Hodgson is a star but Blues and Sharks still flounder

Cardiff Blues 36 Sale Sharks 19: Form fly-half pulls strings in six-try but bonus-free match that leaves Toulouse in control of Pool Five

The perfect result for Toulouse was the outcome of an open if sometimes slapdash Anglo-Welsh set-to and ultimately we had confirmation of the suspicion before kick-off that these two sides were probably playing for second place at best in Pool Five of the Heineken Cup.

A bonus-point win for Toulouse against Harlequins (who are out) today would seal quarter-final qualification; a win of any kind will do unless Sale can beat the French by a big margin in Stockport next weekend. For Sale and the Cardiff Blues that leaves the possibility of going through as a runner-up – it has never been done with 18 points before, and that is all either can now manage – or dropping into the Amlin Challenge Cup which may suit them OK.

The need to push for tries as well as the win prompted both teams to demonstrate that funny old tactic of attempting to make ground by running with the ball and passing it. Too often, particularly in the first half, the quality was not up to the intent, and the only try before the interval was soft in its conception if barrellingly tough in the execution. The Blues lost control of a scrum in the seventh minute, the ball shot out between Xavier Rush and Andy Powell – the latter was looking elsewhere, poor bloke – and Sale's No 8 Sisa Koyamaibole had the simple task for a man of 120kg of driving through the tackle of the scrum-half, Richie Rees.

Charlie Hodgson missed the conversion but the fly-half has reappeared in the England pecking order, in the Saxons squad 18 months after apparently losing all favour due to his porous defence in New Zealand. He has plenty of company in the Saxons squad, with Shane Geraghty, Danny Cipriani and Stephen Myler. There were several contenders on show with a better bet than Hodgson of appearing in the England v Wales opener to the Six Nations' Championship at Twickenham in three weeks' time, though Sale's mighty loosehead prop, Eifion Roberts, might not be one of them if he is pipped by Saracens' Rhys Gill in one of their country's problem positions. The Wales coach, Warren Gatland, names his squad tomorrow. Roberts gave the Blues' Taufau Filise a lively afternoon's scrummaging. But Gatland may not have liked the 22st Roberts's lumbering attempts as a link-man in the loose.

Penalties by Ben Blair in the second, 20th and 33rd minutes, and by Leigh Halfpenny from his customary long range in the 30th, helped Blues lead 12-5. Most of Sale's offences were for diving through or around the ruck as the French referee, Romain Poite, acted sharply at the breakdown. In the midst of this, the Blues openside Martyn Williams fished and foraged to Sale's distraction and without attracting Monsieur Poite's whistle. And with two tries in the first six minutes of the second half, the Blues took a firm grip on the match.

Halfpenny knifed towards the posts off the right wing, drawing in Ben Cohen, among other tacklers, and leaving a shortside gap when the ball was recycled which Rees exploited for a try at the corner. Why Poite and a touch judge needed the television match official to confirm was unclear; they were closer to Rees as he went over than Sale's James Gaskell.

Blair converted that and the subsequent score by the lock Bradley Davies after the Blues' heavy brigade busted up the middle. Trailing 26-5, Sale were thankful of an immediate riposte when Hodgson probed from a ruck and Gaskell gave a lovely pass for Mathew Tait – who knows now England see him solely as an outside centre, if not necessarily the first-choice one – to score. Hodgson converted.

Sale's Wales scrum-half, Dwayne Peel, looked mournful when he limped off after 53 minutes, having suffered a groin injury. Halfpenny was off- target with another penalty but Blair potted an easier effort for 29-12 and Sale were further wounded when a scrum near their line broke up and their tighthead prop, Martin Halsall, went to the sin-bin for an illegal dabble. Hodgson sashayed and distributed beautifully to make a try for Gaskell at the right corner, the penalty count belatedly swung towards Sale and tyhe Blues had Martyn Williams sent to the sin-bin for pushing his breakdown nefariousness too far. But his back row mate Rush snaffled an interception try immediately afterwards, to the delight no doubt of Toulouse.

Cardiff Blues B Blair; L Halfpenny, C Laulala (T Shanklin, 69), J Roberts, T James; C Sweeney (S Norton Knight, 78), R Rees (G Cooper, 72); G Jenkins (capt), G Williams (TR Thomas, 70), T Filise (G Powell, 65), B Davies, D Jones (P Tito, 56), A Powell, X Rush, M Williams.

Sale Sharks N Macleod; M Cueto, M Tait, L Thomas (J Kennedy, 59), B Cohen (D Doherty, 69); C Hodgson, D Peel (R Wigglesworth, 53); E Roberts, N Briggs (M Jones, 56), M Halsall (G Kerr, 75), D Schofield, J Gaskell (C Jones, 78), C Fearns, S Koyamaibole (L Abraham, 61), D Seymour (Kerr, 65-75).

Referee: R Poite (France).

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

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
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam