Perhaps a memorable moment for the wrong reason, the first Heineken Cup campaign after Cardiff Blues became Amlin Challenge Cup champions for the first team ended in dramatic fashion at the Cardiff City Stadium.
A good start to the season had seen Dai Young’s men win four of the first five games in the Celtic League, before a win over Edinburgh at home and a losing bonus point away at Castres had got the European season off to a solid opening.
However, just two wins in the next seven games had left the team on the back foot heading into a December double header against a Northampton Saints team who were topping pool one after two wins from two across the opening rounds.
The team picked by Young that day featured nine of the 15 who started in Marseille seven months previously, with a further two on the bench, and the home side were much the better side in the first half getting within inches of scoring on two occasions.
Unfortunately that pressure could not be converted into tries but Dan Parks won the kicking battle against Stephen Myler in the first 40 to take a 9-3 lead in at break, and eventually Richard Mustoe got over out wide to grab the first try of the game.
The encounter would turn on a moment in the 53rd minute though, with a Northampton attack that started as Ben Foden returned a kick into the Cardiff Blues 22, breaking three tackles along the way.
A quickly recycled ball saw the attack move left with Courtney Lawes on the shoulder of Myler but before the second row could carry or pass he was hit hard by Xavier Rush as the home number eight flew in to make a big tackle in midfield.
Unfortunately for the All Black, Lawes was ducking into contact as Rush come out of the line and his wildly swinging arm made direct contact with the head of the England lock.
Referee Jerome Garces took a moment to consider the punishment, briefly conversing with his assistant referee, before producing a red card for Rush, his first sending off as a Cardiff Blues player and just the second card he had been shown during his time in South Wales.
With Bradley Davies also off the field with a yellow card it would be a backs-to-the-wall performance for the home side, but unfortunately further penalties from the boot of Myler and a controversially awarded Dylan Hartley try secured a 19-23 win for Northampton.
It cemented their place at the top of the pool but ended any Cardiff Blues hopes of qualifying for the quarter-final, who eventually went on to miss out on the Celtic League play-offs by three points just to add insult to injury in Dai Young’s last season in charge.
Rush would go on to be banned for one week with the disciplinary panel noting that ‘there was no intent to make contact as high as he did’, and that ‘there were no aggravating factors and Rush pleaded guilty, he had an excellent record, he showed remorse and he conducted himself well at the hearing.’