Stade, the French champions, came into the match having won 53 consecutive games at the Stade Jean Bouin.
They made it 54 victories by grinding out a 12-6 Pool Three success over the Blues, but the Welsh came agonisingly close to springing a surprise in dreadful conditions in the French capital.
Full-back Ben Blair’s second penalty of the afternoon brought Cardiff to within six points with 23 minutes left, but despite setting up camp in Stade’s 22 in the final quarter, they could not find the killer score. Credit has to go to the hosts’ obdurate defence, but Young felt his side missed a great chance: “I’m obviously proud of the effort we put in out there but it’s frustrating because it’s a game we could have won. The boys felt they had them on the rack and were there for the taking.”
Stade took a 9-3 lead into the interval thanks to two penalties from Juan Martin Hernandez and another from David Skrela, who came on in the 37th minute when the Argentina star injured his adductor. Skrela added his second in the 52nd minute, but Blair’s response set up a grandstand finale. Cardiff had a number of opportunities to kick at goal in the last 15 minutes, but opted to go for a catch-and-drive at a line-out.
Stade held out, but Young was happy to see his players take on the responsibility.
“With the three penalties we had on the trot, I think the first two were probably the right decision,” he said.
“They were wide out and the conditions weren’t great for kicking. The third was a little nearer the posts and I would have taken the points. We ask the players to back themselves, and go out and win the game and not try not to lose it. We took that third option because we came inches short with the driving line-out and they were convinced they could go over,” he said.
“If it had have come off, the decision would have been applauded.”
The losing bonus point takes Cardiff level with Bristol on eight points. Stade are now top with nine points, but must go to the Welsh capital next Saturday for the return match.
Pens: Martin Hernandez 2, Skrela 2.
Pens: Blair 2. STADE FRANCAIS: Corleto, Saubade, Messina, Liebenberg, Arias, Martin Hernandez, Fillol, Roncero, Szarzewski, De Villiers, Milton, Pape, Burban, Martin, Taylor.
Skrela for Martin Hernandez (37), Blin for Szarzewski (67), Marchois for Pape (73).
Blair, J. Roberts, J. Robinson, G. Thomas, James, N. Robinson, Spice, Jenkins, G. Williams, G. Powell, Jones, Tito, Molitika, M. Williams, Rush.
Rees for N. Robinson (25), Filise for G. Powell (55). Referee: David Pearson (RFU).