyle (England).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments