Rampaging Roberts gives Quins smack in the eye

Harlequins 20 Cardiff Blues 45
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The Independent Online

Another day, another smack in the eye for the Premiership fraternity. With the serious European business already decided elsewhere, it was left to Cardiff Blues to bring a little something to the party in pursuit of the consolation prize: a place in the quarter-finals of the second-tier Amlin Challenge Cup. None of the swankier Welshmen on show would have died for this particular cause, but they fancied the contest just enough to splatter Quins all over south-west London. It has been a long, horrible campaign for the English.

The Blues were good for an attacking bonus point by half-time: Gareth Thomas scored from a driving maul; Ben Blair capitalised on Casey Laulala's high-calibre pass out of contact; Ceri Sweeney touched down after a lovely one-two with Laulala; Xavier Rush crossed after a mighty surge from Andy Powell. If Quins were still in touch, it was because the Blues occasionally defended as poorly as their hosts. But with Jamie Roberts running straight and hard after the break, the already sizeable gap between the sides became a chasm.

"For some reason," said John Kingston, the Quins head coach, "we decided not to defend, and if you're not prepared to defend properly, you get found out. Some of the things that happened out there were to do with attitude, and that isn't right." Kingston had a point of sorts, but there was also the question of a power differential in the visitors' favour. Quins had nothing to set against the rampaging strength of Roberts, Powell, Thomas, Rush and Taufau Filise on the hoof.

When Roberts scored the first of his two tries, he left poor Rory Clegg face down in the dirt. Fifty minutes previously, the 20-year-old outside-half had announced his presence with a lovely chip-and-gather that resulted in a try for the equally inexperienced George Lowe. How things change in the course of a grown-up game of rugby.

Clegg spent the rest of the afternoon fighting a losing battle with his own demons, finally admitting defeat after throwing a line-out to himself and knocking-on. Unfortunately for Quins, that moment said as much about their collective effort as it did about the kid in the No 10 shirt.

Harlequins: Tries: Lowe, Easter, Care. Conversion: Clegg. Penalty: Clegg. Cardiff Blues: Tries: Roberts 2, G Thomas, Blair, Sweeney, Rush. Conversions: Blair 6. Penalty: Blair.

Harlequins: N Evans; D Strettle, G Tiesi (J Drauniniu 71), J Turner-Hall (N Mordt 63), G Lowe; R Clegg, D Care (K Dickson 23); C Jones (A Croall 63), C Brooker, J Andress (J Johnston 67), J Percival, L Stevenson, C Robshaw, W Skinner (capt, N McMillan 67), N Easter.

Cardiff Blues: B Blair; G Thomas, C Laulala (T Shanklin 73), J Roberts, T James; C Sweeney (D Flanagan 73), R Rees (G Cooper 65); G Jenkins (capt), G Williams (R Thomas 65), T Filise (G Powell 67), B Davies, D Jones (P Tito 65), A Powell, M Williams (B White 73), X Rush.

Referee: G Clancy (Ireland).