Little light at end of tunnel for Edinburgh

Edinburgh Rugby's Willem Nel is tackled by Cardiff Blues' Dafydd Hewitt and Bradley Davies. ''Photo by Ian Cook/CameraSport''Rugby Union

Edinburgh Rugby's Willem Nel is tackled by Cardiff Blues' Dafydd Hewitt and Bradley Davies. ''Photo by Ian Cook/CameraSport''Rugby Union

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Edinburgh’s miserable start to the season continued in south Wales as the try-scoring instincts of Alex Cuthbert and the boot of Leigh Halfpenny inspired Cardiff Blues to a 29-12 success over the Capital outfit and inflicted the fourth defeat in five RaboDirect PRO12 matches on Alan Solomons’ men.

Edinburgh’s lone points came via the boot of Greig Laidlaw, who kicked four penalties in his first competitive appearance of the season.

Head coach Solomons refused to carry out his post-match media duties, leaving his defence coach Omar Mouneimne to put on a brave face. “It’s not about winning or losing at present, it’s about playing better,” he claimed. “We inherited a squad that we didn’t recruit, so we didn’t have a pre-season at all. We are some way behind. These opening five games are effectively our pre-season.

“In the first half we stuck to our systems pretty well, but in the second half we lost our way. We made a number of errors and then ill-discipline crept in. To be honest, they were better than us at the breakdown.”

Trailing 13-12 at half time, Edinburgh’s fate was effectively sealed in the early moments of the second half when flanker Tomas Leonardi drove over the Blues’ line from close-range. After reviewing the television footage, TMO Gareth Simmonds advised referee George Clancy to award a penalty to the Blues for a double movement.

As expected, both coaches saw the incident differently. “I thought it was a fair try,” said Mouneimne. “They are normally given when you drive over like that. The fact that it was not awarded, was a crushing blow.”

Blues coach, Phil Davies thought otherwise. “It was a good call by George Clancy and his officials as it was a definitely a double movement.”

Cardiff had much the better of the opening quarter as Edinburgh were second best in all areas. The Blues were quicker to the breakdown and nicked both restart kicks to ensure the visitors were under constant pressure.

Although they won their fair share of first phase possession, time and again Edinburgh kicked away the ball aimlessly, allowing the Blues to counter-attack at every opportunity. Thankfully, the visitors’ defensive resilience kept them in touch at 6-6 at the end of the quarter, with two penalties from Halfpenny being cancelled out by two from Laidlaw on the two occasions that Edinburgh entered the opposition territory.

However, after 27 minutes, the Blues collected the try that their superiority deserved. Having combined with Harry Robinson on half-way, Owen Williams was hauled down 15 metres short by an excellent cover tackle from Dougie Fife. It was in vain, as Cardiff recycled quickly and Cuthbert out-stripped the Edinburgh defence for a try that Halfpenny converted.

Edinburgh were more competitive thereafter, enjoying an equal share of the game for the remainder of the half. Their reward was a further brace of penalties from Laidlaw.

After the restart, they enjoyed their most productive period of the match, forcing their hosts deep into their own half. First, Laidlaw was unlucky not to give his side the lead for the first time when his long-range penalty rebounded back off the post and then Leonardi had his try chalked off as the Blues, once again, were allowed off the hook.

Ill-discipline from Edinburgh gave Halfpenny the chance to kick three penalties in only five minutes as Laidlaw became increasingly frustrated with referee Clancy’s decisions, questioning them on more than one occasion.

Prior to Halfpenny kicking that third penalty, replacement back rower Cornell du Preez picked up a yellow card for a deliberate offside at a ruck just 14 minutes into his debut.

With Edinburgh down to 14 men, Cardiff took full advantage, scoring a delightful try to seal the match. From inside his own half, a long pass from Rhys Patchell sent Robinson away down the left flank before a telling burst from Halfpenny and a sublime pass from Sam Warburton sent Cuthbert galloping unopposed to the line.

Edinburgh were now in danger of being routed, but this time the TMO ruled in their favour when Cuthbert was denied a hat-trick as he was told he had not grounded the ball after crashing over yet again.

Du Preez returned from the bin with no further damage done, but despite showing spirit in the closing minutes, Edinburgh failed to trouble the Blues and an accurate final scoreline ensured the Capital side’s worst start to a campaign in nine years.

Scorers:

Cardiff Blues: Tries: Cuthbert (2). Conversions: Halfpenny (2). Penalties: Halfpenny (5).

Edinburgh: Penalties: Laidlaw (4).

Cardiff Blues: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, O Williams (D Hewitt 33), C Allen, H Robinson, R Patchell (G Davies 75), L Williams (L Jones 71), G Jenkins (S Hobbs 59), M Rees (capt) (G Dacey 75), T Filise (S Andrews 65), B Davies, F Paulo (L Reed 75), J Navidi, A Pretorius (R Copeland 45), S Warburton.

Edinburgh: J Cuthbert; D Fife, J Dominguez (S Hildago-Clyne 67), B Atiga (M Scott 25), T Visser, H Leonard, G Laidlaw (capt), A Dickinson (W Blaauw 61), R Ford, W Nel, S Cox, I van der Westhuizen (O Atkins 40), D Basilaia, D Denton, T Leonardi (C du Preez 45).

Referee: G Clancy (IRE).

Attendance: 7,245.