Last-minute penalty gives battling Cardiff European Challenge Cup

Champions: Cardiff Blues celebrate their dramatic victory
AFP

Bilbao (Spain) (AFP) – Cardiff Blues won the European Challenge Cup for the second time on Friday with a dramatic 31-30 victory over Gloucester secured by a nerveless, last-minute penalty from Gareth Anscombe.

The Welsh side, who were also champions in 2010, were 20-6 down at half-time and then 30-23 behind with just seven minutes left.

But Gloucester’s Lewis Ludlow was then sin-binned before Cardiff’s American winger Blaine Scully scored a try in the 76th minute to cut the deficit to two points.

Anscombe missed the conversion but got a second chance with the boot moments later when Gloucester were penalised for not releasing the ball.

The Welsh international full-back kept his nerve to pop over the 40-metre penalty to secure the dramatic comeback.

“I just can’t believe it. We came in at half-time so disappointed with our efforts, we didn’t fire any shots,” Anscombe told BT Sport.

“In the second half just tried to relax a bit. We scored early which took a bit of pressure off.

“The character these boys showed just to stay in the fight — those are the days you live for.”

Gloucester captain Ed Slater was devastated by the defeat.

“I feel pretty filthy about the way we lost the game to be honest,” he said.

“After the first half the way we played it was in our hands, but fair play to Cardiff they clawed it back in the first 15 minutes, but I still felt we did enough to win the game.

“There’ll be a lot of quiet people in the changing room.”

Cardiff looked down and out at half-time at San Mames.

Tries from left wing Henry Trinder and centre Mark Atkinson and a perfect kicking display from Billy Twelvetrees had given 2006 and 2015 winners Gloucester a formidable-looking 20-6 lead at the interval.

But Cardiff stormed back to lead 23-20 just before the hour mark with tries from scrum-half Tomos Williams, off an Anscombe pass, and replacement winger Garyn Smith.

In an end-to-end thriller, Gloucester restored their lead with a converted try after hooker James Hanson barged his way over the line from a powerful maul.

Twelvetrees added an insurance 64th-minute penalty with his sixth successful kick from six attempts to stretch the English side’s lead to 30-23.

However, the sin-binning of Ludlow proved crucial as Cardiff Blues completed a memorable sporting period for the Welsh capital whose football team have also been promoted to the English Premier League.

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