Cardiff earn top seeding
Welsh side will play at home in last eight after demolishing Calvisano
Last Updated: 24/01/09 4:01pm
Blair: influential display
Cardiff Blues secured a home quarter-final with a 62-20 victory over Calvisano in their final Heineken Cup Pool Six fixture.
The Blues came into the match already guaranteed a place in the last eight but needed a bonus-point win to ensure top seeding for the knockout phase.
And they made no mistake, running in nine tries to see off their Italian opponents, who finished bottom of the standings having lost every game.
Gareth Thomas (2), Rhys Thomas (2), Ben Blair, Leigh Halfpenny, Xavier Rush, Martyn Williams and Maama Molitika all touched down, while Blair also kicked seven conversions and a penalty for a 22-point haul on his return from injury.
Calvisano's chances, already slim, were not helped when captain Leonardo Ghiraldini limped off after only seven minutes, yet 60 seconds later they took a shock lead.
New Zealand-born fly-half Gerard Fraser charged down opposite number Nicky Robinson's kick and centre Gonzalo Garcia hacked the loose ball ahead and won the foot race to touchdown.
Fraser landed the conversion for a seven-point advantage but that was the high point of the visitors' evening.
The Blues responded with veteran wing Thomas breaking through two tackles to score a try awarded after consultation with the video referee about the grounding.
Blair missed the conversion and then conceded an easy penalty which Fraser slotted over, but the Kiwi full-back was soon back in credit.
He fed winger Halfpenny and took a return pass to race clear to the posts, providing himself with a simple conversion, and then added a penalty to further settle the Arms Park nerves.
Continued home pressure led to a move which spread quickly to the right, where the flying Halfpenny raced over close to the flag, Blair's conversion giving the scoreboard the sort of appearance most had expected.
Rush replaced Andy Powell at half-time and within three minutes of his arrival he broke from a scrum and strolled over without a hand laid on him to secure the bonus point.
Fraser kicked a penalty for Calvisano, but it was only a brief interruption before a neat cross-kick from Robinson was taken by Gareth Thomas, who handed replacement hooker Rhys Thomas the try.
As both sides rang the changes, the Italians grabbed another breakaway try, from Matteo Pratichetti, but Rhys Thomas stretched over to cancel it over with his second score.
A yellow card for Calvisano prop Gabriel Bocca, who had only just entered the fray, opened the floodgates.
Flankers Williams and Molitika, with a 50-yard gallop, and Gareth Thomas all crossed, sending the Blues past the 56 points they recorded in Italy in October and establishing a new best for the region in this competition.