Halfpenny on the money as Henson and Blues back in play-offs

GAVIN HENSON’S long-awaited return to rugby saw the Blues move back into the RaboDirect Pro 12 play-off places.

But the former Wales international had only a minor role in his new team Cardiff’s convincing victory.

Leigh Halfpenny, taking over the kicking duties, was their outstanding performer, while fellow wing Alex Cuthbert scored two tries.

The Henson factor helped attract a season’s highest crowd of 10,660 to Cardiff City Stadium. Both sides missed penalties before Halfpenny put the ball into the corner and paved the way for the opening try.

The Blues won the line-out and moved right, where centre Casey Laulala drew three men before passing out of the back of his hand to Cuthbert, who reached out to touch down despite the efforts of Dragons full-back Martyn Thomas.

Halfpenny converted and the Wales full-back, back in his usual position on the wing, also added a penalty, but Dragons fly-half Jason Tovey cancelled that out after Laulala shoulder-charged young centre Lewis Robling.

The Blues ended the half well on top and were rewarded when lock Bradley Davies crashed over for a score which Halfpenny improved.

Lions star Jamie Roberts joined the fray for the second half, but it was his fellow centre Laulala who warmed the crowd with a brilliant, jinking break. Home fly-half Ceri Sweeney looked lucky to avoid a yellow card when he took out opposite number Tovey as he chased a hack downfield and the Dragons number 10 had to settle for kicking the resultant penalty.

A flurry of infringements saw Tovey kick one penalty from two, while the accurate Halfpenny was successful twice to extend the Blues’ lead. But it was his running ability which confirmed the ability, a magnificent 40-yard gallop allowing him to send Cuthbert flying in at the flag. Halfpenny’s conversion rebounded off a post, but the celebrations were already under way.

Scorers: Cardiff Blues: Tries: Cuthbert 2, B. Davies. Cons: Halfpenny 2. Pens: Halfpenny 3. Dragons: Pens: Tovey 3.

CARDIFF BLUES: Henson, Halfpenny, Laulala, Hewitt, Cuthbert, Sweeney, L. Williams, G. Jenkins, Tyrell, Filise, B. Davies, Tito, Paterson, Warburton, Rush, Roberts.

Replacements: Roberts for Hewitt (40), Rees for L. Williams (50), Breeze for Tyrell (59), Andrews for Filise (40), Molitika for Tito (54), Navidi for Warburton (70), Parks for Roberts (52).

DRAGONS: M. Thomas, Chavhanga, Hughes, Robling, Brew, Tovey, W. Evans, N. Williams, Burns, Buck, A. Jones, Sidoli, Lydiate, G. Thomas, Faletau.

Replacements: Tuilagi for Robling (71), Bedford for W. Evans (71), Price for N. Williams (71), S. Jones for Burns (71), Way for Buck (55), Groves for Lydiate (71), Waters for G. Thomas (71). Ref: L Hodges (RFU).

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