Harlequins 20 Cardiff Blues 45
Sunday 24 January 3.00pm kick off The Stoop
With Northampton picking up a losing bonus point in Munster, the Blues were out of the Heineken Cup quarter final race, but started the match knowing they needed at least a win, three tries, and a 14 point, points difference, to progress into the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter final.
However, it was Quins who got off to a flying start. Good hands in the backs saw the ball being spread from right to left where George Lowe did well to cut inside and touch down. Evans missed the conversion. And despite having nothing to play for it was Harlequins who looked the liveliest in the opening minutes.
Gareth Williams was his usual lively self and the Blues really threatened with nice inter-passing between Williams and Jenkins allowing Powell a free run on the wing, before Quins scrambled and cleared.
The Blues got their break through some fantastic play by the forwards. From a lineout on the twenty two, the Blues 8 drove all the way to within a yard of the try-line where Richie Rees passed out to Martyn Williams, who passed on to Gareth Thomas to touch down. Blair converted.
The score made the Blues come alive and some lovely inter-passing and a break from Laulala opened up the Quins defence. They were unlucky not to score and were awarded a penalty a yard out. They spread the ball right and a miracle pass from Laulala allowed Ben Blair to dive over. The fullback added the conversion.
Quins struck back instantly. A lineout and good build up saw Care slip a pass inside for Easter to crash over.
The third Blues try came when Rush flipped the ball up from the base of the ruck and Laulala again broke clean through, he drew Nick Evans at full back and passed on to Sweeney to run in under the posts. Blair again converted.
Rush got the fourth try after Easter had been sent off for Quins. The Blues moved the ball right from the lineout and the ball was eventually shipped over to the right wing where the big Kiwi powered over. Blair maintained his 100% record with the boot. The Blues knew if they clung on to win they would now progress to the Amlin.
However, Quins hadn’t given up and a well executed try saw Danny Care gather from the line-out. The forwards parted like the Red Sea and Care sprinted in for the try. Clegg converted.
Half Time Harlequins 20 Cardiff Blues 28
Blair missed two penalties early in the second half but they managed a brilliant counter attack following a turn over in their own half. Sweeney released the impressive Laulala who passed on to Tom James to show his pace. The flying winger took the ball forward but Rees failed to hold onto the ball as James passed inside when a certain try was on.
The first try in the second half came soon after. It was well worked effort. From a scrum Rees passed on to Roberts who broke straight through Clegg to touch down under the posts. Blair again converted.
Harlequins hadn’t given up and Lowe went on a fifty yard break for the home side and they eventually won a scrum 5 metres out which looked dangerous. However, Quins were penalised for mouthing off and Blues cleared the danger.
Blair added a further penalty to bring the score to 20-38 and the next score was a great effort. Andy Powell gathered the ball and beat two men on the outside before passing inside to Tom James. He slipped the ball to Cooper who passed to Jamie Roberts to sprint in. Blair added the difficult conversion and the match was won and the Blues will no face Newcastle away in the quarters.
Referee George Clancy
Cardiff Blues 15 Ben Blair 14 Gareth Thomas 13 Casey Laulala73off 12 Jamie Roberts 11 Tom James 10 Ceri Sweeney73on 9 Richie Rees 60off
1 Gethin Jenkins (c) 73off 2 Gareth Williams 60off 3 Faao Filise 67off 4 Bradley Davies 5 Deiniol Jones 60off 6 Andy Powell 7 Martyn Williams 73off 8 Xavier Rush
16 T Rhys Thomas 60off 17 Sam Hobbs 73 on18 Gary Powell 67on 19 Paul Tito 60off 20 Ben White 73on 21 Gareth Cooper 60off 22 Dai Flanagan 73on 23 Tom Shanklin 73on
Try Thomas x 1 Blair x 1 Sweeney x 1 Rush x 1 Roberts x 2
Penalty Blair x 1
Con Blair x 6
Try Lowe x 1 Easter x 1 Care x 1
Penalty Clegg x 1
Con Clegg x 1