Blues battle past Castres
Halfpenny scores the only try but visitors grab losing bonus point
Last Updated: 14/01/11 10:55pm
Halfpenny: scored only try
Cardiff kept alive their faint hopes of qualifying for the Amlin Challenge Cup with a 14-9 win over Pool One rivals Castres at Cardiff City Stadium.
Leigh Halfpenny scored the only try of the contest for the Blues, though they missed out on the chance to move level with their opponents.
Castres secured a losing bonus point with a late penalty from substitute Pierre Bernard to sit just ahead of the Magners League side in the battle to finish second behind group winners Northampton.
Cardiff will be kicking themselves for allowing their rivals to leave with anything after surging 11-3 ahead after 24 minutes.
However it was the visitors who broke the deadlock in the opening exchanges after laying siege to the home 22. In the end they had to settle for a penalty from centre Seremaia Bai, who went on to miss a further shot at goal.
The Blues responded to the early disappointment with a pair of Dan Parks penalties, though he did fail to land a third shot at the posts.
A real battle up front offered little in the way of entertaining rugby until the home side produced a rare moment of class to get the game's only try.
Kiwi centre Casey Laulala accepted Parks' long pass out wide before putting in a clever grubber kick for winger Halfpenny to chase.
The Wales international did well to knock the ball beyond a stranded Castres player before picking it up himself and heading for the line, albeit with a looping run required to get him around the final defender.
Parks missed the conversion but did kick a penalty just two minutes into the second half, after referee Andrew Small had grown weary of Castres' persistent offending and shown a yellow card to replacement Yoan Audrin.
Yet, despite being down to 14 men, the French club still reduced the gap back down to eight points when Bai booted a penalty after 48 minutes.
The Fijian, though, missed a further effort from out wide, after the returning Audrin had intercepted an errant pass by Blues hooker Rhys Thomas.
Cardiff did threaten a second try but Paul Tito was held up short, Parks then making a mess of a straightforward drop-goal chance.
Their failure to push further clear then proved costly when Castres sub Bernard knocked over a long-range penalty, to secure what could be a vital point in the final shake-up.