Blues take a major scalp

Cardiff Blues 31 Stade Francaise 21

Cardiff Blues 31 Stade Francaise 21

Cardiff Blues gained arguably the biggest victory in their short existence as a region as a superb first-half display guided them to a 31-21 victory over Stade Francais.

The hosts built up a 13-point lead by half-time and although the French side responded in a pulsating second period, the Blues somehow managed to withstand the late pressure.

They even robbed the pink-shirted Parisians of a losing bonus point thanks to an injury-time drop goal by cool young fly-half Dai Flanagan.

The Blues suffered a pre-match blow when Kiwi fullback Ben Blair withdrew with a hamstring pull, meaning that 21-year-old Jamie Roberts had to switch from the wing.

International centre Jamie Robinson came off the bench and, had his long pass to wing Tom James not been marginally forward, the home side would have had the boost of a first-minute try.

It mattered little. After Flanagan had kicked a penalty, Robinson made amends for his error, finishing off a move sparked by a clever inside pass from the young fly-half.

Another Flanagan penalty extended the Blues lead, with Stade looking rattled in the face of tigerish tackling and a determination by Dai Young’s men to be first to any breakdown.

The visitors turned down an easy kick at goal and were rewarded when wing Julien Arias finished a sweeping move with a try.

Watching Wales coach Warren Gatland will have been impressed by the manner of the Blues’ response.

In first-half injury time James popped up in midfield and the 20-year-old showed incredible acceleration to leave half-a-dozen Frenchmen grasping at air as he scorched to the line.

Flanagan restored the 13-point margin with the conversion.

Stade coach Fabien Galthie made three changes in a bid to shake things up and the French were encouraged by an early second-half penalty from fly-half David Skrela.

But the French fly-half quickly turned into the villain, with a clearance kick charged down by Blues’ lock Paul Tito, who then won the chase to touch down as the ball cannoned over the line.

Skrela pulled three points back with another penalty and the French were showing greater urgency. Runs from replacement Geoffroy Messina and Argentinian prop Rodrigo Roncero putting them into the home 22 for Skrela to punish another indiscretion.

A break by Tongan prop Taufa’ao Filise earned the position for Flanagan to reply with a penalty for the Blues and there was a further set-back for the visitors when Roncero was sin-binned for a late tackle on Gareth Thomas.

But the Blues failed to take advantage of the extra man and Stade were back to full strength when flanker Antoine Burban broke a weak tackle to cross in the corner.

The Blues were to have the last word, however, with Flanagan’s neatly taken drop goal sending the crowd into delirium.

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