Cardiff Blues 14-9 Castres, Heineken Cup, January 14
Cardiff see off Castres
January 14, 2011
Blues fullback Chris Czekaj races clear during Friday night's win over Castres in Cardiff
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Cardiff Blues ended Castres' hopes of qualifying for the last eight of the Heineken Cup by defeating the French outfit 14-9 at the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday night.
Leigh Halfpenny scored the only try of the game in the second quarter and the Welsh international's score, coupled with the solid goal-kicking of Scotland fly-half Dan Parks was enough to see off to see off Castres, who managed just three penalties over the course of the 80 minutes.
The Blues already had no hope of reaching the last eight in the top-tier competition but this win keeps them in the hunt for a runners-up spot which would put them in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup. But they may be left to rue the losing bonus point the visitors picked up to keep themselves in second place by a single point with one round of games to go.
The hosts, outplayed up front when they visited Castres, will be happy with the dominance of their scrum, while skipper Paul Tito controlled the line-out, although they were unable to convert possession into points.
Castres, needing at least a victory to prevent Northampton winning the group, stole a Blues throw at the first line-out and laid siege to the home 22, but had to settle for a penalty by centre Seremaia Bai, who went on to miss a further shot at goal.
The Blues gradually came into the game and Parks kicked two penalties to put them 6-3 up. Both kickers missed further chances in a war of attrition, but the Blues then produced a rare moment of class for the game's only try.
Having turned the ball over in midfield, the home side spread it right, a looped pass from Parks followed by a neat kick ahead by Kiwi centre Casey Laulala. Flying Wales winger Halfpenny reached it first, dribbling past a stranded French defender before picking up and setting off on a curving run around the covering tacklers and stretching over the line. Parks missed the simple conversion.
The second half saw Castres again fall foul of referee Andrew Small, who responded to their persistent offending by showing a yellow card to replacement wing Yoan Audrin, while Parks claimed the three points.
Despite being down to 14 men, a Bai penalty kept the visitors interested, but the Fijian, who began his European career in Wales with Cross Keys, missed a further kick from wide out after the returning Audrin had intercepted an errant pass by Blues hooker Rhys Thomas.
The home side were showing the greater adventure, with Laulala and Halfpenny always a threat but, after Tito had been held up short, Parks made a hash of a straightforward drop-goal. Replacement Pierre Bernard then kicked a long-range penalty to secure the vital bonus point and further diminish the possibility of the Blues going further in Europe this season.
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