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Preliminary stage table-toppers London Irish meet Cardiff Blues in the European Rugby Challenge Cup Round of 16.
Irish finished on 10 points after picking up bonus point victories over Agen (34-8) and Pau (26-17), while Cardiff were just one point behind in third.
Cardiff have only won two of their last eight away games in England in the Challenge Cup but did claim victory at Newcastle Falcons (33-20) in the preliminary stage this season.
In eight meetings between the sides, both have come out on top on four occasions. Irish won the most recent encounter between the teams, at home in the 2014/15 Challenge Cup pool stage.
The match at the Brentford Community Stadium kicks off at 17:30 (UK and Irish time) on April 2 and will be available to watch on BT Sport.
London Irish; 1st European Rugby Challenge Cup Prelim Round; 10 points
Cardiff Blues; 3rd European Rugby Challenge Cup Prelim Round; 9 points
London Irish wins: 4
Cardiff Blues wins: 4
Leading 2020/21 points-scorer
London Irish: Albert Tuisue, Phil Cokansiga, James Stokes (10)
Cardiff Blues: Jarrod Evans (16)
2️⃣ 𝔻𝔸𝕐𝕊 𝕋𝕆 𝔾𝕆 🚨
Which side will take a step closer to following @BristolBears in lifting the #ChallengeCupRugby trophy? 🏆
Preview 👉 https://t.co/DZcx7KcHq3 pic.twitter.com/NCzfp7pR05
— Challenge Cup (@ERChallengeCup) March 31, 2021
- London Irish and Cardiff Blues have faced each other four times in European competition, the Welsh side winning three of those clashes (L1); however, London Irish won the most recent encounter between the teams, at home in the 2014/15 Challenge Cup pool stage (34-23).
- London Irish won their first two games in the Challenge Cup this season after losing five of their six games in 2019/20 (W1); they have lost six of their eight meetings against teams from Wales in the competition (W2), including the most recent two.
- London Irish have lost five of their last eight home games in the Challenge Cup (W3) after winning nine of the previous 10 (L1).
- Cardiff Blues are looking to reach the quarter-final stage of the Challenge Cup for the fifth time, all of those appearances coming since 2009/10, no other Welsh side has reached this stage as often in that period.
- Cardiff Blues have only won two of their last eight away games in England in the Challenge Cup (L6) but did claim victory in the most recent one (33-20 v Newcastle Falcons in December 2020).
- London Irish have lost 11 lineouts on their own throw in the Challenge Cup this season, the most of any side, leaving them with the worst success rate (69%).
- Cardiff have averaged the most kicks in play (38) and fewest offloads (2) of any side in the Challenge Cup this season.
- Only Cooper Vuna (5) has made more breaks than London Irish’s James Stokes (4) in the Challenge Cup this season; whilst teammate Bill Meakes ranks joint third for defenders beaten (8).
- Jason Tovey (Cardiff) needs five more points to reach 200 in the Challenge Cup, he’d be the 34th player to reach this milestone.
- Jarrod Evans (Cardiff) has slotted 6/6 kicks at goal in the Challenge Cup this season, the most of any player who is yet to miss the target, Cardiff are the only team in the competition with a 100% kicking rate this season
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London Irish were down to 13 men and 12 points down at one stage, but managed to pull off the most remarkable of comebacks to defeat Cardiff Blues 41-35 in the Challenge Cup Round of 16.
In a match that looked certain to see the Welsh region progress to the last eight, Irish battled back and eventually got the win after Curtis Rona scored at the posts in the 80th minute.
At virtually no point did London Irish look in control of proceedings, although they did take the lead through a Paddy Jackson penalty kick but that was a short-lived lead.
Kristian Dacey first powered over for the visitors before he found Seb Davies who raced to the halfway line, with the lock kicking a stunning pass wide for Josh Adams who managed the bounce well to collect and score.
Jarrod Evans converted both and slotted a penalty kick before Ben Loader cut the gap before the break, having the gears to sprint clear and score.
Two rising stars combine for @londonirish! ☘️
Theo Brophy-Clews' arching run and Ollie Hassell-Collins does the rest! 💪#ChallengeCupRugby pic.twitter.com/i5Dyu2kCUJ
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 2, 2021
The start of the second period had a key moment as Irish forward Will Goodrick-Clarke was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle – Evans adding the three from the penalty.
The hosts still pushed and would score through Ollie Hassell-Collins but they were soon down to 13 men as Loader was shown a yellow card.
However, a brace of tries – first from Jason Harries and then from Lloyd Williams – looked to have sent Cardiff into the last eight.
The drama was only just beginning when Terrence Hepetema bulldozed past a couple of sloppy Cardiff tackles to score, with Jackson again converting.
WHAT A FINISH! 😲
Cardiff Blues think they've done enough to win with Jarrod Evans' late drop-goal…
But @Rona1Curtis has other ideas! Victory for @londonirish! ☘️#ChallengeCupRugby pic.twitter.com/inrOH6pe1H
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 2, 2021
Irish then took the lead through Hassell-Collins, after it was worked beautifully and he rounded his man to score.
But with three minutes to play, Jarrod Evans then pulled off a nerveless drop goal to nudge Cardiff in front.
And in the most dramatic of twists, once Hassell-Collins broke free of the Cardiff defence, it was Curtis Rona who dived over the try line at the posts, allowing Jackson to pop over the conversion and secure a famous win for his side.
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