Robinson stars to send Tigers home with tails between legs

Cardiff 23 Leicester 9
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The Independent Online

Much more of this and the Welsh may start to suspect they are actually better at all this oval ball stuff than the English. Certainly in the capital they have come over all superior after the Cardiff laid out their third Guinness Premiership heavyweight in a month. Leicester were consigned to the same dustbin as Sale and Gloucester as Dai Young's side took one huge stride towards the semi-final of the EDF Energy Cup.

The Tigers faithful did not even have the comfort of saying: "Who cares? Its only the Anglo-Welsh Cup." The answer would have been: "you care". If anything they arrived intown with more first-teamers than the Blues, but in hindsight, their foaming-in-the-mouth reserves may have been a wiser bet. There was a definite lack of zip in the Leicester ranks and with it went much of their quality. Their coach Heyneke Meyer confessed afterwards that "the difference was the kicking game" and there was plenty of truth in that, even if it did overlook the overall deficit in class.

While Nicky Robinson, the match's most influential performer, continually pegged the visitors back with his pinpoint accuracy, Derek Hougaard and Toby Flood were woefully off-key. This was only the first day of their10 and 12 partnership and it did notgo well.

It all meant that Cardiff are in rude health in their Heineken Cup pool and are now even more sprightly in this tournament. If they beat Bath here on Friday night, they go through and could advance even with two losing bonus points. The Tigers meanwhile are all but out. They need to beat Sale with a bonus point, but also rely on Bath denying the Blues any sort of bonus. In laymen's terms, the Tigers are clinging on to the merest of hopes, especially as they will be missing a lot of their internationals.

Saying that, Young, the Blues coach, admitted that he would probably be leaving out his eight Welsh internationals after the high-court ruling on Friday that demanded that the players in the midst of the club-country row will be required to attend national squad training from tomorrow until Wednesday. Young does not feel he can ask them to turn up on Thursday and have one day's training before the Bath showdown.

"It is extremely frustrating," he said, while going to express his anger at his players receiving a text message on Friday morning informing them of their new training commitments just as they were running out for their own practice session.

"That was not right," he said. "We had a big game ahead of us and their focus should have been allowed to remain on that."

In the event their focus could not be faulted. They put their foot on proceedings from the off and howthey managed to be only three points to the good, after two Ben Blair penalties to one from Hougaard, was infuriating for the near capacity crowd enticed to the Arms Park after the heroics against Gloucester the Sunday previous in the adjoining Millennium Stadium. Young took great pleasure in watching Hougaard taking pot-shots with drop-goals at range as it said so much about who hadthe territory.

The Blues had Robinson to thank for that. "I've always told him that what sets him apart from most 10s is his kicking game," said Young. "I thought he controlled the game."

Indeed, he did, and it was his flat-pass in the 45th minute that led to Jamie Roberts breaking through and feeding his fellow centre Jamie Robinson for the try their domination deserved. The Tigers then might have sensed one of their famous against-the-run-of- the-game comebacks as Hougaard kicked them to within four points, but this was only short-term exhilaration.

The Blues pressed again in final 10 minutes and when Jason Spice piled over in the final minutes it meant Leicester, just as Gloucester, went home with not even a bonus point. That thrilled Young. "We've been capable of producing one big performance in the past, but not of doing it back-to-back," he said. "That was the challenge to the players this week. To get two results against two of the English giants is marvellous."

Cardiff Blues: B Blair; L Halfpenny, J Robinson, J Roberts, R Mustoe; N Robinson, J Spice; J Yapp, G Williams (R Thomas, 68), T Filise, D Jones (S Morgan, 68), P Tito (capt), M Molitika, R Sowden-Taylor (M Williams, 68), A Powell.

Leicester: J Murphy (T Varndell, 58); S Rabeni, D Hipkiss, T Flood, M Smith; D Hougaard, H Ellis (J Dupuy, 63); B Stankovich (D Cole, 55), G Chuter (M Davies, 68), J White, R Balze, M Wentzel, M Corry (capt) (B Kay, 68), T Croft, J Crane.

Referee: D Pearson.

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