Paul's creativity leaves Cardiff feeling blue

Gloucester 23 - Cardiff Blues 19
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The Independent Online

This was more of a hit in the mist for Gloucester, than a clear-cut victory. A near 12,000 crowd at a foggy Kingsholm witnessed a gutsy performance from Cardiff Blues as their mix of youth and experience made a mockery of pre-match forecasts of a runaway home win.

For one rookie in particular Saturday was something special. The Blues fly-half Lee Thomas was taking cups of sand out to his predecessor Neil Jenkins the last time these two great clubs met in the Heineken European Cup four years ago. But while Thomas could not be described as a happy "sand boy" he should derive a deal of satisfaction from his performance.

Hooker Rhys Thomas, 22, and John Yapp, a year younger, but propping his heart out against the brute strength and native cunning of Gloucester's Gary Powell were also deserving of mention.

Ultimately what let Cardiff down was indiscipline. Twice they were reduced to 14 men; the first time they outscored Gloucester with a Lee Thomas penalty and drop goal. The second they were not so lucky.

That was when Terry Fanolua followed up Henry Paul's delicate chip to score his second try of the match. According to the Blues a knock-on was committed in the build-up but no official spotted it. The try was awarded after referee Donal Courtney consulted the television match official.

The Blues opted for a line-out when Martyn Williams thought there were six minutes remaining, when there were 12. "I would have gone for goal if I had known," he said afterwards.

For Paul it was a personal triumph. He might have missed three penalties, but the New Zealander put his England troubles behind him. There was no doubting his class this week, first at outside-half, where he began the match, then, more tellingly as the injuries began to mount, at inside-centre.

He it was who had put Fanolua away for the first score and between that and the telling 70th-minute chip for the Samoan's second, was a stream of evidence that he is a hugely talented player.

Now Gloucester just have to hope that James Simpson-Daniel (shoulder), Marcel Garvey (ankle) and Jon Goodridge (knee) all recover in time for this weekend's return.

Gloucester: Tries Fanolua 2, Bailey; Conversion Paul; Penalty Paul 2. Cardiff: Tries Shanklin; Conversion L Thomas; Penalties L Thomas 3; Drop goal L Thomas.

Gloucester: J Goodridge (A Page, 60); M Garvey (J Bailey, 20), N Mauger, T Fanolua, J Simpson-Daniel (B Davies, h-t); H Paul, A Gomarsall; C Bezuidenhout, J Parkes (R Elloway, 80+2), G Powell, A Eustace, P Buxton (M Cornwell, 80+2), J Boer (capt), A Balding, A Hazell (J Forrester, 54).

Cardiff: R Williams; F Tuilagi, S James, T Shanklin, C Morgan; L Thomas, D Dewdney; J Yapp (M Jones, 77), R Thomas, G Jenkins, D Jones, R Sidoli, N Thomas (R Sowden-Taylor, 71), K Schubert, M Williams (capt).

Referee: D Courtney (Ireland).