CARDIFF Blues’ faint hopes of an Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final berth were ended by Leicester Tigers in stormy conditions as they succumbed to a 24-12 defeat.
Tries from Jack Roberts and Lewis Jones saw Leicester’s lead narrowed to just five points with the hour mark approaching.
But it was too little, too late after a disjointed first half in which the Blues shipped 17 points without reply to the reigning Anglo-Welsh Cup champions.
Battered by wind and rain before kick-off, the Welford Road pitch was reduced to mud by both sides’ attritional rugby.
Cardiff were the first to blink, losing prop Corey Domachowski to the sin-bin in the 20th minute.
The additional man allowed England under-20 star Will Evans to drive over from close range for the opening try of the afternoon, with Jordan Olowofela sliding in 10 minutes later.
Whatever Blues coach Danny Wilson said to his charges at half-time must have worked, emerging with a directness and purpose often lacking in the first 40 minutes.
Corey Howells missed the whitewash by inches after powerful scrummaging from the Cardiff pack.
However, the Blues were soon rewarded, with Roberts scoring against his former club in the 52nd minute.
The deficit was narrowed to just five points by Jones outwitting a tiring Leicester backline.
Just four minutes afterwards, ex-Blues back row Luke Hamilton touched down to extend the Tigers’ lead, which they defended doggedly despite playing the final 10 minutes with 14 men.
The defeat means the Blues cannot qualify from Pool 1. Leicester, meanwhile, sit second behind Newcastle Falcons in Pool 4 on points difference.
Next up for Cardiff is another Anglo-Welsh Cup tie against the Newcastle Falcons on Friday.