Cardiff Blues have been crowned Challenge Cup champions for a second time after an emphatic 31-30 victory over Gloucester in the Basque country.
The first European Final to be held in a non-six nations country certainly was an enthralling encounter. Despite 53,000 stadium capacity in the San Memes in Bilbao, the crowd was very patchy with many empty seats, but fans didn’t seem to let it dampen their spirits.
Despite Jarrod Evans giving the Blues an early lead through a penalty, Cardiff made two early substitutes with Josh Navidi and Owen Lane both forced off with shoulder injuries, now leaving them a doubt for Wales Summer Tour.
Gloucester seemed to get the upper hand in the first half with tries from Henry Trinder and Mark Atkinson both successfully converted by Billy Twelvetrees.
Blaine Scully crossed the whitewash and thought he’d got the Blues back in the game but replays showed that a covering tackle from Callum Braley had knocked his foot into touch.
A further three points coming from the boot of Twelvetrees at the end of the half Gloucester had a resounding 20-6 lead over the Blues at the break.
Cardiff Blues had to come out all guns blazing in the second-half if they were going to have any chance of a comeback and that’s exactly what they did.
Anscombe chipped the ball over the Gloucester defence. Tomos Williams was first to get there easing past Callum Braley and using some spectacular footballing skills, collected the ball from the upright rebound and crossed over the line.
Their second try was also brilliantly worked, Jarrod Evans neat little grubber through ball reached Garyn Smith nicely for him to touch down.
With Jarrod Evans slotting away another penalty Blues suddenly took a 23-20 lead which didn’t last long as Hanson crossed the line at the back of driving maul.
Blues continued to pile pressure on the Gloucester try line in the closing stages. Gloucester’s Lewis Ludlow was sent to the sin bin.
Danny Wilson’s men capitalised on the extra man and Blaine Scully crossed the line right in the corner, with a difficult conversion Anscombe sent it wide.
With 60 seconds remaining he had the chance to redeem himself when Cardiff were awarded a penalty and he sailed the ball curling between the sticks.
Cardiff safely gathered the restart and was safely kicked into touch, then the celebrations began, a fitting send off for coach Danny Wilson who is departing to join Wasps next season.
Cardiff Blues: Anscombe; Lane, Lee-Lo, Halaholo, Scully; Evans, Williams; Gill, Dacey, Filise, Davies, Turnbull, Navidi, Jenkins,Williams.
Substitutes: Myhill, Thyer, Andrews, Welch, Robinson, Williams, Smith, Morgan.
Gloucester: Woodward; Marshall, Twelvetrees, Atkinson, Trinder; Burns, Braley; Hohneck, Hanson, Afoa, Slater, Galarza, Polledri, Ludlow, Ackermann.
Substitutes: Matu’u, Rapava Ruskin, Balmain, Clarke, Morgan, Vellacott, Symons, Hudson.