Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Falcons Face a Tough Battle against Blues; AMLIN CHALLENGE CUP QUARTER-FINALS Connacht V Bourgoin Toulon V Scarlets Wasps V Gloucester Newcastle Falcons V Cardiff Blues Ties to Be Played April 9-11

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Falcons Face a Tough Battle against Blues; AMLIN CHALLENGE CUP QUARTER-FINALS Connacht V Bourgoin Toulon V Scarlets Wasps V Gloucester Newcastle Falcons V Cardiff Blues Ties to Be Played April 9-11

Article excerpt

STEVE Bates expects a European Challenge Cup thriller when Cardiff Blues come to Kingston Park for the April quarter-final, writes NICK PUREWAL.

Rugby director Bates was happy to take the fortune that befell his side yesterday in results across the country setting up the last-eight tie, and said the Falcons are excited by the prospect of hosting the star-studded Welshmen.

The Falcons travel to Cardiff to take on the Blues this Sunday in the Anglo-Welsh Cup incidentally, but that clash is likely to feature shadow line-ups in comparison to the XVs that will grace Kingston Park on the second weekend in April.

Given Newcastle's failure to secure the bonus point in their Friday night 20-3 Padova win, they were always at the mercy of other results to gain a home tie in the next round.

So had Bourgoin scored one more try in their 18-9 two-try win at Leeds, the Falcons would have been on their travels, probably to Connaught.

But as it was the Frenchmen could not nail that elusive extra score, paving the way for Newcastle to qualify as fourth seed and host a team dropping down from the Heineken Cup.

And that team has wound up being Cardiff, after their handsome 45-20 win over Harlequins at the Stoop.

Cardiff's six-try Quins demolition was enough to secure them the ECC spot and the trip to the North East. The Blues had the bonus-point sewn up by half-time, with Gareth Thomas, Ben Blair, Ceri Sweeney and Xavier Rush running in the four scores for the extra point.

Quins powered in three scores of their own, thanks to George Lowe, Nick Easter and Danny Care, but it never looked enough. And Lions hero Jamie Roberts bullocked home for two second-half tries as Cardiff set up their ECC switch.

Last season Cardiff powered their way into the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup, only losing out on a place in the final with the heartbreak of that bizarre penalty shoot-out with Leicester Tigers. …

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