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CARDIFF GIVE GUNNERS THE BLUES = 6 FEB 2004

6 February 2004 - Edinburgh Rugby: 10 Cardiff Blues: 50



"If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: ?Hold on!' If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
Yours is the earth and everything that's in it
And - which is more - you'll be a man my son!"

As most schoolchildren will know, these are edited highlights from "If" by Rudyard Kipling. Without being too po-faced about it, they sum up perfectly the spirit of this Gunners squad, captain Todd Blackadder, and the coaching staff who have been patiently building this squad for the last four seasons. There is not one of them who has failed to stand up and be counted. As the 6 Nations begins and 11 Edinburgh players are away with the national squad, testing times are again with the Gunners. It is time for Gunners old and new to meet another challenge.

There is no easy way to say this. Edinburgh, shorn of nine first choices, were soundly beaten by the Blues tonight, with the try count a conclusive 7-1 in favour of the visitors. In a disappointing evening, too many Gunners tackles were missed, too much ball was lost in turnovers, and there was - perhaps unsurprisingly, given the number of new faces - a lack of cohesiveness in the home team's play.

It was a strangely muted Meadowbank that greeted both teams. A fire alarm had gone off in the stand just before kick-off, and it took some time for the crowd to get going. By the time they did, Cardiff had taken the lead with a Robinson penalty for offside. Edinburgh hit back quickly, though. A super Joiner touchfinder from the Edinburgh 22 took advantage of the strong west wind to put Cardiff under pressure. A Jacobsen burst set up the breakdown from which Ali Warnock floated a sweet dropped goal to tie the scores on five minutes.

Even at this early stage, Cardiff looked dangerous, picking and driving well into the wind and using their superior weight up front to put the Gunners under pressure. Robinson came close on the quarter hour, but was penalised for holding on in the tackle when he outran his support inside the home 22. But van Vuuren crossed for the visitors' first try on 22 minutes after the ball was spun out quickly to take advantage of an overlap. The Robinson conversion took the score to 10-3 Cardiff.

On the half-hour, poor Edinburgh tackling allowed Blues winger Walne to scurry in after a move starting from turnover ball on the Cardiff 22. It was a pattern to be repeated throughout the game, with sometimes promising Gunners attacking play often breaking down, and Cardiff taking advantage quickly, with the aid of missed home tackles.

The Meadowbank support were given something to shout about with two minutes of the half left when a trademark Gunners move led to a try. Philip broke powerfully from the home 22 and sleight of hand fed Conan Sharman, who turned on the afterburners and left the defence for dead. When he reached the enemy 22, he then headed across field, almost taunting the cover, before driving in for the touchdown, Warnock converting. That would have been a reasonable half-time score, but in injury time, a fly hack from Robinson somehow ended up in Cockbain's arms. The Aussie World Cup finalist overcame his surprise admirably and flopped over the line to give the Blues a deserved 22-10 half-time lead.

The Gunners started the second period strongly, and looked dangerous in the first ten minutes. But they tried to force the game a little too much into the strong west wind, and Cardiff fed off their errors. Appleyard and Allen scored two good tries within five minutes of each other, then Edinburgh conceded the loss by putting on Brannigan, Di Ciacca, and Matt Dey on with over 20 minutes to play. Although the likes of Philip and Cross did their best to ignite a revival with strong running, and the Edinburgh scrummaging improved, basic handling errors and slipping off crucial tackles were killing them. Two further Cardiff tries, on 63 and 69 minutes, took the Blues to a commanding 50-10 lead.

The youngsters kept going to the end, though, and ended on the attack, but were up against well-drilled opponents who always seemed to be able to burst through the home defence; not something you would see against Edinburgh's top team. But there were bright spots, with Matt Dey looking useful when he came on, and Jamie Blackwood getting a good hour of top level rugby under his belt at scrum-half. Guy Perrett had a solid display in the lineout, and Conan Sharman slotted back into the side well.

So, plenty for Edinburgh to work on this week before Connacht come to call. The Irishmen, with no Six Nations absentees, will be formidable opponents, and the Gunners will need all the support you can give them. With a young and inexperienced team, you will always have erratic results like this. What is important is that the youngsters learn from the experience and work hard to improve. Gunners fans will be looking for an improved defensive performance, with just a little more composure in attack. Kick-off will be at 7.30 at Meadowbank on Friday 13 February.

MAN OF THE MATCH:

JAMIE ROBINSON for a super display at 10 for the visitors. CONAN SHARMAN marked his return to the fold with the Supporters Club award for his try and a generally busy display.

Read Bill Lothian's verdict in the Evening News: http://www.sport.scotsman.com/rugby_superteams.cfm
For a Cardiff reaction visit: http://www.cardiffblues.com

Edinburgh Rugby: Southwell; Sharman, Di Rollo, Philip, Joiner; Warnock, Lawson; Jacobsen, Hall, Smith, Kellock, Perrett, Strokosch, Cross (captain), Harrison. Replacements: Di Ciacca, Brannigan, Pike, Fisher, Blackwood, Monro, Dey

Cardiff Blues: van Vuuren; Walne, Allen, Muller, Vaughton; Robinson, Moore; Fourie, R Thomas, Evans, C Quinnell, A Moore (c), Cockbain, Appleyard, N Thomas Replacements: Crompton,Lewis, Senekal, Brownrigg, Sowden-Taylor, Powell, Macleod

Referee: Simon McDowell (Ireland)