Baber revels in Cardiff triumph
Published 15/01/2012 | 05:00
Cardiff Blues coach Gareth Baber was pleased with his side's focus as they moved a giant step closer to Heineken Cup quarter-final qualification.
The Welsh side marked their 100th Heineken Cup match with a tight 22-15 victory at London Irish, with Sam Warburton's second-half try complementing a fine Leigh Halfpenny kicking display. Having seen fellow Pool 2 pace-setters Edinburgh win away to Racing Metro on Friday, the Welsh side responded in the perfect manner at the Madejski Stadium and Baber was proud of his side's attitude.
"The game last night did focus the mind somewhat," he said. "You can't avoid it, but our whole focus this week has been making sure we control what we are doing irrespective what is happening outside of our environment. That extended to last night and what happened in Paris so we're pleased that we kept that focus. We certainly kept it through the game today and came away with the victory," he added.
Cardiff face Racing Metro in the final Pool 2 match next weekend as they look to reach the knockout stages for the first time since the 2008-'09 season. The Blues are well placed after yesterday's result, which saw them complete the double against the Exiles after winning the reverse fixture in November.
"It's never easy against them," Baber said of Irish. "When we played them at home even though they were down to 14 men they pressurised us and created a game that tested us defensively. There were stages in the game when they did exactly the same, but I thought we controlled the field when we needed to. There was a bit of brilliance in the second half from Casey Laulala, which was finished off by Sam Warburton and you saw a good team performance in managing the game and getting the victory, not least down to Leigh Halfpenny."
While the Blues can reach the knockout stages, the result ended London Irish's slim hopes of progress from the pool. Exiles head coach Toby Booth marked 10 years at the club today but was left frustrated by the outcome in Reading.
"We're disappointed to be on the wrong side of a result but there was a key moment in the game that they scored the try from," he said. "It proved decisive and Cardiff defended very well. It was a tight, tight game and that has probably been the story of the Heineken Cup in this group."
Meanwhile, Clermont ran in 12 tries to thrash Italian whipping boys Aironi 82-0 in their Pool Four match at Stadio Brianteo to keep alive hopes of a place in the quarter-finals.
The French side raced ahead with some early scores and were already 47-0 in front at the break. Wingers Sitiveni Sivivatu and Julien Malzieu completed their hat-tricks in the second half, with Brock James kicking seven conversions to add to four from Morgan Parr.
Full-back Lee Byrne scored a brace, while Alexandre Lapandry, James and Elvis Vermeulen also touched down as the French side collected a bonus point ahead of next weekend's home clash with pool leaders Ulster.
Elsewhere, Bath's disappointing campaign continued yesterday as they slumped to their fourth defeat in five matches this season after going down 24-22 after a last-gasp try at the hands of Montpellier.
Bath had looked set for victory as two tries from lock Ryan Caldwell helped put them 22-17 ahead going into the final minute, but Montpellier snatched their first-ever Heineken Cup win when Timoci Nagusa went over for a score that was converted by Martin Bustos Moyano. The result leaves Bath bottom of Pool 3 on seven points, with Montpellier moving into second spot, level on 10 points with Glasgow but having played a game extra.
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