Cardiff tops in Bilbao thriller
In a classic thriller Cardiff came back from 14 points down at half-time to beat Gloucester 31-30 – New Zealand import Gareth Anscombe kicking the winning penalty two minutes from time.
Gloucester had the lead with just over two minutes to play, but Anscombe – who had missed a crucial conversion seconds earlier – slotted over the pivotal penalty and helped clinch a second Challenge Cup for the Welsh region.
The Welsh side started well, Jarrod Evans has putting Cardiff in front with a penalty in the fourth minute.
Gloucester hit back by forcing their way deep into the Cardiff 22, before a delightful cross-field kick by Billy Burns found Henry Trinder on the touchline for a diving try. The man who assisted the try then slots over the conversion.
Just on 10 minutes Evens closed the gap to one point (6-7) with his second penalty.
Just past the 25-minute mark Billy Twelvetrees stretched Gloucester's lead to 10-6.
Three minutes from the break Gloucester streaked clear with an outstanding try – a series of wonderful offloads from Twelvetrees, Trinder, Braley and finally Mark Atkinson, who had the simple job of dotting down under the posts.
Twelvetrees kicked the conversion and a penalty ion the stroke of half-time to make it 20-6 at the break.
Cardiff had the perfect start to the second half – sensational play from Gareth Anscombe, who beat his man and after a lobbed ball behind the Gloucester line, Tomos Williams was able to bundle the ball over for a crucial score. Evans added the conversion.
Just on the 50th minute Jarrod Evans closed the gap to 16-20 with his third penalty.
Five minutes later Cardiff Blues hit the lead – Garyn Evans the man to score the try after a lovely grubber kick by Jarrod Evans allowed the former to dot down. Evans added the conversion – 23-20.
Right on the hour mark Gloucester regained the lead. After an attacking line-out, Gloucester's driving maul was perfectly executed and James Hanson was able to dive over the try line. Twelvetrees converted and made it 30-23 with a penalty two minutes later.
In the 73rd minute Gloucester lost a key player, when controversial French referee Jérôme Garcès – who made a number of contentious calls – sent Lewis Ludlow to the sin bin for repeated infringements.
Cardiff seized the opportunity to exploit the additional man on the field, to score a vital try.
Blaine Scully was able to dive over after the Welsh side had an overlap on the right wing. Anscombe missed the conversion – leaving the game delicately poised at 28-30.
Anscombe was handed an opportunity to redeem himself when the French referee made another contentious call – awarding Cardiff a penalty, which the fullback slotted.
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries:T Williams, Smith, Scully
Cons: Evans 2
Pens: Evans 3, Anscombe
Tries:Trinder, Atkinson, Hanson
Cons: Twelvetrees 3
Pens: Twelvetrees 3
Yellow card: Lewis Ludlow (Gloucester, 73 – repeated infringements, in at the side of a ruck)
Cardiff Blues: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Tau Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Garyn Smith, 23 Matthew Morgan
Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Trinder, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Ed Slater, 3 John Afoa, 2 James Hanson, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Val Rapava Ruskin, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Freddie Clarke, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Andy Symons, 23 Tom Hudson.
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Pascal Gaüzère (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)