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Edinburgh Rugby: 15 (9) Cardiff Blues: 38 (14)

Edinburgh started this evening's opening match of the RaboDirect PRO12 season ineptly and things went mostly downhill from there.  The concession of a penalty at the opening kick off after the ball had bounced off Denton into a team mate in an offside position allowed that tidy veteran footballer, Ceri Sweeney, to knock over a penalty for visiting Cardiff.  The Blues were not to be headed for the rest of the match - with the exception of a spell of precisely one minute during the second period, when the Embra men nudged one point ahead.  The visitors were well worth their bonus point win in the end and scored a couple of cracking tries.  They notched a couple of criminally easy ones too, though, and much of their victory was served to them on a plate by their obliging hosts. 

We learn from our mistakes.  The Gunners made enough of those to earn a first class honours degree, if not a doctorate.

The 'Edinburgh Tekkers' initiative is a welcome effort by the club to engage the supporter base.  However, rather than spending time during the off season perfecting their silky soccer skills, perhaps the players should have done a bit more work on the basic rugby skills, such as being able to give and take a pass accurately under pressure.  Their handling let them down all too frequently tonight and this cost them a number of try scoring opportunities.  While the defensive patterns looked fine, some of the first up tackling was woeful and alarm bells were ringing every time Cardiff broke through the line.  By contrast, the home support was so slow in coming that when someone made a line break - which the Gunners did frequently - there was often no-one on the shoulder to take the offload and continue the move.  Edinburgh blew hot and cold at the breakdown, but were generally much too passive both on enemy ball and their own.  As a result, too many runners went to ground too early, then the ball was cleared too slowly for momentum to be retained.

Perhaps having had only two pre-season matches has left Edinburgh a little undercooked, because they could easily have won this match had their play been more accurate.  One saw enough from the side, notably the young folk, to suggest that, once the rust is eventually shaken off, they could surprise a few people.  The scrummage, which one had worried about prior to kick off, in fact turned out to dominate the Cardiff eight, while the rare Edinburgh driving mauls made good progress, Cardiff struggling to stop them.  While I like to see fancy back moves and entertainingly coloured boots on the threequarters as much as the next person, I prefer to see an Embra win.  One wonders whether - counter-intuitive though it may have been against these opponents - Edinburgh should have played a much tighter, forward-oriented game when it became clear that the pack was on top in the tight.

They played with ambition, though, and once again Dave 'Big Hair' Denton put in a dominating performance at No 8, looking every bit the big ball carrier that Edinburgh have lacked for many years.  Netani Talei will need to look to his laurels on his return from New Zealand.  Simon Webster, playing out of position, has lost none of his mazy unpredictability with ball in hand and kept lining up the tackles to the end, when too many of his colleagues seemed to have lost the appetite for the fight.  Jim Thompson made some super breaks which deserved to end better than they did, while no-one seems to have found a way to contain Tim Visser.

After the early setback, Edinburgh enjoyed a spell of pressure in the Cardiff 22, with Thompson and Lee Jones looking dangerous.  Already, veteran Cardiff openside Martin Williams was getting involved in some afters with Sean Cox as Cardiff made a nuisance of themselves at the breakdown.  Visser sparked a fine attack from half way, but poor handling saw the chance go abegging.

Eventually, Laidlaw had a chance to level on 13 minutes, knocking over a penalty for an isolated Martin Williams holding on in the tackle after a lineout.  The Blues hit back instantly with a very well worked try.  They committed the defence at the breakdown, worked the ball right then switched back left for Hobbs to score off Williams' pass.  The conversion failure left the score 8-3 Cardiff before Laidlaw and Sweeney traded penalties to take the score to 11-6 Cardiff at the end of the first quarter.  In the case of the Edinburgh penalty, Thompson's super break outran his support by miles and had Cardiff been a bit less ready to infringe to kill the momentum of the move, they might have got away scot free.

Laidlaw scored a third penalty with five minutes left in the half as Cardiff continued to infringe under pressure, but Sweeney's penalty on the stroke of half time saw the score at the break 14-9 Cardiff.  The Blues had been the more dangerous and, crucially, the more accurate of the two and deserved the lead on the run of play.

The Gunners started well in the second half and the continued pressure on Cardiff's scrum told with a penalty award on 47 minutes, which Laidlaw missed.  One felt that this might be a turning point, as Edinburgh were soon back on the attack.  And they seemed to have roared back into contention with a touchdown for Cox.  With the referee playing advantage for another Cardiff offence, young Scott fed Visser, who came close in the left corner then flipped to the supporting back rower to dive over.  Sadly, the touch judge called Visser in touch when he delivered the pass, while the referee clearly felt that Edinburgh had gained enough of an advantage and the chance was gone.  Yet Laidlaw kicked two quick fire penalties over the next five minutes to see the Embra side snatch a narrow 15-14 lead on the hour.

Unfortunately, captain fantastic's next contribution was a defensive garryowen which did not travel far enough.  Both sides committed the schoolboy error of letting the ball bounce, it scooted Cardiff's way and Pretorius notched a converted try. 21-15 Cardiff turned into 38-15 Cardiff in the space of little more than ten minutes as Ceri 'Sandcastle' Sweeney first nailed a fourth penalty then Hobbs scored a super try and James notched a toe curlingly easy one - both converted - to secure the bonus point.

While Edinburgh  kept attacking, Cardiff simply infringed whenever things looked remotely dangerous and the home challenge fizzled out. With a couple of minutes left on the clock, replacement prop Trevett was pointlessly carded for a pretty unsubtle block on Thompson as the full back chased his own kick into the enemy 22.  By contrast, had the referee found his card in the first half, the breakdown might have been less of a mess and the game might have flowed rather better as a result.  But the Blues were well worth their win and Edinburgh have only themselves to blame. 



Edinburgh: Laidlaw 5P.

Cardiff: Sweeney 3C 4P  Hobbs 2T, Pretorius 1T, James 1T. Conversions:


Edinburgh: J Thompson, L Jones, S Webster, M Scott, T Visser, P Godman, G Laidlaw, K Traynor, S Lawrie, L Niven, G Gilchrist, S Turnbull, S Cox, R Grant, D Denton. Subs used: J Gilding, E Lozada, H Watson, C Leck, G Hunter, J Houston.

Cardiff: C Czekaj, R Mustoe, C Laulala, G Evans, T James, C Sweeney, R Rees, S Hobbs, R Thomas, S Andrews, J Down, D Jones, M Paterson, M Williams, A Pretorius. Subs used: N Trevett, R Harford, P Tito, M Molitika, L Jones, D Hewitt.

Referee: Colgan (IRFU)