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Cardiff Blues: 55 Edinburgh Rugby: 22

But Eight Try Cardiff see off Edinburgh - 13 May 2004

Outside Murrayfield, there is an advertising hoarding featuring the Scottish Saltires cricket team. The nights are lengthening dramatically, the temperature is often above zero, and it can't be long before major retailers are getting their Christmas stock in store. Yes, summer is almost here and, sadly, the rugby season is drawing to a close. There was certainly an end of season feeling at the Arms Park tonight as the Gunners went down 55-22 to the Cardiff Blues in a fighting performance.

After only one minute, Hogg spilled ball in the tackle, allowing alert home blindside Baugh and his extraordinary beard to make good progress into the Gunners 22, setting up several good phases. Despite a solid Sharman tackle, the ball was spun out for hooker Thomas to barrel over for the first Cardiff try, converted by Harris.

After the Blues again came close on the Gunners five metre line, scrum-half Moore, making his final appearance for the club, was penalised for holding on in the tackle. Tonight's skipper, Mike Blair, alertly took a quick tap, broke through the disorganised defence and streaked almost the length of the pitch for an excellent individual try. As soon as he had beaten the first line of defence, no-one was going to catch him. Warnock's missed conversion left the Gunners two point behind, but it had been a good time to score as Cardiff had looked dangerous.

The home side's willingness to run the ball from anywhere - indeed, they must have kicked for touch about twice during the entire game - paid off shortly afterwards, with two quick tries for Jamie Robinson and Baugh before fifteen minutes had elapsed, both converted for a commanding 21-5 lead. The Blues' handling was slick, with Harris and Rhys Williams looking lively, while the power of their backs was breaking too many Gunners tackles.

Gradually, however, Edinburgh steadied the ship, with their scrummage looking solid. Warnock kicked a penalty to touch five metres shy of the home line. After a Jacobsen dig off the resulting lineout, the ball was fired out to the young stand-off, who faked the give to Dickson, then cut through four tackles to cruise in for the try, which he subsequently converted.

Immediately after the kick-off, the Gunners rumbled a maul fully fifty yards, defying home efforts to disrupt. But when the ball was spun out, Warnock was isolated and penalised for holding in the tackle. The Blues secured the bonus point on 24 minutes when a missed tackle let Rhys Williams in for an unconverted try in the corner.

The Gunners closed the gap again on the half hour. A scrum on halfway saw a clever inside pass from Hugo put Webster in space on the burst. The winger timed his pass to perfection for Sharman to streak in under the posts. Purists might have felt that the scoring pass was slightly forward, but the Warnock conversion took the Gunners back to within a converted try. And they began to put pressure on the home side, with Moore carded on 37 minutes for playing the ball in an offside position. Martin Williams was a mite fortunate not to follow the veteran a minute later when he disrupted Edinburgh ball from an offside position with the Gunners threatening once more. Warnock converted the penalty to leave the half-time score 26-22.

The turning point took place five minutes after half-time. Great Gunners play took the ball from a scrum on their own 22 to the Cardiff five metre line, with the ball moved from wing to wing and both flying props featuring to good effect, but they were eventually penalised for holding on in the tackle. Cardiff first relieved the pressure, then scored a converted try through Robinson for a 33-22 lead, and Edinburgh were playing catch up with half an hour to go.

One of the more bizarre red cards of recent times saw home hooker Thomas deservedly sent off for an amazing assault on Jacobsen, featuring a head butt and a knee in one motion. Not only did the blows do little damage, with Chunk more bemused than anything else, but they were delivered when Cardiff's impressive maul was looking odds-on to crash over for a score.

But Edinburgh could not take advantage of what in ice hockey would be called the "power play." While they did not seem to get the 50:50 decisions, it would be churlish not to applaud the enterprise of the home team, who scored an unanswered three tries and a penalty in the last twenty minutes to seal an emphatic win. It was a game where both defences were posted missing on a regular basis, but featuring handling of the highest class and a great deal of adventure. A fine advert for the Celtic League for any potential sponsors out there.

While the second half went badly for the Gunners, it showcased several of the young players who have emerged this season. Nathan Pike, in particular, coming on as a substitute for Guy Perrett, had some excellent takes in the lineout, including a memorable steal when Cardiff were pressing on the Gunners line; Ali Strokosch put in a great shift at blindside; and Rory Lawson looked sharp. It was an indication of the Gunners' injury problems that Lawson and fellow scrum-half and great servant of the club Graeme Burns were both on the visiting bench.

So a disappointing result, but an exciting performance, to round off our season. Many of the Gunners squad will be deservedly heading Down Under for the national tour. But they will look forward to seeing you once again at Meadowbank for the new season towards the end of the summer.


Edinburgh: Warnock 1T 1P 2C, Sharman 1T, Blair 1T
Blues: I Harris 1P 4C, N Robinson 2C, R Thomas 1T, J Robinson 2T, D Baugh, R Williams 2T, A Lewis, P Muller.


Cardiff Blues: Williams, D Dewdney, J Robinson, I Harris, C Morgan, N Robinson, A Moore, J Yapp, R Thomas, D Crompton, H Senekal, J Brownrigg, D Baugh, M Williams (capt), N Thomas. Replacements: M Allen, N MacLeod, P Muller, K Fourie, A Lewis, C Quinnell, R Sowden-Taylor.

Edinburgh Rugby: H Southwell, C Sharman, T Philip, A Dickson, S Webster, A Warnock, M Blair (capt), A Jacobsen, C di Ciacca, C Smith, G Perrett, A Kellock, A Strokosch, A Hogg, A Dall. Replacements: A Kelly, J Brannigan, R Mathieson, N Pike, T Blackadder, R Lawson, G Burns.

Referee: A Mackay (Ireland)