Blues' Cup hopes dented

Toulouse 23 Cardiff Blues 7

Toulouse 23 Cardiff Blues 7

Cardiff Blues saw their Heineken Cup hopes dented after Toulouse cruised to a convincing win in Pool Five.

Scrum-half Frederic Michalak was the match-winner for the three-time champions with an 18-point tally on the way to the man of the match award.

Michalak produced a polished performance by booting five penalties and a drop goal as well as setting up captain Thierry Dusautoir’s first-half try to leave the Blues with zero points from the fixture.

The Blues hit back briefly through Faao Filise’s score but on the day that saw Gareth Thomas reveal he was gay, the former Wales and British Lions captain was left on the losing side against his former team as the visitors’ ill-discipline proved costly.

Thomas came on for the final eight minutes in the south of France with the score at 20-7 but the damage had already been done after Andy Powell and captain Paul Tito were yellow carded by Irish official Alan Lewis.

Dai Young’s men were on the back foot as early as the 12th minute when Martyn Williams conceded a penalty, forcing Lewis to warn the visitors about their discipline.

Kicking scrum-half Michalak made no mistake from close-range but worse was to follow immediately from the re-start when Tito was sin-binned for failing to roll away as Lewis’ warning had failed to be heeded.

The task of facing Toulouse in their own back-yard was daunting enough but now with a numerical disadvantage, the writing was on the ball.

In Tito’s absence, the stubborn Blues clung on for dear life with Powell and Williams putting their bodies on the line to keep the rampant hosts at bay.

The onslaught continued and it was no surprise when Toulouse breached the visitors’ defence.

Tito returned from the cooler but Michalak’s close-range quick tap caught the Blues cold and despite Xavier Rush’s initial attempts, Dusautoir crashed over.

Michalak struck the left-hand upright as the pressure increased on the Blues.

But, after what seemed like an eternity, the visitors finally gained possession and the under-fire Sam Norton-Knight produced a moment of brilliance to assist Filise’s for a try against the run of play.

The fly-half has endured a miserable start to his career in the Welsh capital but the Australian fended off prop Jean-Baptiste Poux, showed a wonderful burst of pace to leave Dusautoir trailing in his wake and then flicked a superb reverse pass to allow Filise to power over from the 22.

Blair converted but missed the chance to hand Young’s men the lead when lock Patricio Albacete was yellow carded for killing the ball as the Blues trooped off in good spirits with a one-point deficit.

But all the effort from the opening period was ruined by Powell’s madness when he became the third player sin-binned for putting his right shoulder into Clement Poitrenaud.

The Blues failed to recover as Michalak punished them with his second penalty and then a drop goal after 54 minutes for a 14-7 lead.

Three further penalties from the France half-back proved to be the final nail in the coffin.

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