European Takeaways: Leinster and Cardiff Blues are crowned

Rich Dore
14 May 2018

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Just in case you somehow missed it, the weekend gone contained bucketloads of excellent rugby as Leinster and Cardiff Blues both claimed European titles.

The Guinness PRO14 teams descended upon Bilbao’s Basque Country and came away with two perfect results…here is a quick rundown of how the action unfolded.

Leinster seal record-equalling fourth European crown

  • There are now two teams who have been made champions of Europe on four occasions – Toulouse and Leinster Rugby. And whilst the French giants’ triumphs look to be a long time ago now, Leinster’s have all come in the last nine years, with the latest crown hinting at many more good things to come. Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, James Ryan and Dan Leavy are all 23 and under and could terrorise European opposition for years to come.
  • The 15-12 victory was hard-fought and nervy, with Leinster’s five penalties outdoing Racing 92’s four. Fly-half Jonny Sexton kicked two in the first half to bring the sides level 6-6 at the break, and Racing led 12-9 with less than ten minutes left on the clock. The crowd sensed Leinster had energy in the tank and so it transpired, as Ica Nacewa kicked two late penalties to seal the famous win.
  • The French outfit led on four separate occasions but couldn’t quite get over the line, with Remi Tales’ late drop-goal attempt drifting wide of the post. The defeat means the Parisians have now lost two Champions Cup finals in three years. Leinster were perhaps not at their best but did what was needed and are now only the second team in history (after Saracens in 2015-16) to win all nine games en route to the trophy.

Cardiff Blues win exhilarating final to claim European Challenge Cup

  • What a game, what an ending and what a result. In the first instalment of European finals on Friday night Cardiff Blues swashbuckled their way to a 31-30 victory over Gloucester Rugby in Bilbao. The match was a superb spectacle for all who watched, with both sides scoring three tries and almost all of them a sight for sore eyes. Tomos Williams’ score just after half-time was perhaps the pick of the bunch, with Gareth Anscombe twice chipping through and the scrum-half applying the finish.
  • And let’s go back to that man Anscombe once again. The playmaker, starting at full-back in the final, had an excellent game all round with that assist for Williams’ try the very embodiment of grabbing a game by the scruff of the neck. The Wales man missed a difficult kick with minutes left to play, but then held his nerve to slot the winning penalty right at the death.
  • The win claims a second Challenge Cup title in the club’s history, the previous crown coming in 2010. Anyone connected with the club was elated after the match, with the Blues 20-6 down at half-time but producing a scintillating comeback in which the lead changed five times – a special moment for departing head coach Danny Wilson.

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