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'Made it scary for them' - Gruff Rees hails 'remarkable effort'

By PA
PA

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Gruff Rees hailed a “remarkable effort” from his hastily-assembled Cardiff team following a 39-7 defeat against Heineken Champions Cup holders Toulouse.

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The Arms Park clash took place against a backdrop of more than 30 Cardiff players and a number of staff, including rugby director Dai Young, isolating until next week.

Cardiff had been due to play United Rugby Championship fixtures in South Africa last month, and had already arrived there when it became a UK Government red-listed country as fresh travel restrictions were imposed following the discovery of a new coronavirus variant.

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With such a large group isolating at a hotel near London on returning from South Africa, it meant a team comprising Wales internationals, who did not travel, semi-professionals and academy players being fielded against the European title holders.

And Cardiff are set to be in the same boat when they visit Gallagher Premiership champions Harlequins next Saturday.

Cardiff academy manager Rees headed the coaching operation in Young’s absence, and he said: “Looking at the effort that went on, we were in that game for certain moments.

“At 20-7, there could have been a score either way, but then you are undone by three or four class moments from the world player of the year (Antoine Dupont).

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“There are so many individual stories behind every player on that pitch today.

“It was a remarkable effort, and I am chuffed we put some good rugby on show against a team that we flustered a little bit and made it scary for them, and we can be proud of that.”

Toulouse, were made to work every inch of the way for what was ultimately a bonus-point victory, although they did not secure a five-point maximum until 12 minutes from time.

Dupont scored one try and set up scores for flanker Anthony Jelonch, centre Pita Ahki and wing Arthur Bonneval, with Joe Tekori also touching down, while Romain Ntamack kicked two penalties and four conversions.

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Cardiff, roared on by a crowd of just over 10,000, enjoyed a highlight when centre Josh Adams scored in the first half and Jason Tovey converted.

But they also had full-back Jacob Beetham sent off, who departed after 74 minutes following a dangerous shoulder-led tackle.

Rees added: “We hung in there around the set-piece. The boys had barely trained together, let alone played together.

“There were a couple of tries that we probably left out there, and there was a bit of a Corinthian spirit about what we’ve done today.”

Cardiff’s South Africa party are not expected to be out of isolation until next Tuesday or Wednesday.

And looking ahead to the Quins encounter, Rees said: “It is a challenge. We will look at how best we can fit a squad together.

“The mandate about these couple of weeks was the same group (of players), and to look after the guys who have had a horrendous experience in terms of what they have had to go through (in terms of isolating).

“First and foremost, I think it is important they get back to their families and spend time with them and refresh themselves.”

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