LV= Cup: Cardiff Blues miss out on semi-finals despite beating Harlequins
Last Updated: 31/01/14 10:05pm
A five-try victory was not enough to take the Blues through to the semi-finals of the LV= Cup - but a 35-5 success will boost their confidence as they return to RaboDirect PRO12 duties next weekend.
Harlequins were in many ways the architects of their downfall. Their ambition was admirable, but their handling frequently let them down at vital moments.
With attention focused on the imminent arrival of the Six Nations, the 5,967 who ventured out in testing conditions were rewarded with an entertaining encounter.
The Blues suffered an early blow when fly-half Gareth Davies, returning after injury, had to be helped off after just three minutes after taking a knock in the face during a move which led to home left wing Dan Fish being beaten to his own kick ahead.
The Quins soon began to dominate territorially, winning a series of penalties, each of which they opted to kick for position. Twice the Blues defence held up short-range drives to the line, and when the visitors attacked from deep they repeatedly dropped passes.
Gradually, the Welsh region began to work their way back into the game and they were rewarded on the half-hour when big lock Filo Paulo took an inside pass to squeeze over in the corner. Davies' replacement, Simon Humberstone, kicked a superb conversion.
Within five minutes he was slotting over a much easier effort after the Quins' suspect fingers again let them down. Fly-half Ben Botica, son of former Llanelli star Frano, dropped the ball in front of his own posts and a grateful Gavin Evans picked up and dotted down.
Finding themselves 10 points behind, Harlequins decided they should go for goal from their next penalty, but the unhappy Botica was off-target.
The Londoners would not be denied, however, and full-back Ollie Lindsay-Hague juggled a long, floating pass before securing it and scampering over wide out. Botica was again wide with the kick, the last action before the break.
Quins made three changes for the second half but two minutes after the resumption they had conceded another try, Fish racing 40 yards down the left touchline before curving to the posts to provide Humberstone with an easy two points.
And an Owen Williams interception on his own 22 saw the Blues race away for their bonus-point score. Williams, just back from a hamstring strain sustained for Wales against Australia, lacked the legs, but full-back Tom Williams finished the job off, Humberstone again converting.
Quins, with 19-year-old replacement fly-half Louis Grimoldby looking lively, found themselves up against 14 men when Blues substitute prop Sam Hobbs was sin-binned for collapsing a maul.
However, they were unable to capitalise and it was Blues who claimed another touchdown when Marc Breeze went over after the home pack heaved the visitors over their own line. The immaculate Humberstone added the extras.
LV= Cup 2013/14 R4
Jonathan Davies impressed on his comeback but Scarlets were overpowered 29-10 by hosts London Irish.
Exeter qualified for the semi-finals of the LV= Cup with a convincing 42-3 win over Worcester at Sixways Stadium.
American forward Samu Manoa scored two tries as Northampton beat Saracens 20-16 to secure a home LV= Cup semi-final.