ADAMS PARK, ENGLAND – Coming into the semifinal round of the Amlin Challenge Cup, everyone knew there would be two English teams in the final. However, there was considerable uncertainty over which two clubs would be meeting in Cardiff, as both matches provided a fairly even contest. RugbyWrapUp has your Amlin Cup Semifinal Recap, just in case you were doing something else over the weekend.
Bath Squeak By Wasps in Enthralling Encounter
Bath managed to make their first European final in six years, defeating the Wasps 24-18 at Adams Park. The matchup was close throughout, and the teams went into the locker room at halftime separated by just three points, with Wasps holding a 13-10 advantage on the back of two penalties from Andy Goode and a try from Will Helu. Momentum looked like it was on the Wasps side after Helu crossed the whitewash just before the interval, but Bath’s Rob Weber put in an outstanding display, scoring two second half tries to pull his team back into the lead. George Ford did not cover himself in glory, missing a kickable thirty metre penalty, but he nailed his chances when they counted, securing all three conversions. Wasps hearts broke early in the second half when they had a try disallowed for a forward pass, and from that point forward, Bath seized control. The TMO had a key role to play, ruling out a late Bath try which appeared to have sealed the victory. After Andy Goode appealed to the referee, he sent the decision upstairs, ensuring that the final fifteen minutes remained tense for the visiting side. Both George Ford and Mike Ford have insisted that the victory was exactly what Bath needed with Harlequins breathing down their necks for the final playoff spot, and will give them confidence moving forward in the hunt for silverware. Ford’s carefully constructed youngsters will face a major test over the next two weeks, playing Northampton and Harlequins in the final two rounds of Premiership action. After an excellent start to the campaign, Bath’s depth has been tested. The club are desperate to regain the heights of past European triumphs, and the final in Cardiff will provide a venue for doing so.
Northampton Take Down Red-Hot Harlequins
Kahn Fotuali’i proved the hero in Northampton’s 18-10 triumph over Harlequins at Franklin’s Gardens. The Quins came into the match with genuine title aspirations, riding high after their victory over Leicester in the Premiership. However, the London side clearly missed talismanic fly-half Nick Evans, who was out with injury. Fotuali’i created two tries, setting up Tom Collins with a superbly placed kick before crossing over the try line himself. Northampton was able to survive an early yellow card to Jamie Elliot, who was sin binned in the third minute for a challenge on Mike Brown in the air. The Saints did not concede, and they eventually didn’t look back. Though the final score-line reflects a close match, Northampton were almost always more than a score ahead, though a late try by Nick Easter gave the home support cause for nerves. The Saints started an understrength side, with Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, and Luther Burrell on the bench, but Jim Mallinder’s strategy proved sound when they were able to secure a Northampton victory in the final fifteen minutes.
Final Marred By Poor Ticket Allotment
Though the rugby on offer this weekend was unquestionably entertaining, troubling news surfaced Tuesday morning about the ticket allotment offered to supporters of the two finalists. Only 1000 tickets were made available to both Northampton and Bath, ensuring that many supporters who have followed their team’s campaigns will be unable to watch its culmination. While the Amlin Cup Final is undoubtedly less of a spectacle than its Heineken Cup counterpart, naming a venue larger than Cardiff Arms Park’s 12000 capacity would be a fitting reflection of the ERC’s continued vocal support of their secondary tournament. There is surely a middle ground between the farce of an empty Twickenham and giving teams only 1000 tickets for a final. Fortunately, it will be somebody else’s task next year, after the ERC proved its incompetence one final time.
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