Anscombe up for challenge as Cardiff fightback stuns Gloucester
Cardiff 31 Gloucester 30
Gareth Anscombe must have feared the worst when his 77th-minute penalty floated wide of the uprights. But he needn't have worried as his penalty at the death two minutes later secured a nail-biting victory to claim the European Challenge Cup and inflict yet another defeat on English rugby.
England may have beaten Wales in the Six Nations, but it's been a woeful season for Premiership clubs in Europe. Gloucester had a chance to address that here in the first ever European rugby final to be played in Spain, but they let slip a 14-point half-time lead at Bilbao's San Mames Stadium and were left to rue switching off during the third quarter.
Two first-half tries from Henry Trinder and Mark Atkinson - a try of the season contender - plus 10 points from the boot of Billy Twelvetrees - gave Gloucester a healthy 20-6 lead at the break, but Cardiff hit back inside the first minute of the second half through Tomos Williams, added a second not long after from Garyn Smith and scored an important third late in the game from Blaine Scully that set up Anscombe's grandstand moment. It was a perfect first half for Gloucester - two tries to show for their hard work, two excellent finishes and their own try line well intact. The first points did come from Cardiff in the form of a Jarrod Evans penalty after a Nick Williams turnover, but seven minutes in Gloucester began to click. With a penalty advantage Billy Burns elected for a cross-field kick and Trinder pulled off a lovely diving catch to score.
Twelvetrees added the difficult touchline conversion and three more points just shy of the half-hour mark after Evans had added his second penalty, but just as the Blues looked to have stemmed the tide of attacks, Gloucester hit them hard.
Cardiff needed an immediate response after half-time with the game drifting away from them - and they got it within 45 seconds of the restart.
It was Anscombe (left) who produced it, with his chip, chase and collect breaking the line and second kick in setting up a foot-race between the two scrum-halves. Tomos Williams won it, and when it bounced back off the post protector, it kindly fell into his path for the Blues' No 9 to dive on it and slide over the line to score, with Evans adding the conversion from in front of the posts.