Gareth Anscombe Looks Ahead To Revenge Mission Against “Classy” Gloucester

Gareth Anscombe admits European Challenge Cup final opponents Gloucester are a “class team” who stand between Cardiff Blues and glory in Bilbao.

The Wales outside-half scored his team’s only try as the Blues dug in for a gritty 16-10 semi-final victory over Pau at the Arms Park.

The win means the Blues will face Gloucester in Spain on May 11 in a repeat of last season’s quarter-final.

The English club were dominant a year ago, winning 46-26, but the Blues are a different proposition these days, as evidenced by their grafting suffocation job on their French opponents, which handed Danny Wilson’s side their eighth win in their last nine matches.

“We will just enjoy this moment because the club hasn’t been in these big games for a while,” said Anscombe.

“But we came across Gloucester last year in the quarter-final and it was a close game until about 50 minutes.

“They have a class team on paper, but we’ll enjoy our night and then start looking at them and what we need to do.”

Blues head coach Danny Wilson said: “I think we will go there as underdogs the way Gloucester have been in form and watching them last night they were outstanding.

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“They are a side with big line-speed in defence and they’re a quality outfit, well coached and well drilled, so we will have to be on top of our game.

“It’s cup rugby, it’s a final, anything can happen and we’ll go there with confidence.”

The Blues emerged victorious despite Pau enjoying sustained scrum dominance that saw them gain several penalties from referee John Lacey.

However, Cardiff reigned supreme at the breakdown with the likes of Ellis Jenkins and Josh Navidi having a huge impact in this area as the Blues held their nerve.

Full-back Anscombe scored an early try, while Wales fly-half hopeful Jarrod Evans kicked three penalties and a conversion.

Pau’s World Cup-winning former New Zealand centre Conrad Smith touched down for the visitors, with fly-half Tom Taylor adding a conversion and penalty, but the French side ultimately suffered their first defeat in this season’s competition.

Anscombe added: “We started pretty well, but we had moments when we gave away some silly penalties and they have a very big pack.

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“They put us under a bit of pressure at scrum time and their maul started working well before half-time.

“But every time they threw something at us, we found a way to come back. Our breakdown work was outstanding and our back row really stepped up. They won some key jackals at the end and that probably won the game for us.

“I thought our scrum really stepped up in the second half and the guys who came on did really well. We had to adapt because the referee was giving a few penalties. It was pretty tough, but our back row were superb.

“It was the best atmosphere I have known at the Arms Park by a country mile. It was pretty much a packed house and you could see how much it meant to everyone.”

Pau had breezed through the pool phase by collecting 29 points from a possible 30, yet the Blues proved tough nuts to crack.

The Welsh challengers dug deep during an intense second period that produced just three points before claiming a showdown in Spain against Gloucester.

The Blues made a flying start as they breached Pau’s defence inside six minutes.

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Evans was the catalyst, rifling out a defence-splitting pass to lock Seb Davies, who then timed his delivery perfectly to an unmarked Anscombe and the Blues were off and running.

Evans converted from the touchline and Pau – despite some early impressions in the loose by their juggernaut forwards – found themselves seven points adrift.

The setback, though, did not deter them in terms of applying relentless scrum pressure, and after Taylor missed a 17th-minute penalty, they drew level by capitalising on an Anscombe error.

The Wales international’s attempted clearance from just outside his 22 was charged down by Pau lock Julien Pierre, and although Pierre could not gather, Smith kicked on and won the race to claim a try that Taylor converted.

Evans then kicked a penalty to edge the Blues back in front, and although Taylor landed an equalising strike, Evans came up trumps again two minutes before half-time as his team shaded a fierce first half 13-10.

Pau captain Thibault Daubagna missed with a long-range penalty attempt early in the second period and Pau – marshalled superbly by their midfield general Smith – began to show some attacking prowess.

But the visitors could not make it count in the Blues’ 22, and Evans made them pay when he kicked a 40-metre penalty six minutes from time and sparked celebrations for an 11,700 crowd.

 

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