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Blues take 2010 Challenge Cup
Europe's second competition provides top entertainment
Posted Dec 28, 2010 by Jeff Dawson
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The 2009-2010 European Challenge Cup, although the second rate competition of European rugby, proved to fantastic entertainment and at times, better than the Heineken Cup.
And it was fantastic to see such prominence in the competition from British clubs with five of the final eight coming from England and Wales.
London Wasps, Newcastle Falcons, Cardiff Blues, Gloucester and Scarlets dominated the quarter final line-ups but it was a French team, like in the Heineken Cup, who were favourites to take the title and cause more upset for the home nations.
In the quarters, Toulon, led by Jonny Wilkinson, hammered Scarlets 38-12 whilst there were also wins for Connacht, 23-20 against Bourgoin, Wasps, 42-26 against Gloucester and Cardiff Blues 20-55 at Newcastle as the four semi-finalists were confirmed.
The semis were both tight affairs but still provided great entertainment. Toulon got the better of Connacht as the boot of Wilkinson once again proved the difference whilst the Blues edged out Wasps at Adams Park by 18 points to 15.
The final, played in Marseille at the Stade Velodrome, was brilliant to watch with both teams set on attacking and scoring points. We were lucky enough to see five tries in total and the Blues, with three of those, proved too strong for the French outfit winning 28-21.
The competition, often in the shadow of the Heineken Cup, proved that it is a worthy event in its own right and the 2011 season has proved no different.
Brive and Stade Francais are looking like the teams to beat this year but whoever comes in from the Heineken Cup will also have to be watched. Harlequins and Leeds Carnegie are the best placed English clubs to do anything in the Amlin Cup this time around but with two games to play in the pools, a lot can change in that time.