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Ten year anniversary of Cardiff Blues stunning EDF Energy Cup triumph

18th April 2019

Proudly hanging on the wall in his Cheltenham home is Nicky Robinson’s EDF final jersey – a priceless keepsake of his crowning moment at Cardiff Blues.

Robinson pulled the strings behind a dominant pack as Wales’ Capital Region claimed a 50-12 Anglo-Welsh Cup final victory over his future employers.

Cardiff had ridden the crest of a wave all the way to Twickenham after booking their place in the Heineken Cup semi-finals the previous weekend. They had already inflicted two defeats on Gloucester during their European adventure and the Cherry and Whites were once again swept away by the relentless Blues tide.

More than 50 coaches of Cardiff Blues supporter left the Arms Park for the home of English rugby that morning and they were treated to a feast of running rugby on an unforgettable day.

Robinson has countless memories from that first stint at his home region but beating the Cherry and Whites in such emphatic fashion is undoubtedly number one.

“The biggest thing when I decided to leave Cardiff Blues was to finish on the best possible terms,” recalls the former fly-half. “But the season went so well that it made it really tough. “To finish at my home club winning something, which I hadn’t done before, was really special and is something I will always cherish. It is one, if not the, best moment I have had, being on the pitch that day.

“We were going so well as a team that season and were going into the game on the back of a European win over Toulouse to reach the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup.

“We had won all of our games in that European campaign, Gloucester at the Millennium Stadium and Kingsholm so there was so much confidence.

“On the day itself I remember being in the changing rooms and there was just this massive excitement and buzz.

“I don’t remember much about changing rooms, but that day really stands out. There was just such a buzz, I got a bit emotional and then we just came flying out of the blocks and everything clicked.

“Not at any point did we feel any pressure and the likes of Xavier Rush, Gethin Jenkins, Taufa’ao Filise, Maama Molitika all carried really well. I remember speaking to the Gloucester boys after and they just felt our key men were unplayable that day.

“A big part of their game-plan was to stop Rushie. Will James had the task of getting stuck into him but Rushie ran over the top of him about four times and that set the tone.”

Robinson’s half-back partner that day was Richie Rees, who was named on the bench but thrust into action on three minutes after Jason Spice suffered a fractured arm.

Rees added: “I remember us making a break and Spicey went in to clear but stayed down. I had literally just got to my seat and they said I was going on.

“Within minutes of coming on Leigh Halfpenny scored a great try and that really settled the nerves.”

That first try was a stunning team effort started virtually on the Blues’ own try line and encapsulated the high-tempo, free-flowing rugby they played.

“The forwards made some good carries and drove us up the pitch before Nicky made a great break. He linked up with Nugget (Martyn Williams), who fed Pens. Pens gave it to me on the loop and I played it out the back for his first try.

“We had such a good group back then. We had a really good core to the squad with guys like Paul Tito, Xavier Rush, Ben Blair and young guys like Jamie Roberts and Leigh Halfpenny coming through.

“We were tight group, really enjoyed each other’s company and stayed up in London – it was certainly a quiet night!

“I remember the following week in the review, Dai Young showed Dean Ryan, the Gloucester director of rugby’s post-match interview. He basically said they couldn’t like with our physicality and intensity and had lost every single collision. That probabl summed up the performance.”

The rampant Blues scored seven tries with Tom James, Tom Shanklin and Ceri Sweeney all adding to Halfpenny and Blair’s braces.

Sir Ian McGeechan named his British & Irish Lions squad the following week and six Cardiff Blues stars – Gethin Jenkins, Martyn Wiliams, Andy Powell, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Roberts and Leigh Halfpenny – were rewarded for their form.

But following the ecstasy came agony and two weeks later the Blues wave came crashing down as they lost their Heineken Cup semi-final against Leicester in first and last penalty shootout in the European showpiece.

Nonetheless, it was a campaign to cherish and the next season Cardiff Blues clinched the European Challenge Cup title. The first Welsh region to win a European trophy and a record that remains today.

Paul Rees - Guardian

Cardiff were at times spectacular as they took advantage. They say there are places still up for grabs in the Lions party to be announced on Tuesday and plenty of fringe candidates from Cardiff put up their hand.

James Standley- BBC

The Blues - born out of the venerable Cardiff club when Welsh rugby moved to the regional model - went into the game chasing silverware on two fronts following last weekend's Heineken Cup quarter-final win over French aristocrats Toulouse.

It was their first final since becoming a region in 2003 but they showed no sign of nerves and dominated from the first whistle, winning the collisions and showing plenty of enterprise with ball in hand.

Paul Ackford – Telegraph

Ouch. This is the kind of defeat which can end careers. For the third time this season Cardiff have taught Gloucester a harsh lesson. Their first two victories booted Gloucester out of the Heineken Cup and this latest one, a glorious free-flowing effort, brought them the title of EDF champions. 

As ever, it started up front where Taufa’ao Filise, their big Tongan prop, had a huge match. Filise dominated every collision he organised. He was forceful, quick on his feet and the contrast with the gutsy, but lumbering, Gloucester front five was stark.

Gavin Mairs – Telegraph

Having ground out their European Cup quarter-final against Toulouse with a mighty defensive effort, Cardiff were a completely different beast against Gloucester, revelling in the warm sunshine and firm ground to deliver a power-infused, high tempo, offloading performance – the kind of rugby that the Lions will need to replicate in South Africa.