Jenkins plots Toulouse downfall

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Strange to relate, but a straw poll of Cardiff fans would be unlikely to elect Neil Jenkins as their best-loved player. Even so, those familiar jug ears were burning with praise last night, after Jenkins had orchestrated a crucial win at the Arms Park.

Strange to relate, but a straw poll of Cardiff fans would be unlikely to elect Neil Jenkins as their best-loved player. Even so, those familiar jug ears were burning with praise last night, after Jenkins had orchestrated a crucial win at the Arms Park.

Toulouse won the inaugural Heineken Cup final against Cardiff in 1996 and were said to have allowed the original trophy to fall into a state of disrepair. The French club's hopes of a first return to the final since then are going much the same way. Toulouse were beaten at home by Bath last year and by Saracens last week, and, as everyone knows, vulnerability on your own patch spells European disaster.

Each side fielded three survivors of that first final, and the referee, Dave McHugh, was the same too. But Cardiff left their newly-signed prop Peter Rogers in the stands, despite believing they have a good case against the decision by the tournament org-anisers to bar the Wales inter- national's registration. Simon Webber, a barrister on the Cardiff board, is to have further discussions with the tournament director, Derek McGrath, in the next couple of days.

Cardiff certainly had their problems in the scrummaging department, but they knew their line-out could fare no worse than in their opening Heineken Cup defeat at Ulster. A couple of stray throws early on gave the home crowd the jitters, hence the huge cheer when Craig Quinnell, who is to front-jumping what Ann Widdecombe is to sales of cigarette papers, took a clean catch in first-half injury time. All the more so because it led to a lovely, clipped drop goal by Jenkins which put Cardiff19-3 up at the interval and completed a full house of scores for the No. 10.

Jenkins had kicked two penalties to ease Cardiff into the match, then began and finished an 80-metre move in which Nick Walne provided most of the thrust. Jenkins converted his try and booted another penalty after one for Toulouse by Michel Marfaing.

Cardiff had been forced into a switch of personnel in the run-up to kick-off when Craig Morgan fell sick, but Gareth Thomas flourished on the wing. Impressive in defence, Thomas claimed an opportunistic try six minutes into the second half. Jenkins's steepling kick evaded everyone, including the nearest man, the Toulouse No. 8 Jean Bouilhou, and Thomas raced on to the loose ball for a 40-metre run-in.

Jenkins converted and Toulouse rang the changes from the bench. Plus ça change, it seemed, for the newcomers made little initial impact and one of them, Hugues Miorin, was sin-binned within a minute of coming on, his face matching his red shirt.

The French embarrassment on a fruitless day all round in Wales continued when a scrum on the Cardiff line ended with the home side's replacement flanker, Wayne Fyvie, chewing up Fabien Pelous in the tackle. With tries counting towards final positions in the pool, Toulouse may possibly be thankful for the late scores by Jerome Cazalbou and Marfaing, the latter's record-equalling 19th in Europe, but Cardiff are the better placed to challenge for top spot, and their visit to Saracens on Saturday will be one to savour.

Cardiff: R Williams; N Walne, J Robinson, P Muller, G Thomas; N Jenkins, R Howley (capt); A Lewis, J Humphreys, S John (G Powell, 77), C Quinnell (G Kacala, 67), M Voyle, D Baugh (W Fyvie, 48), M Williams, E Lewis.

Toulouse: X Garbajosa; S Ougier, C Desbrosse, L Stensness (C Poitreneau, 36), M Marfaing; Y Delaigue, J Fillol (J Cazalbou, 47); C Califano (capt; L Esposito, 70), Y Bru (W Servat, 70), F Tournaire (C Soulette, 62), F Pelous, D Gerard, D Lacroix, C Labit (M Lievremont, 47), J Bouilhou (H Miorin, 55).

Referee: D McHugh (Ireland).

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