An­scombe boots Cardiff Blues to last-gasp vic­tory

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - RUGBY EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS CUP - ROBERT KIT­SON at San Mamés Sta­dium

If Glouces­ter could play at their best for an en­tire game, they would col­lect tro­phies by the shed load. There were times they looked set to win the Euro­pean Chal­lenge Cup fi­nal by a sig­nif­i­cant mar­gin, only for a breath­less Cardiff Blues come­back to ruin the Cherry and Whites’ bid to se­cure vic­tory.

Only Glouces­ter could blow a half-time lead of 20-6. First-half tries from Henry Trinder and Mark Atkin­son, plus a to­tal of 15 points from Billy Twel­ve­trees, had threat­ened to win them the game at a can­ter only for their Welsh op­po­nents to come storm­ing back and nick the tro­phy in stun­ning fash­ion with a 79th-minute an­gled penalty from a nerve­less Gareth An­scombe.

With Cardiff reel­ing from the early loss of Josh Na­vidi with his right arm in a sling, a pin­point cross-kick from Billy Burns to the left cor­ner was splen­didly gath­ered by a fly­ing Trinder and Twel­ve­trees’s touch­line con­ver­sion was a sim­i­lar gem. Had Blaine Scully not failed to ground the ball un­der pres­sure from Cal­lum Bra­ley the open­ing stages would have been still more spec­tac­u­lar.

Cardiff man­aged two first-quar­ter penal­ties from Jar­rod Evans but were kept penned in their own half. Twel­ve­trees ex­tended his side’s lead and Glouces­ter for­wards ap­peared live­lier.

Cardiff’s task be­came tougher when Glouces­ter strung to­gether a try good enough to grace any fi­nal. Clever play by the ex­cel­lent Twel­ve­trees put Trinder away and the sup­port­ing Bra­ley sent Atkin­son un­der the sticks. Twel­ve­trees’s con­ver­sion and a fur­ther penalty sent his side in at half-time with a 20-6 lead and the tro­phy seem­ingly in the bag.

It was not that sim­ple. To­mos Wil­liams grabbed an op­por­tunist try back and Evans’s clever grub­ber kick set up a 54th-minute try for re­place­ment Garyn Smith. With Evans adding the con­ver­sion to another penalty, the Blues were ahead 23-21 only for a well-or­gan­ised Glouces­ter-li­ne­out drive to yield a re­liev­ing try for their Aus­tralian hooker James Han­son. Twel­ve­trees’s con­ver­sion and third penalty re­stored a mea­sure of calm but the Welsh had the last laugh.

– Guardian

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