Ask anyone who was in attendance for Cardiff’s Challenge Cup semi final victory over Pau in 2018, and they will testify that it stands out amongst the finest afternoons at the Arms Park in recent years.
Memories were made as the home side booked their place in Bilbao, where they would go on to lift a second piece of European silverware in a thrilling final against Gloucester.
But, as the Blue and Blacks prepare for another blockbuster European knockout tie at at the capital next month - hosting English giants Sale Sharks in the Round of 16 on April 1 (KO 8pm) - Owen Lane is desperate to create more magic moments at the iconic ground.
CARDIFF v SALE SHARKS; APRIL 1 (KO 8PM); EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP ROUND OF 16 - TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW
Back in 2018, the wing was enjoying a breakthrough campaign with his hometown club and had cemented his place in the first team by the time the French outfit - which included superstars such as Steffon Armitage and All Blacks legend Conrad Smith - rocked up at Cardiff, as the Welsh international recalls: “It was definitely one of the highlights of my time at Cardiff so far. It was the first season I’d broken into the first team and I hadn’t played in an occasion that big at that point.
“It wasn’t just a semi final, but a home semi final at the Arms Park. We had a massive crowd and all my friends and family were there.
“Being the biggest fixture I’d play in made it enough of an occasion, especially as it was my first taste of semi final rugby.
“But then you add in the calibre of players involved on both sides, including Conrad Smith who was a big idol of mine when I was growing up as he was for many others. It was special to come up against someone I’d looked up to from an early age.”
A barnstorming run from Seb Davies set up the game’s only try for Gareth Anscombe, while Jarrod Evans was faultless from the tee. Willis Halaholo and Rey Lee-Lo were at their menacing best in the centre, Olly Robinson and Ellis Jenkins were imperious at the breakdown and Lane himself contributed to the effort with a huge carry that rocked All Black legend Smith.
And Lane believes the stand-out highlight moments went a long way in igniting the electric Arms Park atmosphere that afternoon, and emphasises the importance of heading into the Sale clash with a similar mindset this time around.
The homegrown star added: “I think I was a bit gutted when it was Chicken who got on the scoresheet in those opening minutes, but in all seriousness, to start well and putting an early marker down is massively important particularly in these European knockout matches.
“It’s all about momentum, and while we’re lucky with the crowd we have at the Arms Park, you’ve got to give them moments to cheer about. Hopefully we can do that, whether it’s through our attack or some big turnovers.
“We’ve got a great back row, no matter who plays, who can give us a great foothold into the game and hopefully we can get a few more big moments early on to settle us and get the crowd on our side, which is probably the most important thing.
“European rugby at the Arms Park is always a special occasion, but particularly for these big games. It’s such an intimate stadium so when it is full it creates a hell of an atmosphere.
“That’s why away supporters and players appreciate the stadium as much as the home ones.
“Hopefully we can get a big crowd and make it a big occasion, which would give us a big boost and hopefully lead us to a result.
“We've got a team full of internationals, and we’ve also got a lot of great overseas players and boys who are knocking on the door of that international scene.
“On our day, we genuinely do believe that we can compete with any team out there.
“Sale will be a massive test and they’re going well at the moment having had a few good results.
“But these are the opportunities that you relish as a player. You want to test yourself against the best players in your country but also further afield, and Europe gives us a massive opportunity to do that.
“The occasion speaks for itself, and you can certainly thrive off that, but ultimately it’s just another game for us.
“It’s a European fixture and we’re certainly hoping for a big crowd, but we’ve got boys in the squad who have played in enough big occasions and will understand what they need to do on the day.
“We’ll have a game plan going into the match and our minds will be firmly fixed on that rather than the occasion, which is hopefully something we can enjoy and appreciate afterwards.”
Knockout rugby returns to Cardiff Arms Park for the first time since 2018 as Dai Young's Blue and Blacks welcome English giants Sale Sharks to the capital for a blockbuster Round of 16 clash. Join us for another memorable afternoon as Cardiff look to write the latest chapter in their European history. Purchase your tickets by clicking HERE