Blues punish disjointed Ospreys
October 24, 2009
Tom James scored early on for the Blues
© Getty Images
Cardiff Blues defeated the Ospreys 20-12 in a Welsh derby at the Cardiff City Stadium to breathe some life in to their flagging Magners League campaign.
The game saw the return from injury of openside Martyn Williams the day before Wales boss Warren Gatland names his squad for the November Tests, with the veteran one of a number of players to impress the watching coach. Williams set up scrum-half Gareth Cooper for the Blues' second try after wing Tom James had shown great pace and skills to score after only two minutes.
The Ospreys hit back with tries to Tommy Bowe and Jerry Collins as wing Shane Williams took the captain's armband for the first time. Williams had been slated to wear the scrum-half jersey after injuries to Mike Phillips and Jamie Nutbrown, but youngster Rhodri Wells was fit enough to start.
James was the first player to impress, rounding off the Blues' opener superbly in the corner. A dart of pace by Cooper gave the Ospreys trouble in midfield, with Sam Norton-Knight rocking back in the pocket and firing a kick across field for the electric wing to chase. He controlled the ball superbly with his foot before out-stripping Bowe for pace to score.
Ben Blair struck a languid touchline conversion before the Ospreys skipper showed his young rival what he is up against. Collecting the ball on his wing, Williams raced past a couple of tackles before using his sidestep to stretch the Blues defence. It was James who got to him, knocking the ball clear in the tackle.
Biggar missed his first shot at goal after Williams was taken out without the ball by Blues hooker Gareth Williams. The young fly-half pushed his kick to the right and this lack of accuracy then affected his side's handling as they failed to string together any meaningful possession.
Blair provided another attractive break with ball in hand for the Blues, and the former All Black fullback's worked seemed to spark the Ospreys in to life as they pulled off some neat passing before Barry Davies raced through, only for the ball to go dead thanks to a speculative Williams offload.
Blair extended the Blues' lead with a penalty on 37 minutes as try-scoring opportunities remained at a premium, with Leigh Halfpenny striking an upright just before the break with an effort from inside his own half.
The Ospreys called regular skipper Ryan Jones from the bench at the start of the second-half in hopes of lifting their intensity, but his side immediately opened the door to the Blues. From a rumbling maul Williams burst clear, flummoxing Bowe with some nifty footwork before offloading to Cooper. The scrum-half easily outpaced the cover defence and rounded Jones to score.
Blair converted from the touchline as the Ospreys began thinking about emptying their star-studded bench. Nikki Walker was first man to be introduced, and the Scotland international wing's physicality was a welcome boost.
The visitors continued to struggle despite dominating possession, with the Blues back-row attacking the breakdown and making life difficult at every opportunity. The Ospreys' first try came from a rare slick move, with Bowe atoning for a mixed evening to that point by sliding over in the corner following some deft handling in midfield.
The conversion was missed and Blair also missed his first shot of the night soon after, when Jones was penalised by referee Nigel Owens for killing the ball. The Ospreys were gifted a chance to go for the try when Xavier Rush was guilty of the same offence shortly after but their night was summed up by the result.
Following some heated exchanges between Rush and Alun-Wyn Jones the ball was sent to the corner, only for a knock-on to wreck any hopes of a comeback. The home side thought that they had the final say as Norton-Knight stroked over a drop-goal following sustained pressure on the Ospreys' line but their rivals showed good heart to fashion an opening for Collins.
The former All Black beat Halfpenny to score after a fine dart by James Hook and some patient play in the backs from Biggar, whose conversion brought the game to a close.
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
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