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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
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

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project