Halfpenny is full value as Blues kick on

London Irish 15 Cardiff Blues 22

Madejski Stadium

Cardiff Blues sustained their pursuit of a Heineken Cup quarter-final place with an archetypal cup display, short on romance but long on hard work and perspiration. They remain neck and neck with Edinburgh at the head of Pool Two and another English club has left the competition.

London Irish can still do the Blues a favour by winning at Edinburgh next weekend, but the Welsh region have home advantage against Racing Métro and should not trip up. If Leigh Halfpenny, who earned them a losing bonus point at Murrayfield with a long-range penalty which could yet decide the pool, sustains his kicking form, the Parisians could be in for a long afternoon.

Halfpenny was entrusted with all the kicking duties ahead of Dan Parks and he fully justified the trust of his coaches. Had the assistant referees not decided that his second effort passed over the top of an upright, he would have had a 100 per cent return.

Cardiff deserved their win for their second-half display, during which they scored the game's only try and turned the line-out to their advantage. But it was a passionless affair. The Irish have more important things on their mind, such as the return of enough injured players to sustain their pursuit of an Aviva Premiership play-off place, and yesterday's selection included yet another member of their productive academy, David Sisi, an 18-year-old flanker who found himself head-to-head with Sam Warburton, the Wales captain.

"When you put out youngsters, you take the error count that comes with the selection," said Toby Booth, the Exiles director of rugby. "It's all part of their evolution and players like Sisi and Alex Gray will have learned a massive amount. We're very disappointed with the outcome of this campaign but we'll be better for the experience too."

Warburton was the try-scorer, early in the second half, appearing in support of a rasping break by Casey Laulala which carried him past Gray and Delon Armitage, though there appeared to be a Blues knock-on early in the build-up. The missed tackle was the only blot on Armitage's afternoon; the full-back put in a disciplined effort and kicked a penalty which nearly matched Halfpenny's first for length.

But the home backs seldom threatened. Darren Allinson enjoyed a good first half from scrum-half against his former employers but thereafter slightly over-played his hand. In 160 minutes of cup rugby against the Blues this season, the Irish have kicked 11 penalties and scored not one try. Three kicks by Adrian Jarvis gave them a 9-6 half-time lead. It might have been different had the Blues' Michael Paterson possessed the pace to finish a break created by Paul Tito from a turnover, but neither side had a player capable of breaking the defensive mould which hung over the game.

The Blues do not expect Jamie Roberts back next Sunday, to bring his physicality to bear. The Wales centre is taking longer to recover than expected from a knee injury suffered before Christmas, which will be a concern to the national-team management as the Six Nations creeps nearer. In his place, Gavin Henson made his third Blues start, having played twice at full-back. Every now and then came echoes of his best form.

"Gavin wants to be involved closer to the ball and he looked more comfortable than he did against the Ospreys," said Gareth Baber, the Blues' backs coach. "You saw a couple of little bits of class, a pass, a half-break – he has that vision, that skill level that you want involved as much as possible."

London Irish D Armitage; T Ojo, J Spratt, S Hape (S Shingler, 72), A Thompstone (T Homer, 72); A Jarvis, D Allinson; C Dermody (capt; A Corbisiero, 58), D Paice (J Buckland, 36), F Rautenbach (P Ion, 50), N Kennedy (R Casey, 76), M Garvey, B Evans, A Gray, D Sisi.

Cardiff Blues L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, C Laulala, G Henson, C Czekaj (R Mustoe, 58); D Parks, L Williams (R Rees, 58); G Jenkins, T Thomas (R Tyrell, 63), T Filise (S Andrews, 50), B Davies, P Tito (capt; M Molitika, 72), M Paterson, X Rush, S Warburton.

Referee N Paterson (Scotland).

London Irish

Pens: Jarvis 4, Armitage

Cardiff Blues

Try: Warburton

Con: Halfpenny

Pens: Halfpenny 5

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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 new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried