Blues lay down impressive marker
November 11, 2011
Cardiff Blues lock Paul Tito claims the ball at a lineout
© Getty Images
Bradley Davies Taufa'ao Filise Juan Martin Hernandez Andrea Lo Cicero Vaina Lionel Nallet Sam Warburton
Sam Warburton finally got the French scalp he craved as Cardiff Blues recorded a vital 26-20 away win in their Heineken Cup opener against Racing Metro at the Stade Yves Du Manoir.
The Wales skipper made his first return to action after his controversial red card, which saw him banned for three weeks, for a dangerous tackle on France's Vincent Clerc in the World Cup semi-final in New Zealand.
But while all eyes may have been on Warburton's return, Warren Gatland, the Wales coach, would have been concerned at the sight of centre Jamie Roberts leaving the field in the 11th minute with a groin injury ahead of the visit of Australia to the Millennium Stadium next month.
The Blues, who welcomed back Warburton's fellow Wales World Cup stars Roberts, prop Gethin Jenkins, lock Bradley Davies and young scrum half Lloyd Williams, earned themselves a well deserved victory in Colombes. But the game was marred by an injury in the second minute to lock James Down who picked up a horrific broken leg at the tackle area and was stretchered from the field before being replaced by Paul Tito.
Racing, who were without four injured stars of their own, never really got a real foothold in the game. It took Cardiff a while to recover from the shock of Down's injury and they found themselves 6-0 down to a penalty by fullback Gaetan Germain and an outrageous drop goal by fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez.
But when the visitors did strike, it led to the game's first try. Tito was tackled into touch just short of the Racing line after a slick handling move but from the lineout, Tongan prop Tau Filise picked up the loose ball for an easy try. Fly half Dan Parks added the conversion to put the visitors a point ahead before the Scot and Germain swapped penalties to give the Blues a 10-7 lead midway through the first half.
Racing soon restored their lead after some Hernandez magic bewitched the Blues defence to put his fellow Argentinian Juan Imhoff over for a try in the corner for the side from the French capital. But just before the break the visitors crossed for their second try after a counter-attack led by fullback Chris Czekaj saw impressive rookie wing Alex Cuthbert sneak in at the corner to make it 17-14 to the Blues at half-time.
After the break, Parks and Germain swapped penalties during a cagey second half but the Welsh region never looked in danger and hung on for a deserved victory to put themselves in the driving seat for qualification from Pool Two.
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