Anglo-Welsh Cup - Round 1 Review
Blues snatch dramatic victory
November 8, 2009
Leeds Carnegie's Lee Armstrong races away to score a try against Leicester Tigers © Getty Images
Ceri Sweeney kicked a last-gasp penalty to see defending champions Cardiff Blues claim a 26-25 victory over Gloucester in a thoroughly entertaining Anglo-Welsh Cup encounter at Kingsholm.
The Blues, who hammered their Premiership rivals 50-12 in last season's finale, were trailing 16-13 after a frenetic opening half thanks to tries from Gloucester captain Gareth Delve and flanker Adam Eustace, plus a penalty apiece from fly-half Nicky Robinson and full-back Freddie Burns. Cardiff's points came courtesy of a Xavier Rush score plus eight points from Sweeney's boot.
Burns and Sweeney traded penalties early in the second stanza before Sam Norton-Knight glided over to put Cardiff back in front. But two late penalties from Spencer looked to have given the Cherry and Whites a first win in five games, only for Sweeney, who kicked 16 points in total, to hold his nerve in the dying seconds.
First-half tries by David Lemi and Mark Van Gisbergen combined with the boot of Dave Walder to earn Wasps a hard-fought 24-20 victory over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium. Wasps, who took this match seriously by playing a close-to-full-strength team, were 18-10 up at the break thanks to the touchdowns by two of their back three.
Walder had kicked a conversion and two penalties by then and he added another three-pointer after the interval to steer the visitors home. Peter Hewat went over for a brace of tries for Irish, one either side of half-time, but they could not recover despite late pressure. The other good news for Wasps was the successful return of England lock Simon Shaw, who played the whole match in his first senior start since the Lions tour this summer. Shaw was yellow-carded late on, however, to blot his copybook.
Elsewhere, a youthful Leeds Carnegie side notched a 28-17 over Leicester Tigers at Headingley. Last weekend, Leeds beat Wasps to register their first Guinness Premiership win of the season - and overcoming the reigning champions represented another notable scalp although it has to be remembered this was against a severely under-strength Leicester outfit.
Leeds outscored Leicester by three tries to two with Debutant Joe Ford, son of England coach Mike, putting in a man-of-the-match performance at fly-half to upstage his younger brother George - who was playing in the same position for the Tigers.
Harlequins and Scarlets battled to a hard-fought 15-15 draw at the Twickenham Stoop where England winger David Strettle's injury curse struck again.
Strettle, released to play for his club when Martin Johnson reduced his original 32-man squad for the Twickenham clash with Australia to the match-day 22, was injured scoring a fourth-minute try and continued briefly after treatment. But clearly struggling, he was replaced by George Lowe nine minutes later.
Harlequins added a further try from lock George Robson and a penalty and conversion from fly-half Rory Clegg. The Welsh side replied with tries from centre Gareth Maule, left-wing Andy Fenby and a penalty and conversion from number 10 Rhys Priestland.
In Sunday's other game, Saracens beat Bath for the second time in nine days to kick start their campaign. The Guinness Premiership leaders twice came from behind, before running out deserved 30-22 victors of an entertaining match. Fly-half Glen Jackson kicked 20 points, helping Saracens to nine wins from 10 in all competitions.
Worcester Warriors produced a commanding second-half display as they romped to a 32-6 victory over Newcastle Falcons at Sixways on Saturday afternoon.
Worcester had only led by two points at the interval, with Warriors winger Miles Benjamin accounting for the first half's only try. However, the hosts were utterly dominant in the second half, using the rolling maul to devastating effect as they ultimately coasted to a fine bonus point-clinching win after further touchdowns from Tom Wood, Ollie Frost and Jake Abbott.
Newport Gwent Dragons extended their unbeaten home record to nine matches as they eased to a 20-9 victory over a below-par Sale side in an error-ridden clash at Rodney Parade on Friday night.
The Dragons, unbeaten at home since March, took an early lead through a converted try from fly-half and captain Shaun Connor, but his opposite number Charlie Hodgson kicked two penalties to narrow the gap to 7-6 at the break.
Connor and Hodgson exchanged further penalties after the break before scrum-half Danny Lee wriggled his way over for a try which clinched the win as replacement fly-half Adam Greendale added the conversion and a further penalty.
Northampton kicked off this season's competition with a valubale 19-17 victory over Ospreys at Liberty Stadium on Thursday night.
Saints had held a 13-0 lead following a try from lock James Cannon plus two penalties and a conversion from fly-half Stephen Myler. But tries from hooker Richard Hibbard and replacement Jonathan Spratt, plus seven points from the boot of stand-off Gareth Owen, brought the Welsh side back to take a 17-16 advantage. But Myler knocked over another penalty 10 minutes from time to seal the win.