European Challenge Cup: Cardiff Blues 18-13 Toulouse

Cardiff Blues scrum-half Tomos Williams scores after Gareth Anscombe's fine chip and gather
Cardiff Blues scrum-half Tomos Williams scores after Gareth Anscombe's fine chip and gather
European Challenge Cup
Cardiff Blues (10) 18
Tries: T Williams, Anscombe Con: Evans Pens: Evans, Anscombe
Toulouse (10) 13
Try: Kolbe Con: Ramos DGs: Ramos 2

Cardiff Blues booked their place in the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals with a game to spare as they held off Toulouse at Cardiff Arms Park.

Full-back Gareth Anscombe was the catalyst, scoring a try and a penalty while kicking skilfully out of hand.

Cheslin Kolbe had given Toulouse an early lead, but Tomos Williams' try made it 10-10 at half-time.

Thomas Ramos edged Toulouse ahead with his second drop-goal, but Anscombe gave Blues the winning edge.

Blues were bolstered by the return to full fitness of Wales flanker Elis Jenkins, making his first start of the season after tearing a hamstring in pre-season.

Veteran prop Gethin Jenkins has had his season disrupted by a calf injury and a recent facial blow but the captain led from the front as usual, the loose-head and his younger namesake ensuring Blues competed fiercely at the breakdown.

Toulouse had an early let-off when Blues number eight Nick Williams was adjudged to have picked up from a ruck in front of the ball before he went under the posts, but the home side came back for an earlier penalty that Jarrod Evans converted.

A second try opportunity went begging when Alex Cuthbert broke through midfield, but the Blues wing's offload fell short of Anscombe in support.

Toulouse made the Welsh side pay when they broke through on the left and Kolbe went over for a try, converted by Ramos.

It took a sublime piece of skill from Anscombe for Blues to finally breach the French line, the full-back chipping and gathering to send scrum-half Tomos Williams under the posts to retake the lead 10-7 thanks to Evans' conversion.

Toulouse full-back Thomas Ramos had a first-half try disallowed for a forward pass
Toulouse full-back Thomas Ramos had a first-half try disallowed for a forward pass

Toulouse flanker Semi Kunatani showed all his sevens skills with an equally brilliant chip soon after that seemed to have set up a second try for the visitors, but the Fijian's pass to Ramos was judged forward - somewhat harshly - by television replays.

The visitors did level before the break, however, with Ramos dropping a goal from the last attack of the first half.

The Toulouse full-back repeated the trick to open the second-half scoring, but Blues replied with an incisive move that shredded the visiting defence.

Using the bulk of Nick Williams as a dummy runner in midfield, the ball was instead served to Cuthbert coming off the blindside wing and he raced through to find Willis Halaholo, who in turn sent Anscombe away to the left corner for an unconverted try.

Number eight Williams was held up over the line as Blues tried to put some daylight between the sides, while Josh Turnbull had a try chalked off for the same offence as Nick Williams at the start of the game.

Having spurned an earlier kick at goal when Lloyd Williams opted for a quick tap, this time with time running out the home side went for the posts.

Anscombe, taking over the kicking duties, added the penalty for a five-point lead that Blues defended fiercely to claim a knock-out place, ending Toulouse's hopes in the process.

It completes a humbling European campaign for the French side, four-time winners of the European Cup.

Blues are guaranteed top spot in Pool 2 and can travel to Lyon in the final round of pool games next weekend in relaxed mood.

Cardiff Blues head coach Danny Wilson said: "it was an edgy end to the game. We had three tries disallowed which kept them in the game, kept them fighting.

"I'm not saying necessarily that they are tries, but if one of those is given I think the game is dead and we perhaps finish them off.

"The attitude from the players was outstanding. That was a huge win, a huge double [Blues won 17-15 in France in October] and to beat Toulouse home and away in Europe is unbelievable."

Cardiff Blues: Gareth Anscombe; Alex Cuthbert, Garyn Smith, Willis Halaholo, Owen Lane; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Gethin Jenkins (capt), Matthew Rees, Taufa'ao Filise, George Earle, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Brad Thyer, Dillon Lewis, Damian Welch, Macauley Cook, Lloyd Williams, Steve Shingler, Blaine Scully.

Toulouse: Thomas Ramos; Cheslin Kolbe, Jarrod Poi, Gael Fickou, Sofiane Guitoune; Jean-Marc Doussain, Sébastien Bézy; Clément Castets, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Charlie Faumuina, Florian Verhaeghe, Richie Gray, Semi Kunatani, Louis Madaule, Joe Tekori

Replacements: David Roumieu, Maxime Duprat, Piula Faasalele, Carl Axtens, Rynhardt Elstadt, Antoine Dupont, Paul Perez, Maks Van Dyk.

Referee: Ian Tempest (England)

Assistant referees: Hamish Smales (England), Wayne Falla (England)

TMO: Sean Davey (England)

Citing commissioner: Paul Burke (England)

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