It is nearly eight years since Cardiff Blues won their first-ever trophy with an exceptional performance against Gloucester in 2009.
Tom James remains from that side that lifted the Anglo-Welsh Cup at Twickenham, which also contained Ceri Sweeney, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny, Gethin Jenkins and Martyn Williams.
With so many Grand Slam winners in their ranks, Cardiff were a tough proposition for any side – backed up by their second-place Guinness PRO12 finish behind Leinster that year.
Cardiff had topped their Anglo-Welsh group with a perfect three wins from three ahead of Leicester Tigers before edging out Northampton Saints in the semi-final and clinching the crown against Gloucester.
And as the Welsh Guinness PRO12 clubs return to action in the cross-border tournament – with Danny Wilson’s side travelling to Sale Sharks, Scarlets playing Saracens, Newport Gwent Dragons taking on Newcastle Falcons and former champions Ospreys up against Bristol – we take a trip down memory lane to remember a fine Blues vintage.
The Halfpenny show:
Back in the days when Halfpenny was known more for his scything breaks than his metronomic boot, the then 20-year-old flier had two tries before the Cherry & Whites had a chance to draw breath at Twickenham.
The Cardiff side came into the game boosted by a 9-6 victory away to Toulouse – and indeed it took a penalty shootout after extra time and a 26-26 draw with Leicester Tigers in the semi-final to deny them a first-ever European final.
And despite watching scrum-half Jason Spice depart with a broken arm early on, Blues would not have their rhythm upset as Nicky Robinson coasted through a gap and fed Shanklin before the flying Halfpenny collected the ball.
Halfpenny swapped passes with Richie Rees before going over for a converted try.
Shanklin and Roberts then teamed up to put Halfpenny over for his second, the centres conjuring up a linebreak before Williams passed wide to the young winger for a second try and a 17-0 lead.
A fight back?
Mark Foster did offer Gloucester a glimmer of hope with half an hour gone as he finished off a brilliant team move, but James – who returned to Cardiff last year after a period away with Exeter Chiefs and has made 95 Guinness PRO12 appearances – fended off Ryan Lamb for Blues’ third.
Despite Blair’s missed conversion, Blues led 22-5 at the break and Gloucester did well to hold them at bay for nearly half an hour in the second half.
Blair adds the finishing touches:
Former All Black Ben Blair took advantage of a Robinson break and Jenkins’ fine support play for his first try of the afternoon, which he then converted.
Sweeney collected a loose ball to go over for an opportunist’s try to deepen Gloucester’s woe as Blair added the extras before scoring his second.
Centre Shanklin, who won 70 caps for Wales, also went over on a memorable day for the Welsh capital outfit as they secured a handsome 50-12 victory.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017, 27th May, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Ticket Information: Fans can still avail of an exclusive number of €30 tickets. Book via www.ticketmaster.ie. Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final