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Rees and Nugget reflect on stunning win in Marseille 10 years on

Blues News | 26th May 2020


Last Saturday marked the 10 year anniversary since Cardiff Blues’ epic Amlin Challenge Cup final victory over a star-studded Toulon on an unforgettable day in sunny Marseille.

It was a stunning afternoon of rugby on the French coast, as Dai Young’s side became the first Welsh team to lift European silverware, thank to tries from academy products Jamie Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny and Bradley Davies.

Speaking to BBC Wales, Welsh internationals Martyn Williams and Richie Rees recalled one of the highlights of their professional rugby careers.

"It's up there for me, the way we won it made it a bit more special,” said Nugget.

"We wanted to be in the Champions Cup, but the experience that day is without doubt a highlight of my club career.

 "You look at the guys who scored the tries; Bradley, Leigh Halfpenny and Jamie Roberts were home-grown talent who'd come through our system, so that was brilliant.

"With Xavier, Paul Tito and myself there were so many leaders on the pitch, that was a big part of it. We were a fit team under Dai Young, it wasn't an overnight success, but from 2007 to 2010 we would have backed ourselves against anyone in Europe.

"Dai had been through a lot early in his coaching career so he more than anyone deserved that success, he'd learned how to win tournaments.

"We didn't lose too many to the international stage.

"There was a core who would stay behind and run the culture and the club, so getting the right three or four overseas guys can make a massive difference.

"It's easier said than done with the market forces of England and France pulling those quality players."

Many will recall the red-hot atmosphere at Stade Velodrome that day, where a pocket of Cardiff Blues supporters made sure they were heard in the sea of Toulon fanatics.

For Rees, who was on the coaching series for the cup success in Bilbao in 2018, the memories of Marseille remain sweet and the trophy represented the quality of that generation of Cardiff Blues players.

"We knew it was going to be special when we went there for the team run the night before," said the former Wales scrum half.

"There were Toulon supporters banging on the bus as we drove in and it was like an international day.

"It was an unbelievable experience, but looking back on it now, 10 years ago I probably didn't appreciate it, but it's brilliant to reminisce about a European cup for a Welsh team.

"We rode our luck for the first 20 or 30 minutes but as the game went on, our brand of rugby exposed them a bit, we had the quality, we were very accurate and our big players stood up.

"It was a key moment [when Jonny Wilkinson was forced off with injury], they didn't have a recognised number 10 on the bench and the balance of the game shifted, we really took control with three tries on the bounce.

"They scored in the 79th minute, we needed to keep our discipline, one of their forwards got stripped in the tackle and I banged the ball off the field.

"But I'll never forget, Jamie Roberts jumped straight on me and I said, 'Get off, I can't breathe,' after playing 80 minutes in 30-degree heat. It brings a smile to my face now. Unbelievable memories.

"We had quality foreigners and a good young Welsh bunch coming through, a good balance and a very honest group, and it showed in that successful two or three years we had,.”