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Having broken their duck in a major European final at BT Murrayfield last weekend, Stade Francais Paris will be hoping the momentum they have gathered in recent weeks will continue for another eight days.
The prize last weekend was the Challenge Cup in Edinburgh, this weekend it will be a place in the Champions Cup play-off if they can find a way to beat Cardiff Blues. Home advantage at Stade Jean Bouin should give them an edge, but the Blues are hoping to end a two year absence from the top table with a big end to their season.
Both sides finished seventh in their respective leagues and the winners in Paris will head to either Northampton or Galway to face either Northampton Saints or Connacht Rugby in next weekend’s final battle for the 20th place in next season’s Champions Cup.
The Blues will be without British & Irish Lions skipper Sam Warburton as well as club captain Gethin Jenkins. Warburton is still recovering from a knee strain and hopes to be fit for the final if his side wins in the French capital.
Sergio Parisse, a first-half try scorer in Edinburgh in the 25-17 win over Gloucester Rugby, will lead the home side as they, too, seek a return to the Champions Cup after a season-long gap.
“Our form is pretty good at the moment and we want to try to play in the same way as the Ospreys started when they met Stade. We feel we have the firepower to cause problems for anybody,” said Blues head coach Danny Wilson.
“It think we have improved this season and proved that we can be competitive against not just teams in the top six in the PRO12, but also those sides in the top four.”
The Blues reached the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup before they were put out of the tournament by Gloucester at Kingsholm.
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Stade Francais kept up their hopes of playing European Rugby Champions Cup rugby next season as they secured a 46-21 victory over Cardiff Blues in their play-off semi-final clash.
A week after being crowned European Challenge Cup winners following their final victory over Gloucester Rugby 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 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 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 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 and Stade will now play either Northampton Saints or Connacht Rugby in the play-off final.
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 with a bang and in style too.
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, Williams added the visitors' second try, more good work from Halaholo and Cuthbert allowing the giant No 8 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 Mathieu 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.
Daguin sprinted into the corner for the game's final try, with the Blues' injury woe 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. Wilson's men will now play in the Challenge Cup in the 2017-18 campaign
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