Young looks to fine-tune the Blues
Cardiff Blues 15 Toulouse 9
Monday 14 December 2009
No tries and precious few scoring opportunities but Cardiff Blues proved they can match the most stubborn of opponents for sheer bloody-mindedness with this win over Toulouse.
This game was hardly the vintage fare served up by these clubs in the first Heineken Cup final in 1996, but times have changed and in terms of commitment, it was hard to fault the Blues.
They were good value for this win having led from the eighth minute through Ben Blair, who went on to kick all but three of his team's points. Leigh Halfpenny, the diminutive Wales wing with the howitzer boot, smashed home the fifth penalty that settled this tie two minutes from time.
However, coach Dai Young is well aware his team will need to show more than just willing when they head to the south of France for the return match this weekend. To their guts and determination, they must swiftly add accuracy and finesse.
Young said: "The good thing from my point of view is that we can get a lot better. Had we gone out and played our best rugby and got that result, then it would have made the trip to France even more daunting. But there are plenty of areas we can improve.
"We respect the challenge ahead of us and we're aware that Toulouse are a different team at home. They have that ability to change. But we can see another 10 to 15 per cent in our performance so there is no reason why we can't go there confident of getting the result we need."
Young will have options to choose from in the midfield with Tom Shanklin and Casey Laulala both expected to be fit for the trip. Shanklin was forced off during the first half with double vision and reddening after suffering a finger in his eye, though after a look at the video, the Blues rejected any possibility of foul play.
New signing Laulala is also expected to recover from a thigh strain for his Heineken Cup debut though it was Shanklin's replacement, Dafydd Hewitt, who won that late penalty dispatched by Halfpenny. Who wears the No 10 jersey, however, is of more pressing concern. Local media have already dubbed their ex-Wallaby Sam Norton-Knight(mare) after a debut to forget and it didn't get much better here with ironic cheers. Ceri Sweeney is wondering how long he must wait.
However Young said: "We're finally getting the chance to play what you could say was close to our strongest team. Now it's a matter of them all clicking again."
Toulouse will feel frustrated at leaving Cardiff with just the single bonus point having also missed the chance to level the scores shortly before Halfpenny struck when Florian Fritz's penalty and Cedric Heymans' drop-goal sliced horribly wide.
Cardiff: Pens Blair 4, Halfpenny. Toulouse: Pens Fritz, Michalak; Drop goal Skrela.
Cardiff Blues: B Blair; L Halfpenny, T Shanklin (D Hewitt, 26), J Roberts, T James; S Norton-Knight (C Sweeney, 64), G Cooper; G Jenkins, G Williams (R Thomas, 73), F Filise, D Jones (S Morgan, 64), P Tito (capt, S Morgan, 29-38), A Powell (S Warburton, 69), X Rush (S Warburton, 23-33), M Williams.
Toulouse: M Medard (C Poitrenaud, 56); V Clerc, F Fritz (Y Donguy, 75), Y Jauzion, C Heymans; F Michalak, N Bezy (D Skrela, 52); Y Montes (J-B Poux, 46), W Servat (V Lacombe, 46), C Johnson (D Human, 64), R Millo-Chluski (Y Maestri, 66), P Albacete, T Dusautoir (capt), S Sowerby, L Picamoles (G Lamboley, 58).
Referee: P Fitzgibbon (Ireland).
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