Stade Francais cruise past Cardiff Blues to book Champions Cup play-off final place
By Press Association
Last Updated: 19/05/17 9:54pm
Cardiff Blues' hopes of playing Champions Cup rugby next season came to an end in Paris as they were beaten 46-21 by Stade Francais in their play-off semi-final clash.
A week after being crowned Challenge Cup winners following victory over Gloucester at BT Murrayfield, Stade continued their impressive recent form in the French capital.
The TOP14 giants trailed at half-time, Macauley Cook and Nick Williams scoring converted tries for the injury-hit Blues while Waisea Vuidarvuwalu responded for Stade.
But in an entertaining second half, the Blues fell apart as their opponents crossed for six further tries after the break. Three quick home efforts from Giorgi Melikidze, Mathieu De Giovanni and Sekou Macalou put Stade in control and from then on it was always going to be a tough task for the Welsh side.
Playing for the full 80 minutes has long been the Blues' problem and it reared its ugly head again here as despite a second try from Cook, Macalou completed his brace and replacements Laurent Panis and Clement Daguin finished off the scoring late on. Fly-half Morne Steyn ended the game with 11 points.
Danny Wilson's men lost Tom James in the warm-up and then saw both his replacement Rhun Williams and centre Rey Lee-Lo limp from the field early on.
Steyn's opening penalty for Stade was another blow, but the Blues hit back in style. A sensational break from the impressive Willis Halaholo nearly resulted in a score for Alex Cuthbert, and when the ball was recycled, Gareth Anscombe's short inside ball found Cook who dived over.
Just two minutes later, Nick Williams added the visitors' second try, more good work from Halaholo and Cuthbert allowing the giant number eight to cross from close range. Fly-half Anscombe converted both tries.
At 14-3 up, the Blues looked in control, but Stade narrowed their deficit before the break.
Sergio Parisse's pass found Vuidarvuwalu to score near the posts, Steyn converting, and the French side took control right at the start of the second period.
Within 17 minutes replacement prop Melikidze, loose forward De Giovanni and flying wing Macalou had all scored with Steyn converting the first two of those efforts.
The Blues showed courage to hit straight back, Anscombe's chip finding replacement scrum-half Tomos Williams, playing on the wing, who passed inside for Cook to cross.
Anscombe converted, but Macalou's second sealed Stade's win and Parisse's intercept and kick ahead allowed Jules Plisson to put Panis in to score.
There was still time for Daguin to sprint into the corner for the game's final score, with the Blues' injury woes summed up with captain Ellis Jenkins forced to play in the centre in the last few minutes after Halaholo and Kirby Myhill also left the field.