Heineken Cup: Leigh Halfpenney impressed as Cardiff Blues beat Sale Sharks
Last Updated: 19/01/13 8:56pm
Cardiff Blues ended their miserable Heineken Cup campaign on a high against fellow strugglers Sale Sharks with a 26-14 win at Cardiff Arms Park.
Neither team could qualify for the quarter-finals of the competition before the game with only the battle to avoid bottom spot in Pool 6 at stake.
Aviva Premiership strugglers Sale made a fast start with Tommy Taylor crossing the try line three minutes in with Rob Miller converting.
Leigh Halfpenny booted three penalties before half-time to give the home side a 9-7, but Aston Croall scored minutes into the second half. Miller again added the extras.
Lloyd Williams levelled the score in the 44th minute with Halfpenny's conversion giving the Blues a two-point advantage - a lead they retained until the closing stages.
Michael Paterson's try clinched the win with Halfpenny converting and adding a last-gasp penalty to bring his personal tally to 16 points.
It only took Sale three minutes to open the scoring. After kicking to the corner, they put together a well-organised lineout drive which culminated in hooker Taylor crashing over, with fly-half Miller adding two more points.
The Blues cut the deficit to a point through two penalties from Halfpenny, but he then appeared to have cost his side a try, as his attempted clearing kick was charged down, with centre Mark Jennings pouncing on the loose ball to claim the score.
Irish referee Peter Fitzgibbon was unsure over the grounding, but had no video referee to consult as the game was not being televised live.
So he went to consult his linesman Eddie Hogan-O'Connell, who advised him that Jennings had knocked on, and the try was ruled out, with Halfpenny then landing a superb penalty out of the mud near the left touchline to give the hosts a 9-7 interval lead.
Sale went back in front just a couple of minutes after the break when wing Charlie Amesbury broke through in midfield and prop Croall forced his way over from close range amid a pile of bodies for a converted try.
But the Blues hit back immediately with an excellent effort from Williams, who broke from the base of a ruck, chipped over Amesbury and won the race to the ball, sliding in and rolling over the line.
Halfpenny converted and, after weathering a lengthy period of Sale pressure, the hosts made the game safe when Williams escaped down the left following a Paterson lineout take and returned the inside scoring pass to the supporting substitute.