Cardiff Blues
CARDIFF, WALES - APRIL 21: Blues wing Owen Lane makes a break during the European Challenge Cup Semi-Final match between Cardiff Blues and Section Paloise at Cardiff Arms Park on April 21, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Gloucester and the Cardiff Blues have secured their spot in the Challenge Cup final following their wins over Newcastle and Pau respectively. Both former finalists in this competition, will meet in Bilbao Spain, for the European Rugby Club finals.

Gloucester first to secure place in Bilbao final

Gloucester were the first side to secure their final spot with a 33-12 victory over the Newcastle Falcons on Friday night, in front of a large crowd of 10,587. Tries from Marshall, Matu’u, Burns and Vellacott sent the Cherry and Whites on their way, against a Newcastle side that have been rejuvenated under Dean Richards.

It was Newcastle who were to be the initial scorers, through a powerful driving maul, something that Gloucester later broke down by cutting out their mistakes and counter attacking it early on.

It was a nervous affair, with both sides making a lot of errors throughout. But once Gloucester settled and under the helm of Billy Burns and ‘Man of the Match’ Jason Woodward, they romped home. Woodward was praised by Ackerman post-game, but the forwards too offered their muscle, to round out the first 40 minutes. The late first half try, rumbled over by the forwards and finished by Motu Matu’u, which was the perfect start needed in such a ‘big match’..

Newcastle came out fighting in the second half though, getting back into the game with Lawson’s second try of the game. However, it wasn’t to be for the visitors and with numerous changes coming on, it was Ben Vellacott who once again added the spice for Gloucester.

‘Glaws fans in full voice, with even the players admitting that they had to alter line-out calls in front of the Shed – due to the volume levels. It was a performance that proved that Gloucester can fight out the hardest rugby matches, and then ‘take it home’ in style, when given the chance.

Gloucester 33 – Tries: Tom Marshall, Motu Matu’u, Billy Burns, Ben Vellacott; Conversions: Billy Twelvetress (2); Penalties: Twelvetrees (2)

Newcastle 12 – Try: Scott Lawson (2); Con: Joel Hodgson.

Cardiff Blues reach first European Cup final in eight years

The Cardiff Blues will have their day in the sun, following a gutsy performance from their forwards. Despite coming up against a huge Pau pack; only matched by Racing in the Top 14, they weathered the storm at the scrum.

It was to be the breakdown where the game was won and lost. 12 turnovers for the Blues, a smorgasbord coming from Ellis Jenkins, Nick Williams and Josh Navidi. Cardiff also looked strong at the line-out’s, Turnbull a firm figure throughout.

In a game that hinged on Gareth Anscombe and Jarrod Evans movement around the field, the Blues duo pulling the strings for the first try. Seb Davies assisting Gareth Anscombe for their only try of the game, to the cheers of the 11,723 Cardiff Arms crowd.

Pau held large amounts of territory throughout the game, but couldn’t break the Cardiff defence. Their only try coming from a charged down kick that was fumbled on the ground as Conrad Smith crossed over in what was to be his last European game.

Pau’s biggest weapon, was their scrum. 136 kilogram Malik Hamadache’s departure, was the major blow to their hopes. Cardiff then grew at the set piece, and their biggest area of pressure on the Blue’s was lifted. Even when Dave Foley was subbed on; who sealed a turnover within minutes of joining, but Pau couldn’t add any further points to their tally.

It was the boot of Jarrod Evans though, that sealed the victory. Three penalties and a conversion from the young man, in one of his best games to date.

Cardiff Blues 16 – Try: Gareth Anscombe; Con: Jarrod Evans; Pen: Evans (3)

Pau 10 – Try: Conrad Smith; Con: Tom Taylor; Pen: Taylor

Gloucester meet Cardiff Blues for Challenge Cup trophy

Where and when is the final?

The Challenge Cup final is to be played on Friday 11th May in the San Mames stadium, Bilbao, Spain. Usually home to football club Athletic Bilbao, it is the second year that the major final has been scheduled for the 40,000 capacity stadium.

This’ll be the first time that these two sides have met in the Challenge Cup final, having only previously run into each other at the quarter-final stages; back in 2016/17.

Gloucester bring their combination of forward muscle, and stylish backs. While Cardiff will aim to mesmerise the Cherry and White defence, before pushing them hard up the middle. But fans will surely look forward to a superb fixture, in the Spanish heart of football. buena suerte! 

Last Word on Rugby will bring you all the build-up, and the match results over the next week.

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