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HELLO KITTY

Cardiff Blues: 10(7) Edinburgh Rugby: (10) 20



The day started with the wonderful news that six of the Border League clubs are considering bidding for one of the Super Six club franchises. If successful, strong men will weep when a reincarnated semi-pro The South sweep all before them in their legendary red and white stripes.  

The day ended on a gorgeous evening in Cardiff on the equally gorgeous artificial surface at The Arms Park. But would it be a gorgeous start to the Cockers regime at Edinburgh Rugby?

Whisper it, but it looks like the Embramen, in a low profile sort of way, are going to be quite effective this season.  The Gunners had a sharp, quietly effective outing.  They played with some width in attack, with The King Blairhorn impressing with ball in hand.  The big man is maturing big time.  SHC controlled the match from half back and Duncan Weir The Glasgow Boy's tactical kicking kept them playing in the right part of the pitch for much of the match. Up front, WP Nel is back and in good form, while Grant Gilchrist put himself about to good effect.

For me, though, the key was 'Kitty' MacRae's defensive system, which wrapped up the Blues' freeflowing attack, while shutting down the power of Nick Williams closer in.  The squad as a whole put in a good shift without the ball.

They certainly got off to a good start.  They were under the cosh early on, but defended soundly as Cardiff had ball in the enemy red zone.  They worked their way to the other end and put in a good, lengthy set of patient phases.  A Blues knock on gave them a scrummage on the 22.  SHC scooted up the blind side, the ball was shipped wide to The King who still had much to do.  The rangy full back had the power to smash through the cover to score in the corner. While the scoring pass appeared to drift a mite forward, Weir took the tricky conversion quickly and put the visitors 7-0 up on 11 minutes.

After the Gunners enjoyed another solid set of phases between the 10s, albeit not making much ground, a turnover sparked the Blues into thrilling, unstructured attack. They worked their way into the Embra red zone, but could not break down the visitors' defence.  Halaholo looked the key man at second five-eighth, but tended to crab across the park. Cardiff conceded a scrummage in front of the posts, WP won a scrum pen and TGB cleared soundly. A very encouraging opening quarter for the red and black community.

WP Nel won a second scrum penalty pen 27 minutes as Edinburgh's kicking game produced frequent Blues errors. Darryl Marfo was having his moments in the tight too in an impressive regular season debut.  I love the dynamic young Matthew Morgan in attack, but he looked rather less effective under the high ball. TGB knocked over the three pointer for a 10-0 lead on the half hour. The Gunners had taken the crowd out of the match so far and it was a subdued Arms Park that watched Cardiff trying to get back in the match.  Nick Williams, so crucial in last year's fixture, looked under par and it was little surprise to see him replaced.

Unfortunately, a knock on in defence after a good turnover gave the Blues quick ball.  The ball was shipped across and a cute kick by Evans was gathered well by Navidi who crossed for a good try.  The converstion narrowed the gap to 10-7 Edinburgh.on 37 minutes. A fair reflection of the run of play but disappointing to lose a score through inaccuracy in defence.  And that was that for the first period, 'Jarvis' Cockers will have been happy enough with a solid 10-7 lead at the break

The tables were turned early in the second half, with Cardiff's scrummage winning a second penalty in quick succession in front of the Edinburgh posts. Evans evened the score with a simple three pointer on 47 minutes. Ford and Berghan came on immediately afterwards as Jarvis responded to the noticeable improvement in the home scrum.

TGB, of all people, won a breakdown penalty from defence on the Cardiff 10 metres immediately afterwards and kicked the penalty into the 22.  Although the Gunhers lost ball at the breakdown in a dangerous position, they won another breakdown penalty as Cardiff tried to run the ball out of defence.  TGB kicked the penalty to regain the lead at 13-10 on 51 minutes.

After a great SHC clearance, the Gunners worked their way into the Blues' red zone.  A storming run nearly saw Harries over off a strong Ritchie run.  It looked like excitement might have got the better of the Embramen as there was a mini-guddle in midfield.  But SHC whipped a long pass to release The King on the charge on the right, he stepped in and offloaded to the supporting Chris Dean, who pirhouetted to reach over for the Gunners second try.  He had been strong taking the ball up in attack and deserved his score. TGB converted for a 20-10 lead and there was a sense that the momentum was very much Edinburgh's way as Nathan Fowles came on for SHC on the hour.

The Blues were starting to take chances as they chased the game, but were struggling to break through the Gunners' suffocating defence.  The Cardiff penalties were starting to mount in deence too, allowing the Embramen to control field position and run the clock down.

Junior Rasolea had had a decent outing and on 69 minutes he made good ground to put Harries nearly over.  The ball was moved out and Fowles reached over, but was rightly adjudged to have knocked on in reaching for the line.  But Cardiff were under pressure at the defensive scrummage. Amazingly, Fowles stole ball at the base and nearly managed to drag a couple of back rowers over. But an Embra penalty allowed the home side to clear as the clock ticked down.

The Blues put in repeated phases in the Gunners' 22 in thefinal 10 minutes but the defence stood up superbly. Tremendous composure under pressure eventually forced the Cardiff error, enabling Edinburgh to clear to their 10 metre line as The King was deservedly named Man of the Match.  

And the full back sparked an amazing breakout off an aimless Blues kick into his 22.  He cruised through the defence and set sail before releasing Dean on the charge.  But the ball trickled agonisingly into touch in the corner with Harries ready to pounce for his try.  Fowles knocked the ball to touch off the next breakdown, time expired and that was that.

An excellent start to the Cockers regime.  Nothing flashy.  Just quietly effective.