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DEPLETED EMBRA EDGE ONWARDS IN CARDIFF

Cardiff Blues: 10 (10) Edinburgh Rugby: 3 (3)



I had a tooth pulled this morning.  I'm fine, thanks for asking.  The procedure was undertaken swiftly, efficiently and was accompanied by some surprisingly interesting chat about common experiences of exciting holidays in California. That's 21st century dentistry for you.

This evening's encounter at the Arms Park, by contrast, was more akin to dental practice back in the days when barbers had a sideline in surgery, hence the famous red and white pole.  Old style painful.  

The Blues got off to a bit of a flier, scoring all of their points in the first 16 minutes.  Meanwhile, the Embramen had only a solitary Fowles penalty, booted early in the second quarter, to show for 80 minutes of largely directionless effort.  There was the consolation of a losing bonus, mind.  And that has been one of the positives of this term. Although they have lost five times in the Pro12 now, the Gunners have stuck at it and secured four losing bonus points, the minimum acceptable return from any match.   

Results elsewhere so far this weekend, notably Connacht's fine win over the leaders Llanelli, leave the capital side just three points off the top, in fourth spot at the time of typing.  While Leinster are looking like champions-elect at the moment, anyone else can beat anyone in this league.  The top six are clustered within four points of each other and a survivor pool is beginning to open a handy gap to seventh placed Ospreys, now eight points behind Munster.  But that's why it is so important to win matches such as this.  

It ain't rocket science to point it out, but it's all very well getting up for Derby matches in front of 23,500 folk.  If you can't back that up with wins away from home against clubs in the lower reaches then you're going to struggle.  This should have been a match that the Gunners were targetting for four points - try bonuses, for them, are unlikely against non-Italian opposition at their current stage of development.  But that never really looked likely, particularly during a first half of staggering hopelessness, where they rarely ventured in to the enemy 22.  Indeed, Cardiff will be kicking themselves too, having botched two further try scoring opportunities, while playmaker Patchell missed two simple penalty chances.   

This was by no means a first choice Gunners select.  With injuries and international calls hitting the pack hard, Mike Coman had to fill one boilerhouse slot.  The guy has got a huge heart but this was a long way from ideal.  But like the first London Irish match - although, happily, not accompanied by a hammering on the scoreboard - this was an Edinburgh selection that should still have been strong enough to win.  That they did not was largely due to too many guys having had little gametime for too long.  To take one example, Greig Tonks at fullback currently looks like a man who has never seen a rugby ball before and desperately needs time on the paddock.  Lack of rotation in the first half of the season is hurting the Embramen at the moment.  

Off early scrum ball, the Blues executed a good move in midfield that saw full back Fish cross on two minutes, Patchell knocking over the extras.  Playing into the wind, the visitors enjoyed some possession but were gettgin nowhere against a well marshalled defence.  Then it ws Cardiff's turn to attack, firstly kicking a penalty to touch then rumbling goalwards only for the TMO to adjudge that Vosawai had executed a double movement in crossing.  But Patchell made no mistake with a penalty shortly afterwards to put the Blues 10-0 up on 16 minutes.

Fowles' penalty on 22 minutes got the Gunners on the board, but the Blues were back on the attack and Fish and then Navidi came close.  They kicked a breakdown penalty to the corner and Vosawai was again over, but found another way to throw points away as he knocked on.  Patchell's first missed penalty was the highlight of an otherwise forgettable few minutes as the match subsided into half time.

Now playing with the wind, the Gunners had a penalty chance following a Ma'afu high tackle.  Tonks kicked to the corner but Edinburgh could not maintain the pressure.  When Sutherland was carded for a breakdown offence in the middle of the park, one felt that this might be the cue for Cardiff to ease away. They failed to do so.  First, Patchell missed a very easy penalty, then the TMO spotted a foot in touch as their maul rumbled over the Gunners' line.

Hope sprang eternal going into the final ten minutes as Edinburgh started to spread the ball a bit more.  And when Thyer tipped Brown beyond the horizontal in the tackle, a yellow card and the possibility of a lifeline seemed inevitable.  It was not given, however, and the Gunners had to be content with the bonus.