European Rugby Challenge Cup: Cardiff Blues 74-6 Calvisano

By Nick WebbBBC Sport Wales
Tom James
Tom James' hat-trick helped Cardif Blues to victory
European Rugby Challenge Cup Pool Three
Cardiff Blues (33) 74
Tries: James 3, Allen 2, Navidi, Fish, Lewis, Cuthbert, Summerhill, Patchell, Cook Cons: Anscombe 7
Calvisano (3) 6
Pens: Vlaicu 2

Wales captain Sam Warburton completed 80 minutes on his comeback as Cardiff Blues' European Challenge Cup hopes ended despite a big win over Calvisano.

Warburton injured his ankle in November and returned only a fortnight before the start of the Six Nations.

The Blues ran in 12 tries, wing Tom James notching a hat-trick, to complete a double over the Italian minnows.

But they finished third in Pool Three, failing to match last year's last-eight spot, as Montpellier beat Harlequins.

Warburton cruised through a regulation workout but revealed afterwards he will play for the Blues again against Edinburgh, the week before the Six Nations.

The Welsh region started with 12 internationals, despite making 12 changes from their dramatic loss away to Harlequins.

The Blues had no trouble in outflanking the Calvisano defence early on with James cross twice and Cory Allen going over in the first 15 minutes.

Sam Warburton
Sam Warburton missed all of Cardiff Blues' festive Pro12 derbies

Josh Navidi finished off a driving maul for the bonus-point score on 24 minutes, with Gareth Anscombe converting all four.

Dan Fish then raced over from a Tavis Knoyle kick for a 33-3 advantage at the interval, a penalty from Romanian fly-half Florin Vlaicu providing the only Italian score.

Hooker Ethan Lewis got his first regional try after the break, followed by a third for James from halfway as he earned the man-of-the-match award.

Allen got a second with an interception from 60 metres before Vlaicu landed a second Calvisano penalty on the hour.

Alex Cuthbert got on the scoresheet in a one-sided final quarter with replacements Aled Summerhill, Rhys Patchell, and Macauley Cook all crossing in the closing stages and Anscombe landing three more conversions.

But news of Montpellier's win dampened Blues celebrations and they were left to reflect on conceding last-minute scores, and losing match points, in three of their six pool games.

Cardiff Blues boss Danny Wilson:

"We played well. I am pleased with the boys' efforts tonight.

"If results had gone our way, then great, but they haven't. That's what happens when it is our of your control.

"It was great to see him (Sam Warburton) out there and more importantly (he got) a full game under his belt."

Cardiff Blues: Dan Fish; Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen, Gavin Evans, Tom James; Gareth Anscombe, Tavis Knoyle; Gethin Jenkins (capt), Ethan Lewis, Dillon Lewis, Jarrad Hoeata, Lou Reed, Cam Dolan Josh Navidi, Sam Warburton.

Replacements: Matthew Rees, Thomas Davies, Scott Andrews, Macauley Cook, Ellis Jenkins, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Patchell, Aled Summerhill.

Calvisano: Ben De Jager; Giacomo De Santis, Alberto Chiesa, Tommy Castello (capt), Marco Susio; Florin Vlaicu, Pablo Canavosio; Luca Scarsini, Lorenzo Giovanchelli, Rudy Biancotti, Michele Andreotti, Davide Zanetti, Matteo Archetti, Renato Giammarioli, Jim Tuivaiti.

Replacements: Gabriele Morelli, Sami Panico, Marco Riccioni Agustin Cavalieri, Emilio Vezzoli, Nocola Belardo, Riccardo Raffaele, Filippo Buscema.

Referee: Thomas Charabas (France).