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Robinson reflects on Gloucester showdowns

30th March 2017

Nicky Robinson has fond memories of Gloucester - both playing for and against the Cherry and Whites.

The Cardiff Blues fly-half went up against the Kingsholm outfit three times during the final season of his first stint in the Welsh capital – winning on every occasion. He then linked up with the Cherry and Whites for two seasons.

Now, back at Cardiff Blues and just two days away from a mouth-watering European Challenge Cup quarter-final between the traditional rivals, Robinson took a walk down memory lane.

That memorable series of fixtures began with a 37-24 victory in front of 27,114 spectators at the Millennium Stadium.

Robinson was one of three try-scorers with Gareth Thomas crossing the whitewash, Leigh Halfpenny claiming a brace and Ben Blair booting 17-points.

Next up was a famous 16-12 triumph at Kingsholm, all the more impressive after Tom James was sent off after 27 minutes.

Robinson recalled: “My experience as an away player was a good one – we went there with the Blues and managed to get a win. It was a really special day and season. 

“That year we had a lot of big wins and that was up there as one of the best. To beat Gloucester at Kingsholm, with the side they had and with 14 men brings back really good memories.

“I remember so many parts of it like Alfie’s (Gareth Thomas) team talk at half-time - basically that you don’t get many opportunities in life like this. We had the opportunity to do something special, even more so when we lost a man and things were going against us.

“That was something I will never forget, it meant a lot and the fact we went on to win that game is something that will live on with me.”

In a tense encounter, the Blues were given the steepest of uphill challenges after James made contact with Olivier Azam using his head. 

Following some theatrics from the French hooker, James was shown red and many would have written Dai Young’s side off.

But they remained in the game with Leigh Halfpenny keeping the scoreboard ticking and with 10 minutes remaining they were just four-points adrift.

Following superb driving runs by Xavier Rush and Taufa’ao Filise in the dying minutes of the game, the ball was eventually moved to the right, where Bradley Davies crashed over for the match-winning try.

Robinson continued: “We had such a strong team of characters and leaders that even something like that probably didn’t throw us. 

“We stayed in the game and they didn’t play particularly well. Ryan Lamb didn’t have his best game and the pressure we put on them by staying in the game meant there was more pressure on them to win the game.”

The crowning moment of that season came in the EDF Energy Cup, where Gloucester were again victims to an in-form Cardiff Blues.

They racked up a 50-12 demolition job at Twickenham with Robinson pulling the strings before going on to join the Cherry and Whites for the following season.

Ben Blair, Halfpenny, James, Tom Shanklin and Ceri Sweeney all crossed the whitewash as the rampant Blues notched up seven tries.

Robsinson said: “When I look back at that season, beating Toulouse in the quarter-final of the Heineken Cup at the Millennium Stadium is right up there, winning the EDF Energy Cup against Gloucester has to be at the top and beating them there was a huge piece in the jig-saw of that season.

“Knowing that we could go to a top English side and beat them on their own ground with 14-men that definitely helped the future successes we had that year.

“We beat them there (Kingsholm), in the EDF final and at the Millennium Stadium in the return leg in Europe.

“My time there was also an awesome experience and two years of rugby that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a proper rugby ground with proper rugby supporters and a really good atmosphere. It’s a ground you always remember playing at.”

Fast forward eight seasons and Wales’ Capital Region are preparing for another trip to Kingsholm and what has been billed as the biggest game of the season.

And as a Cardiff Blues player and coach, Robinson reckons his side can use the pressure-cooker atmosphere of Castle Grim to their advantage.

He added: “There is definitely that pressure and expectation that you don’t lose at Kingsholm. In my first season there we lost a few matches. You don’t get booed off or jeered, they have very loyal supporters, but there is that expectation. 

“If we let them get a roll on and the Shed behind them then it can be a tough day but if we keep them quiet then it can play to our advantage.

“The side has definitely come a long way this season, possibly not result-wise but certainly building character and for the future. 

“There are foundations there and everyone needs to build on that. We have an opportunity now to do something quite special and that starts on Saturday."