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Cardiff Blues secured their place in the European Rugby Challenge Cup final against Gloucester Rugby after a fiercely-contested 16-10 triumph over Pau in front of a capacity Cardiff Arms Park crowd.
- With the sun beating down on the Welsh capital, Danny Wilson’s side progressed to Europe’s top table courtesy of a Gareth Anscombe try and nine crucial points from the boot of Jarrod Evans as they booked their place in the Bilbao finals.
- In an expansive opening exchange Cardiff Blues emerged on top as Evans set lock Seb Davies free and the forward waited patiently before offering up a perfect offload for Anscombe to dot down the lone home try of match in the right corner.
- Full-back Anscombe went from hero to villain 15 minutes later as his kick was charged down and All Blacks veteran Conrad Smith seized upon the loose ball to slide in under the posts as Pau restored parity.
- Fellow New Zealand international Tom Taylor followed up his conversion by exchanging penalty kicks with opposite number Evans, but it was the Blues who went into the interval with a slender three-point advantage.
- If the first half was a tale of breaking backs, the second was defined by defensive resilience as Pau asserted pressure on Cardiff Blues in a bid to turn the tables.
- Cardiff were equal to the challenge, though, with back-row trio Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins and Nick Williams all rising to the fore in a stoic display.
- Navidi and Williams both completed 11 tackles, while Heineken Man of the Match Jenkins offered a perfect defensive display hitting all 12 of his tackles as the Blues kept the door closed.
- Pau’s potent wing, Wotasoni Votu, had the best chance of the second period as he charged down the left flank, but he was stopped in his tracks by a fantastic Alex Cuthbert tackle. The Exeter Chiefs-bound flyer gained a standing ovation from the Cardiff Arms Park faithful on his final appearance at the famous ground.
- Evans rounded off a hard-fought victory for the Blues with the only points of the second half on 74 minutes. He slotted a 44-metre penalty kick to a chorus of ‘Bread of Heaven’ as the 2009/10 European Rugby Challenge Cup winners lined up a finale with two-time champions Gloucester Rugby in the Basque Country.