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Gloucester Rugby director of rugby David Humphreys knows the importance of his team’s European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final with Cardiff Blues.
The two teams meet at Kingsholm on Saturday evening for a clash Humphreys wants to win.
Last season’s Challenge Cup saw the Cherry and Whites beaten by Newport Gwent Dragons on home soil at exactly this stage. It’s a result Humphreys is hoping won’t be repeated.
He said: “For a lot of us the Dragons last year was a particular low point so we know how important this game is for us in the context of the season.
“We're conscious we need to build on last week's performance at Bristol, which was good, but we obviously need to be better this week to get the result. Our mind's very much on the threats the Blues have across their team with some of their players coming back from the Six Nations.
“We know if we give them space and time on the ball they've got players who will hurt us. We defended very well last week and we brought some real energy and line speed to our defence – that's something we've got to bring again.”
Gloucester finished top of Pool 1 with 25 points, but are currently without injured skipper Greig Laidlaw. Hooker Richard Hibbard has been in fine recent form for the English side, and will be looking to continue his impressive run against the team from his homeland.
Humphreys added: “Being back at Kingsholm, coming off what was a disappointing result against Harlequins and all the implications of that result, we want to show the supporters what this team is about. We want to build on last week's win and bring some pride again with a big performance.
“We've also got to be better with the ball. That's a big part of our focus, that we get the basics right, we get our set piece right, and when we get the ball we hold on to it.”
Cardiff Blues are set to welcome back Wales flanker Sam Warburton for their short trip across the border, as they look to get back to winning ways following defeat at Leinster.
“This is why you play, to have the opportunity to chase cups like this,” said wing Blaine Scully.
“This is now everything to us. It is where all our focus is. It will be pretty big, our biggest game of the year and a real raw opportunity for us to go out make a statement and put in a performance.
“Kingsholm is pretty unique and one of the great grounds. They obviously love everything about their rugby team, it's an energetic crowd and can be hostile but as a competitor that's a great place to go and compete.
“It's fun to be in that environment and feels like it's you against the world. You have to embrace that moment and enjoy it for what it – an amazing opportunity to play in a great ground, against a great opponent in a really meaningful game.”
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Billy Twelvetrees masterminded Gloucester Rugby’s charge as they downed Cardiff Blues 46-26 in their European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final.
In a game which entertained from first minute to last, the Cherry and Whites scored six tries with full-back Tom Marshall crossing twice. Ross Moriarty, Jonny May, Mark Atkinson and Henry Purdy also got in on the act, with the impressive Twelvetrees kicking four conversions and a penalty.
The Blues had played some sublime rugby of their own in the first half, Alex Cuthbert’s brace putting them into a narrow three-point interval lead. It was one they couldn’t hang on to though as the Welsh region were left ruing what might have been.
An all-action start at Kingsholm saw two early tries from two Welsh internationals.
The Blues were playing some enterprising rugby, Cuthbert opening the scoring with a superb finish following a series of impressive carries by the forwards.
The wing smashed through two tackles to make his way to the line, Steven Shingler converting to make it 7-0.
Gloucester then hit back, Moriarty picking up a loose ball after Richard Hibbard carried into contact and brushing aside Matthew Morgan on his way to the line. Billy Burns’ kick levelled the scores, but there was no let-up in the intensity of the encounter.
Moriarty had put in one brutal hit on Gareth Anscombe, while a sublime break from full-back Morgan nearly created a try for visiting scrum-half Lloyd Williams.
Shingler then kicked two penalties, either side of one from Burns, before the Gloucester fly-half went off for a head injury assessment after a worrying blow to the head.
In his absence, man of the match Twelvetrees took over kicking duties to make it 13-13, the centre then producing a moment of magic to break clear between Shingler and Rey Lee-Lo and put Marshall away to score.
Twelvetrees converted for a seven-point lead, but the see-saw nature of the game continued as the Blues finished the half the stronger. Danny Wilson’s men repeatedly opted for driving line-outs close to the Gloucester line, home prop Josh Hohneck eventually sin binned as the Cherry and Whites continued to infringe.
It allowed the Blues to make the most of their man advantage, Anscombe’s short ball finding Cuthbert to dot down. Shingler converted and the half ended with Ascombe slotting a nerveless 40-metre drop goal.
The first period had been breathless and while there was less scoring in the second, it was similarly fast-paced. Shingler extended the Blues’ lead with a 50th minute penalty, but from then on it began to unravel for the visitors.
Twelvetrees, who had stepped inside to fly-half when Burns went off injured, controlled the game magnifecently and his cross-kick found England wing May who dived over.
Just four minutes later, Marshall added his second and with Twelvetrees booting both sets of extras, Gloucester were suddenly in control.
The Blues' control, which had been so impressive in the opening 40, had now disappeared and the third quarter saw them lose the game.
When Atkinson added Gloucester’s fifth try, benefiting from a poor defensive read by Lee-Lo, the Blues were now three scores behind.
Twelvetrees once again converted to make it 41-26 and although the Blues pushed hard to get back into it, Gloucester reached the last four as Purdy put the gloss on the victory.
David Humphrey's men coming out on top means they set up a semi-final tie with France’s surprise package La Rochelle who they met in the pool stages.
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