So Leicester go to Limerick, as always seemed likely, in search of a win at Europe's least hospitable venue to make certain of a place in the quarter-finals. Needless to say, given the mathematical nuances and niceties of this tournament, there could be more to it than that, most of which will become clear after Munster's match with Bourgoin today in Geneva.
The Tigers rattled up six tries here without reply, half of them scored by southern hemisphere imports. But in addition to the Alesana Tuilagis and Seru Rabenis one looked in vain on the team sheet for a Pythagoras or a Euclid to work out the permutations should Munster garner the maximum five points from their Swiss trip. That would put the Irish province clear by four points at the top of Pool Four. And with precedence determined in the first instance by match points earned in head-to-head meetings, and Munster holding a 4-1 advantage over the Tigers on that count by dint of winning 21-19 at Leicester in October, all sorts of outcomes are then possible.
Of course if Munster falter to any extent today, victory for Leicester at Thomond Park will be enough to win the pool. Talk about easier said than done. Munster have won 26 out of 26 European matches in Limerick.
Qualification as a runner-up is also within reach for either side, and Leicester did all they could yesterday. Apart from the maths, the other rhythms and cadences of the Heineken Cup include the inevitability that some teams are more interested in some matches than others.
The Cardiff Blues might have scored in their first attack, but for a forward pass, but their Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips always bore the "it's going to be a long afternoon" body language of a man who knew half his first-choice pack were missing. The Blues had no chance of qualifying and although their back line, save for the injured Tom Shanklin, were at full strength, Phillips and his forwards gave them little to go on.
Emboldened by a rare dry day and hungry for the try bonus, Leicester ran adventurous angles and threw chancy cut-out passes from the off. Within 10 minutes they had three tries, from Tuilagi, Dan Hipkiss and Daryl Gibson - whose position is said to be under threat if the widely touted transfer of Aaron Mauger from New Zealand comes off next season. "Not everything went to plan," said the Tigers' head coach, Pat Howard, "but the guys played in a fairly confrontational way." The physical stuff cost Leicester, already missing fly-halves Andy Goode and Paul Burke, their No 10, Ian Humphreys, who went off with a sore hamstring, and the replacement centre Ollie Smith. Howard said at least one stand-off would be fit for Limerick.
Geordan Murphy supplied his natural gas to pep up the backs' moves - and goodness knows how many Tigers raids in recent years would have foundered without him - as Leicester ranged wide and free. The fourth try came after 31 minutes when Rabeni, the dynamic Fijian, cut back on a devastating diagonal from a lavish pass by Humphreys. Two conversions by Humphreys contributed to a 24-0 half-time lead before the Ulsterman was withdrawn.
The scoring slackened off, but Lewis Moody, bursting from a rolling maul, and Martin Corry, with a touchline gallop, got second-half tries. The club have made their peace with the RFU over the criticism of the union contained in Leicester's annual report. Now they have to do battle in the west of Ireland.
Leicester: G Murphy; S Rabeni, D Hipkiss, D Gibson (O Smith, 54; F Murphy, 72), A Tuilagi; I Humphreys (S Vesty, 43), H Ellis; M Ayerza (J White, 48), G Chuter (J Buckland, 66), M Castrogiovanni (Ayerza, 64), L Cullen (B Kay, 55), L Deacon, S Jennings (J Crane, 69), M Corry (capt), L Moody.
Cardiff Blues: B Blair; T James (M Luveitasau, 68), J Robinson, M Stcherbina (N Macleod, 62), C Czekaj; N Robinson, M Phillips (E Fairhurst, 62); G Jenkins, D Goodfield (G Williams, 46), G Powell (T Filise, 64), D Jones (J Down, 72), S Morgan, B White (A Powell, 72), X Rush (capt), R Shellard.
Referee: A Rolland (Ireland).Reuse content