Halfpenny tackles are worth weight in gold

Cardiff Blues 9 Toulouse 6

Donald Rumsfeld – remember him? – might have put it this way. When it comes to Cardiff Blues, there are known knowns, and known unknowns.

The facts that Martyn Williams is a wonderful open-side flanker, and that Xavier Rush is among the two or three best overseas recruits of the decade, fall into the first category, while the Welsh region's newly discovered stubborn streak falls into the second. (We've been aware of its existence all season, but not the extent of it). As for the unknown unknowns, we'll find out about those over the next three weeks.

A year ago, the Blues could not have won this quarter-final, although they would have given it their best shot. Two years ago, they might have lost by 30 points and considered themselves lucky. Few teams possess the heart and soul to withstand Toulouse when the Frenchmen arm themselves with the full arsenal of attacking weaponry, and while there was a frustrating lack of accuracy about the visitors on Saturday, no one could argue that Maxime Médard, Vincent Clerc, Yannick Jauzion, Byron Kelleher and Thierry Dusautoir failed to fire all the bullets available to them.

Yet when the serious questions were asked, the Blues found the answers somewhere, somehow. Leigh Halfpenny, their eye-catching little wing, made two tackles in the last quarter that will live in the memory: the first on Yannick Nyanga as Europe's fastest flanker broke free in open field and threatened to run the length; the second on Clément Poitrenaud, the inside man on a two-on-one overlap.

This last hit, as late as the 77th minute, was a life-saver. Had the ball found its way to Clerc in space, it would have been a case of "thank you and good night". Halfpenny was not alone in manning the barricades. Dear old Jason Spice, deep in his 35th year, was exemplary in this regard; so too was Gethin Jenkins, who would be the best loose-head prop in the game if he enjoyed scrummaging as much as tackling.

As for the New Zealand contingent, there was no questioning their appetite for the fray. Ben Blair, Paul Tito and the tireless Rush have been the core figures in Blues' transformation from wastrels to workaholics. All made mighty contributions in securing their team a first Heineken Cup semi-final in more than a decade.

If Toulouse felt hard done by – they were disappointed by the video official's decision not to award Dusautoir a close-range try midway through the first half, and both the coach Guy Noves and the lock Fabien Pelous muttered something about getting a raw deal from the on-field referee Chris White – they were not of a mind to throw a fit about it.

The depth of their opponents' commitment was not lost on them, and they left the Millennium Stadium with renewed respect for the team they beat in the first Heineken final, way back in 1996. "This defeat had as much to do with their strength as our weakness," acknowledged Pelous, generously.

Things are happening in the Welsh capital, clearly. There was the best part of 37,000 spectators in the ground – "A huge statement of support for rugby in the region," said David Young, the Blues' coach – and with new half-backs signed for next season, there is an onwards-and-upwards feel to the place.

Not that the existing half-backs, both of them bound for the English West Country at the end of term, did too badly here. Spice was a model of determination, even though his kicking game left a little to be desired, while Nicky Robinson made one lovely break from stand-off that might have put things to bed inside an hour.

Robinson's slicing-up of the Toulouse midfield broke the game open, and for the final 20 minutes there was a veritable riot of attacking rugby. It did not, despite what certain people from the International Rugby Board would have you believe, matter a jot that the contest finished try-less, for there was more to savour here than in any 47-39 pantomime you might witness in the southern hemisphere. To true rugby aficionados, or course, this is a known known.

Scorers: Cardiff Blues: Penalties Blair (3). Toulouse: Penalties Michalak, Skrela.

Cardiff Blues: B Blair; L Halfpenny, T Shanklin, J Roberts, T James; N Robinson, J Spice; G Jenkins, G Williams, T Filise (J Yapp, 73), B Davies (D Jones, 59), P Tito (capt), M Molitika (A Powell, 63), M Williams, X Rush.

Toulouse: M Médard; V Clerc, F Fritz (M Kunavore, 59), Y Jauzion, C Heymans (C Poitrenaud, 76); F Michalak (D Skrela, 59), B Kelleher; D Human (Y Montes, 59), W Servat, S Perugini, F Pelous (G Lambole, 68), P Albacete, J Bouilhou (capt, Y Nyanga, 59), T Dusautoir, S Sowerby.

Referee: C White (England).

Suggested Topics
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
newsJohn Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?

Some couples are allowed emergency hospital weddings, others are denied the right. Kate Hilpern reports on the growing case for a compassionate cutting of the red tape
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit