Cardiff Blues 25 - 8 Edinburgh: Return tie now vital for Bradley

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A DISAPPOINTING defeat for Edinburgh, but an immediate chance to put things right when the sides meet at Murrayfield next Friday night.

That was how coach Michael Bradley saw last night’s Heineken Cup setback at the Cardiff City Stadium, with the visitors succumbing 25-8 to Cardiff Blues

Twenty points from old foe Dan Parks and an Alex Cuthbert try provided the Cardiff Blues with a victory that sees the Welsh region leapfrog the Gunners into top spot in Pool 2.

Still, Edinburgh can keep alive their hopes of reaching the last eight should they turn the tables on a Blues side that was far from convincing for much this forgettable contest.

“It was disappointing because we started brightly enough and worked hard to stop them playing,” said Bradley. “However, we made uncharacteristic errors and didn’t take our chances.

“To be fair, Cardiff went into a 6-3 lead and forced a lot of penalties against us in the second half. It is certainly something we need to look at. After that, we were always chasing the game and that’s not a position you want to be in.

“We are fortunate not to have picked up any injuries, but we need to improve on that and make sure that we win next week. It gives us a chance to put things right, but it’s a game we certainly can’t afford to lose.”

Blues coach Justin Burnell said: “We’ve been to Murrayfield once this season and we came away with a bonus point win. I don’t think it is something that will faze us.”

With both sides having won their opening games in the pool, it was all to play for in this, the first of successive games between the Celtic rivals. The Blues, with seven of the Wales team beaten by Australia last weekend, back in harness, have blown hot in cold in the domestic league this season. However, European victories against Racing Metro and London Irish has given rise to renewed confidence for Edinburgh in the Welsh capital.

Despite having lost the last five games between the sides, Edinburgh showed few signs of trouble in an opening quarter during which centre Nick De Luca struck an upright with a drop goal from barely a dozen yards. David Denton and Stuart McInally were abrasive at the tackle area and made sure the Blues struggled for quick ball.

Having ridden their luck, the Blues eventually took the lead in the 14th minute when Parks made no mistake with a drop goal after a concerted break from Xavier Rush. However, Edinburgh were level within a minute. Referee Wayne Barnes deemed the Blues to have strayed offside in midfield and skipper Greig Laidlaw obliged with the ensuing penalty.

It was a game full of honest endeavour, but precious little else. Parks was typically indecisive at pivot and kicked without reason, while the Blues’ line out was a continuing headache. Edinburgh, in contrast, were far more cohesive, although try scoring chances were few and far between. Still, they should have edged in front, 10 minutes before the interval, after driving the Blues back into their own 22. Sadly, with the line in sight, the ball bobbled free and Parks averted the danger with a booming touch-finder. It was one of those nights.

As the two sides became caught up in a tedious arm wrestle, so the crowd became understandably restless. In fact, when Parks sliced a drop goal wide after the one flowing move of the half, there was a chorus of boos.

On the stroke of half time, Parks did give the home support something to cheer when he converted a penalty from 30 yards after Edinburgh had been penalised for preventing release.

A change at half back five minutes before the interval saw Mike Blair come on at scrum half, with Laidlaw moving to outside half.

More aimless kicking from Parks after the interval eventually gave way to the move of the game in which Sam Warburton, Paul Tito and Gethin Jenkins all featured heavily. However, as was so often the case prior to the interval, Edinburgh came up trumps at the tackle area and the chance was lost.

Two minutes later, Parks popped up and punished the visitors for once again encroaching offside and a similar offence, five minutes later, saw Parks stretch the lead. Though seldom convincing, the Blues were at last beginning to play with a degree of composure and Edinburgh were finding it increasingly difficult to stem the tide.

Casey Laulala and Jamie Roberts punched holes in a retreating Edinburgh midfield and when the tireless Roddy Grant was harshly penalised for putting his hands in at a ruck, Parks was once again on target with a penalty that put the Blues 12 points clear.

Having fallen behind, Edinburgh began to pose one or two questions of their own, Blair and Laidlaw were quick-witted around the base and had Tim Visser’s intended pass to Lee Jones not have been deemed forward by touch judge David Rose, a try would surely have followed.

However, when the Blues lost possession at the very next scrum, Edinburgh were at it again. This time, Visser made no mistake with his pass and Jones stepped inside Leigh Halfpenny for a try Laidlaw failed to improve.

A second drop goal of the night from Parks, 15 minutes from time, settled the Blues once more and after an interception from replacement prop Scott Andrews, Warburton set up Cuthbert for a try that put paid to any feint hopes of a losing bonus point.

Scorers:

Cardiff Blues: Try – Cuthbert. Conversion – Parks. Penalties – Parks (4). Drop goals: Parks (2)

Edinburgh: Try – Jones. Penalty – Laidlaw

Cardiff Blues: L Halfpenny (G Evans 74); A Cuthbert, C Laulala, J Roberts, C Czekaj; D Parks, L Williams; G Jenkins (J Yapp 74), R Thomas (R Tyrell 67), T Filise (S Andrews 62), B Davies, P Tito (capt, M Molitika 74)), M Paterson, S Warburton (J Navidi 74), X Rush

Edinburgh: C Paterson (T Brown 68); L Jones, N De Luca, J King, T Visser; H Leonard (Blair 35), G Laidlaw (capt); A Jacobsen, R Ford (S Lawrie 74), G Cross, S Cox, E Lozada (R Turnbull 67), D Denton, R Grant, S McNally (R Rennie 52)

Attendance: 6102