Cardiff Blues turned on the European style as they claimed a bonus-point 37-24 win over Gloucester at Millennium Stadium on Sunday.
Cardiff Blues turned on the European style as they claimed a bonus-point 37-24 win over Gloucester, who left the Millennium Stadium with nothing on Sunday.
There had been pre-game murmurs that the venue change from next door would hand the Cherry and Whites a helpful leg-up as they looked to kick on from last week's win against Biarritz with a scalp on the road.
But in front of a decent crowd that included Wales coaches Shaun Edwards and Warren Gatland, it was the home side who prevailed in a thoroughly entertaining spectacle to move five points clear at the Pool Six summit.
The Blues set off at quiet a pace in what could be a vital result come January's shake-up as the steady figure of Jamie Robinson stood up the tackler before freeing wing Leigh Halfpenny for a race to try success.
In many cynics' eyes Gloucester have failed to reach the heights of last season just yet and for the first ten minutes they were chasing blue shadows – loose forward and man-of-the-match Andy Powell swatting off the English grabbers in an eye-catching display.
That admirable start from the Welsh side also saw them shift the point of attack effortlessly with the similarly impressive Ben Blair adding a penalty to his earlier conversion on twelve minutes.
Remarkably, it took Gloucester until close to the second quarter to post their first points as Olly Morgan's chase and hit on Robinson led to a calm Barkley three points.
Soon after a Blair response from the tee came a costly mistake from an innocent looking Maama Molitka as he touched Ryan Lamb's territorial kick in-flight before dabbing down in-goal – hope?
Gloucester duly grabbed their chance with seven points of their own as Morgan received Iain Balshaw's late pass to ground wide out – the score now cut to 13-10 in Cardiff Blues' favour.
Leading up to and after the full-back's crossing, the momentum had certainly changed hands in the Welsh capital as Dean Ryan's men seemed to be creating opportunities at will on the half-hour. And having been warned by referee Alain Rolland for desperate and vital hands in the ruck, the Blues were even spared of cards but ultimately not the points as the away try came.
On a home put-in, Gloucester's strong pack demolished their opponents five out before Luke Narraway broke blind to welcome recipient Balshaw, whose simple crossing turned the lead red.
But it was an advantage that was seriously short-lived as the Blues hit back, and how.
Firstly, Barkley's Hollywood tap-pass found the looming Halfpenny who streaked under the posts from 50 metres before a superb counter from Blair saw the Kiwi race clear with Gareth Thomas finishing off the move in a first-half try fest – a dramatic turnaround with Rolland blowing for half-time at 27-17.
Character was needed from the much-questioned Gloucester outfit and that was found ten minutes into the second period as the tireless Mike Tindall freed his arms to allow Balshaw to grab a simple try down the left flank.
There was always going to be a dip in points on the dusty Millennium turf but what the final forty lacked in crossings it surely made up for in tense excitement.
Not least when playmaker Nicky Robinson chipped over into no-man's-land with Thomas having the simple job of collecting to score. However, much to the grumbles of the expectant home fans the chance went begging as the veteran wing shockingly grabbed thin air.
A dancing Robinson made his earlier smash and grab count on 64 minutes as he attacked Barkley's shoulder at close-range to claim the bonus try from set-piece ball.
The closing stages were made even tougher for the chasing visitors when a mindless yellow card went the way of Olivier Azam for slowing down possession. And continued faultless kicking from Blair subsequently sealed the result as the Gloucester's big-game woes continue to dog their cause.
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Halfpenny 2, G Thomas, N Robinson
Con: Blair 4
Pen: Blair 2
Tries: Morgan, Balshaw 2
Con: Barkley 3
Yellow card: Olivier Azam (Gloucester) – slowing down the ball on 70 minutes
Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Jamie Robinson, 12 Tom Shanklin, 11 Gareth Thomas, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Jason Spice, 8 Andy Powell, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Maama Molitka, 5 Paul Tito (c), 4 Deiniol Jones, 3 Gary Powell, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Taufa'ao Filise, 17 Gareth Williams, 18 Scott Morgan, 19 Robin Sowden Taylor, 20 Richie Rees, 21 Ceri Sweeney, 22 Jamie Roberts.
Gloucester: 15 Olly Morgan, 14 Iain Balshaw, 13 Mike Tindall (c), 12 Olly Barkley, 11 James Simpson-Daniel, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Gareth Cooper, 8 Luke Narraway, 7 Alasdair Strokosch, 6 Peter Buxton, 5 Alex Brown, 4 Marco Bortolami, 3 Carlos Nieto, 2 Olivier Azam, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Jack Forster, 18 Adam Eustace, 19 Andy Hazell, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 Willie Walker, 22 Lesley Vainikolo.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Touch judges: Colin Stanley (Ireland), Dudley Philips (Ireland)
Television match official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)