Bristol Bears captain Steven Luatua has thanked Pat Lam for allowing him to miss Friday night’s Challenge Cup final win so that he could attend the birth of his child. 

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The former All Black was set to lead his side against Toulon at the Stade Maurice David in Aix-en-Provence but he withdrew from the squad with the club’s blessing and didn’t travel. 

The 29-year-old thanked Lam on Twitter for his understanding, Luatua writing that he was told by his director of rugby that “your most important job today is to be there for your family”.

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Exeter’s Rob Baxter sets the scene ahead of his team’s Champions Cup final appearance

The flanker also showed his gratitude for other support he received, particularly from owner Steve Lansdown for providing an opportunity for him to travel to the south of France if the birth had happened early enough and left sufficient time to fly over on a charter flight to play.

In the end, Luatua and wife Olivia’s new baby daughter didn’t arrive until 45 minutes before kick-off.

There were fears that the absence of Luatua – along with injured pair Nathan Hughes and Charles Piutau – would be too heavy a loss for Bristol to manage. However, the Bears showed their tenacity in the final to win the club’s first major silverware since a 1983 England Cup win.

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The Bears won on a 32-19 scoreline after producing an unstoppable second-half surge to turn around a 19-13 deficit with 52 minutes gone in their first-ever European showpiece.

Some wonderful pace from the try-scoring Max Malins and the precise kicking boot of Callum Sheedy were pivotal to that successful comeback.

But there was no getting away from the wow factor that Bristol had produced right from the kick-off when scoring the quickest try in European rugby history.

Fifteen seconds was all it took for Harry Randall to touch down for the opening score after some typical Semi Radradra magic.

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