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Cardiff Blues have named a strong side as they cling on to faint hopes of reaching the knock-out stages of the European Challenge Cup.
Their 34-26 defeat to Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop in round five means the Blues are unlikely to feature in the quarter-finals but could still qualify if they comprehensively beat Calvisano and other results go their way.
A maximum points victory over their pool three rivals Calvisano, who have left all five of their matches so far, should be a formality for the Blues.
But they will need pool winners Quins to deny Montpellier any points when they meet at the Altrad Stadium on Friday in order to leapfrog the French side into second place in the pool.
It would then also depend on the results of fixtures involving Edinburgh, Zebre, Connacht and Brive as to whether Danny Wilson’s Blues qualify for the knock-out stages of the competition they won in 2010.
Wilson has been able to pick a host of Wales internationals including Sam Warburton, Alex Cuthbert, Gareth Anscombe, Tom James and Gethin Jenkins for Friday’s contest.
“What we need to do against Calvisano is show improvement – start well and finish with the same passion as we did at Quins to get a win at home,” Wilson said.
“We’re trying to build something here and we are going to have bumps in the road at times. The first half in London was a bump in the road while the second half was a far better performance.”
- Cardiff have won four of their five home fixtures in the Challenge Cup so far, averaging 44 points per game in those five games.
- Cardiff have won all three matches against Italian teams in the Challenge Cup, as well as the seven matches in the Champions Cup before that.
- Rugby Calvisano are still searching for their maiden victory away from home in the Challenge Cup in what will be their 15th away fixture.
- Calvisano have conceded 123 points in their two away fixtures in this season’s competition.
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Cardiff Blues racked up 12 tries in a thumping 74-6 victory over Rugby Calvisano, but their bid for a quarter-final spot fell short after Montpellier’s victory over Harlequins.
Five tries in the first-half and six in the second secured the Blues’ huge win, but it was not enough as they finished third in Pool 3.
Cardiff got off to a flying start as they went hunting for the tries that could potentially grant them a pass into the quarter-finals. It was the Blues’ form flyer Tom James who dotted down at the corner after the hosts upped the tempo in the build-up. Gareth Anscombe landed the first of three consecutive touchline conversions to give the Blues a dream start.
James then helped set his Wales squad colleague Cory Allen up for the second try after just 10 minutes. The wing broke clear and fed Gavin Evans, who in turn sent Allen on his way to the try-line. Anscombe was on target again to make it 14-0. Florian Vlaicu landed a penalty to give the Italians a glimmer of hope, but that was quickly extinguished by the Blues.
The home pack shunted their way to turnover ball at a scrum, and Allen floated a perfectly weighted pass to James for the wing’s second try. And the bonus-point was wrapped up soon after when Josh Navidi splintered off the back of a rolling maul to touch-down. The first-half scoring was rounded off by Dan Fish, who chased and collected Tavis Knoyle’s chip ahead for a fifth score and a handsome 33-3 lead at the break.
Hooker Ethan Lewis pounced on a loose-ball at a lineout to claim his first European try, before James produced something special to claim a hat trick. The former Exeter flyer seared down the left flank, leaving defenders in his wake to score from 40 yards out. Alex Cuthbert got in on the act for the ninth try, before Aled Summerhill, Rhys Patchell and Macauley Cook finished off the rout.