MICHAEL BRADLEY was today able to look past Edinburgh’s “disappointing” defeat at the hands of Cardiff Blues and focus his attention on Saturday’s day of destiny in Dublin.
A 38-13 league defeat to a Blues side inspired by Wales’ Grand Slam winger Alex Cuthbert was perhaps the right result yesterday. However, Edinburgh can take salvation from the fact the side for Saturday’s Heineken Cup semi- final against Ulster at the Aviva Stadium will show 15 changes from the team on duty at the Cardiff City Stadium.
For Bradley, there was a silver lining too. While Harry Leonard’s second-half try provided further confirmation of the youngster’s undoubted talent, Jamie Farndale performed well as a second-half replacement for Chris Paterson, as did the vastly more experienced Phil Godman.
Now, however, it’s back to the training paddock with all eyes beginning to focus on the team’s first ever appearance in the semi-finals of European rugby’s top tier of competition.
“Our skill level and fluency let us down at times, but that’s only to be expected when you throw a side together,” said Bradley.
“However, we kept going to the end and I said to the boys that while I was unhappy with the result, I was happy with the character they showed.
“You’ve got to remember that Cardiff had a really top class side out there with some fantastic players. You also had a number of players saying goodbye to their fans and because of that, it was always going to be a difficult day for us.
“But we definitely got something from the game. Now, we will turn our attention to Saturday and Ulster.”
A flight back to Edinburgh last night provided the fringe players to get a decent night’s sleep before the real preparations begin in earnest today. Bradley accepts that his side are the overwhelming underdogs and that Ulster will enjoy one or two creature comforts too. Still, this is no time for excuses and Bradley was in no mood to make any. “Everyone’s looking forward to it although I accept that Ulster will be favourites and will have the majority of the crowd behind them. The majority of their players will be used to playing in the stadium too.
“That’s fine for us, we are well used to being the underdog. We will have a good following coming over from Edinburgh and I’m sure there will be Scottish connections in and around Dublin. Oh, and potentially a couple of Munster people too! And as I’ve always said anything can happen.
“I think we have proven this year that on any given day, if things go well for us, we are a very, very dangerous. That’s the confidence we will have going into the game.”
On this occasion, it was not to be, with Edinburgh’s second string, plucky but too often over-powered. “I think if the match had been at home, we might have balanced it differently in terms of selection,” he said. “But we had two away matches prior to next weekend and were forced to make changes. As far as this week is concerned, we are ready to go and in terms of injuries, we are fine. That’s good news too.”
Godman’s early penalty edged Edinburgh in front, but by half- time, the Blues were 12-3 to the good courtesy of tries from the Wales pair Lloyd Williams and Cuthbert.
Williams burrowed his way over from close in after concerted work by his pack, while Cuthbert was gifted his opportunity after Edinburgh had turned over line-out ball deep in their own 22.
Godman dropped a goal, two minutes into the second half, to cut the deficit to six, but the Blues were soon a man to the good as referee Dudley Phillips sent John Houston to the sin bin for a high tackle on Tom James. The Welsh region made their numerical advantage count in the 50th minute when Cuthbert added his second try after brushing off a soft tackle from Paterson. Before Houston returned, the Blues had gathered a bonus point courtesy of No. 8 Luke Hamilton’s 54th minute try. Ben Blair converted and, with Edinburgh ringing the changes, Cuthbert completed his hat-trick just short of the hour. A measured kick behind the Blues’ defence from Leonard led to the young outside half touching down for a try he converted himself, but it was nothing more than a consolation when the Blues wound up matters with a try, three minutes from time, from replacement flanker Josh Navidi.
Jim Thompson said: “We had a very young side out there and it wasn’t easy. But we’ve got a huge week ahead of us. All eyes will be on the semi-final and it’s a very exciting week for Edinburgh. Ever since we beat Toulouse, the city has been buzzing. Not many people expected to get this far, just like not many people will expect us to beat Ulster. Hopefully, we pull out another performance and make the final.”
Cardiff Blues: Tries: L Williams, Cuthbert (3), Hamilton, Navidi; Conversions: Blair (4).
Edinburgh: Try: Leonard; Conversion: Leonard. Penalty: Godman; Drop goal: Godman.
Cardiff Blues: B Blair; A Cuthbert, C Laulala, D Hewitt (G Evans 60), T James; C Sweeney (D Parks 50), L Williams (R Rees 50); G Jenkins (J Yapp 60), M Breeze (K Dacey 63), S Andrews (S Hobbs 59), B Davies (capt), J Down, M Molitika, M Williams (M Cook 70), L Hamilton (J Navidi 56).
Edinburgh: C Paterson (J Farndale 55); S Visser, D Fife, J Houston, J Thompson; P Godman (H Leonard 56), A Black; K Traynor (R Hislop 56), A Kelly (A Walker 56), J Gilding (L Niven 55), R McAlpine, S Turnbull, A MacDonald, S Dewar, R Grant (capt).
Referee: D Phillips (Ireland).