Cardiff keep quarters hopes alive

HEATING UP::The race to the quarter-finals was still delicately poised after Friday’s games, with both Cardiff and the Ospreys getting wins and a chance of going through


Sun, Dec 15, 2013 - Page 19

Cardiff kept their hopes of reaching the European Cup quarter-finals alive with a 9-7 win at Glasgow on Friday.

The victory, temporarily at least, sent Cardiff to the top of Pool 2 ahead of reigning champions Toulon, who were scheduled to host Exeter yesterday and could retake the lead if they won.

The defeat all but mathematically ended Glasgow’s involvement in the competition, because they sit eight points behind Cardiff with two games left.

However, it could have been so different had replacement flyhalf Duncan Weir not sliced a penalty wide in the final minute.

Rhys Patchell scored a stunning penalty from inside his own half and Toulon target Leigh Halfpenny scored two more as Cardiff made it three wins from four games in the competition.

The Welsh region’s qualification hopes could rest on their trip to the south of France early next month.

No. 8 and man-of-the-match Robin Copeland was delighted with the result.

“It was a dogfight,” said the Irish forward, who is to join Munster next season. “We had a plan going in and one was to get a result, and put us in a great position to go through the group to the next round. We had a great attitude, we fought and fought, the whole pack was outstanding.”

Patchell stunned the crowd with a monster penalty to open the scoring from more than 60m out on six minutes.

With the ball not just inside the Cardiff half, but even beyond the 10m line, Patchell stepped up and thumped it through the sticks.

Halfpenny took over kicking duties and added a score on 22 minutes before hitting his second 15 minutes from the end.

Cardiff prop Sam Hobbs was yellow-carded 10 minutes before the break and Glasgow looked to capitalize on the extra-man advantage.

However, when Fiji scrumhalf Nikola Matawalu scythed over from the back of a close-range ruck, the score was referred to the video referee, who ruled it out for a block by a Cardiff player on a potential tackler.

The Scots did get over the tryline when prop Ryan Grant isolated Halfpenny one-on-one a few meters from the line and barged straight through the British and Irish Lions fullback, with Weir kicking the extras.

It was too little, too late and even a losing bonus point did little to save Glasgow’s hopes.

The Ospreys kept their faint mathematical qualification hopes alive with a 21-12 win over French champions Castres.

With Leinster topping Pool 1 with three wins out of three and scheduled to host Northampton yesterday, Ospreys have next to no chance of actually making the last eight, but this victory was a boost nonetheless, although it may cost Castres their chances of reaching the quarters.

The first half was a kicking contest between Wales flyhalf Dan Biggar and South African scrumhalf Rory Kockott that ended even at the break with four penalties each.

The Ospreys would have been frustrated that they failed to take advantage of Castres flyhalf Remi Tales’ sin-binning after 26 minutes as they failed to outscore the visitors in the extra-man period.

However, in the second period Biggar outshot Kockott three penalties to nil to make the difference.

The Ospreys would still need a minor miracle to qualify while Castres, with two defeats and no bonus points, would need a remarkable turnaround and two bonus-point victories to have any realistic chance of going through.