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Timmy Ryan pictured playing with Toulon last Sunday
James Crombie
Echoes of Bordeaux 2000 in Cardiff's Victory
5 May 2010, 5:35 pm
By Chris Byrne
There was much to compare between Cardiff's epic victory over Toulon in Marseilles on Sunday and another performance on a similarly blisteringly hot afternoon in the south of France ten years previously.
On that early May day in 2000, Munster landed in Bordeaux for a semi-final encounter with Toulouse, with no-one beyond themselves and their motley band of supporters believing they had a snowball's hope in hell of beating the aristocrats of French rugby.

That Toulouse side fairly bristled with household international names like Emile NTamack, Alain Penaud, Christian Califano, Franck Tournaire and Fabien Pelous with a few more on the bench like Pierre Bondouy and Cedric Soulette just in case.

So when Cardiff Blues made the trip to Marseilles the general hope was that they wouldn't be disgraced as the script provided for the Real Madrid of French rugby to rubber stamp what was being termed, 'The Year of the French.'

Maybe the Man City or Chelsea of French rugby is a more apt comparison as Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal had bought an array of world stars - Jonny Wilkinson, Joe Van Niekerk, Tana Umaga, Pierre Mignoni, Matt Henjak, Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Sonny Bill Williams - in order to help him achieve his goals.

And Boudjellal, nor his team obviously, nor 99% of commentators, believed the Gethin Jenkins led Blues side had a snowball's hope in hell..............

And for almost 50 minutes Toulon played with swagger n swerve, threatening to melt the Blues on several occasions. But each time the dam seemed poised to burst, a blue-shirted finger was shoved in the hole and hope remained. It probably helped that Toulon played with a certain arrogance butchering chances aplenty with Sonny Bill performing like a Harlem Globetrotter, off-loading one-handed hither an tither before finally crossing the white wash for a try that Wilkinson converted for a 13-6 interval lead.

Former Munster man Timmy Ryan appeared for the second half. Juan Fernandez Lobbe maybe summed up his team's attitude when he opted to run a kickable penalty and when Wilkinson retired injured Toulon lost direction just as Cardiff Blues maybe sniffed blood.

From there on in it was stirring stuff. If you were Welsh that is. Or a neutral Blues supporter.

Jamie Roberts was first to score and Ben Blair's conversion and subsequent penalty edged the Blues in front. Tom May leveled but then tries from Leigh Halfpenny and Bradley Davies pushed the Blues 28-16 clear.

And all the while, as Toulon probed and pressed The Blues defended with careless brave abandon led by Roberts, Xavier Rush and Martyn Williams.

Toulon did pull one back and with enough time left to score an equaliser. But Cardiff were not for giving this one up. And too late Toulon realised that to beat an opponent, particularly one with a tradition such as Cardiff's, you must first show respect.

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