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
Shoppers at Selfridges department store in central London

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
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

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game