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NICK WILLIAMS BULLIES EMBRA TO SECURE HOME WIN

Cardiff Blues: 34 (17) Edinburgh Rugby: 16 (13)



I still have nightmares of an awful night some years ago watching Edinburgh succumb to defeat in a South Walian monsoon, bullied up front at Rodney Parade with Peter Fitesemanu crashing over from short range for the winning try.  I had thought these days were over.  Now it's the Embra pack who're dominating the enemy.  When it comes to an arm wrestle, it's the Gunners who come on top.

Well, not tonight.  At a subdued Arms Park, the Blues, led by the perennially abrasive Kiwi back rower Nick Williams, scored two tries in a dominant second half performance to come away with a deserved bonus point win.  They had the lion's share of the field position throughout and gave away little ground in defence all night.  With their noses in front and with field position as the heavens opened yet more, they strangled the life out of this match and took the chances when they came.

I know I keep saying it and I'm just some guy who watches from the sidelines, but this, to me, was another illustration of the danger of having only two pre-season outings.  Particularly when starting an opening match with five new platyers in the back division, the risk is that things aren't going to click immediately.  That was certainly one difficulty against the Blues.  When Edinburgh did have attacking ball, passes were not going to hand, runners were over-running the ball, outside backs were getting in each others' way.  And if rustiness manifests itself in unforced errors, there were plenty of those, particularly under the high ball.

It was possible to discern a bit more in the way of an expansive gameplan under the surface, but too often, the backs are taking the ball standing still well behind the gain line.  Sometimes, particularly with someone like Tofilau, who is always looking to offload, it can work.  But on a night like tonight, you really need go forward ball from the pack and your ten to keep pinging the ball behind the defence.  There just wasn't much of either.

The contrast between the Gunners' desperately limited ambition in attack and the extraordinary display the Scotstoun Globetrotters have just put in in Galway, hammering the reigning champions 41-5 in their own back yard - and it could have been more - is pretty striking.

The Gunners were up early, Weir slotting a penalty on two minutes.  Former Scarlet Steve Shingler then put the home side ahead on eight minutes with a good try, his conversion putting them seven points up.  The lead changed hands again as Solomoni Rasolea scored the first of what will be many regular season tries for the Embramen on 15 minutes.  Weir's conversion put them 10-7 up before he nailed a long penalty at the end of the first quarter to open a handy lead.

After Shingler had pulled back a three pointer and Manu retired hurt on the half hour, Cardiff rumbled a maul goalwards but an Edinburgh offence saw referee Lacey award a penalty try as the home side turned the screw up front.  Ritchie was also binned for his trouble.  Weir then missed two penalty chances to leave the match evenly poised at 17-13 blues at the break.

Shingler and Weir exchanged penalties in the opening exchanges of the second period before Cardiff took control.  The Gunners were enjoying some possession, but they just could not break down the defence.  Even when they did, poor handling gave away possession and after some close in pressure, Williams crossed from short range on 62 minutes.  Kiwi stand-off Anscombe's conversion put the Blues 27-16 up and this match was starting to get away from the visitors.

As the rain fell, Caridff pressed for the bonus, which duly came when (Tomos) Williams, who had had a busy outing at scrum half, found a gao in the defence to score, Anscombe's conversion the final points in a deserved 34-17 Cardiff victory.

Edinburgh, of course, need to draw a line under this one and move on.  However, the fact is that this league is going to be very tight again this year and they have just conceded five points to one of their likely rivals for a top six place.  Not a great start.