A GREIG LAIDLAW drop goal two minutes from time earned Edinburgh their opening RaboDirect Pro 12 victory of the new season. However, coach Michael Bradley’s side did their level best to gift Cardiff Blues their second success of the new campaign, eventually prevailing 21-19.
The visitors dominated the game for long periods but failed to take their chances and almost paid the ultimate price. Thankfully, Laidlaw came up trumps in the nick of time. There were just enough minutes on the clock for the Blues to mount one final attack, but a dropped pass, after replacement John Yapp’s tackle, gave Edinburgh the chance to clear their lines and Greig Tonks duly did just that.
Having lost 23-18 on home soil to Munster seven days ago, Edinburgh were understandably keen to make a good start against a Blues side who kicked off their domestic campaign with a useful victory in Galway.
They did exactly that. Referee David Wilkinson penalised the Welsh scrum for collapsing and Laidlaw converted the ensuing penalty. Five minutes later, a break from Roddy Grant set up the visitors in the Blues 22, but despite a series on efforts to breach the line, Nick De Luca was held up by Tom James as he fought to touch down.
A knock on by Lee Jones cost Edinburgh their next opportunity, but with the Blues scrum in a spot of bother, Edinburgh were always in the driving seat. That they failed to score in a period spent exclusively in the Blues 22 was the only concern.
By the time the Blues had found an escape route, Edinburgh were clearly frustrated and when Allan Jacobsen was penalised for preventing release at a ruck in front of his own posts, Leigh Halfpenny levelled.
Edinburgh’s response was immediate. Sean Cox’s break and dummy sucked in the Blues defence and though Halfpenny was covering, Visser swept in for a try that Laidlaw was unable to convert. The outside half inexplicably dragged a penalty wide, moments later, but such was the ease with which the Edinburgh pack was able to secure possession, that Laidlaw had plenty of opportunities to make amends.
Still, it was another Edinburgh mistake that brought the game’s fourth score. De Luca was nabbed for offside in midfield and Halfpenny, from 45 yards made no mistake. A third successful kick from the Wales full back edged the Blues in front, five minutes before the interval, but when Visser broke free two minutes into the second half, Edinburgh should have been back ahead. Unfortunatelty, the giant wing kicked beyond Halfpenny and the ball bounced over the dead ball line.
Edinburgh were the reduced to 14 men when Tonks was sin-binned for handling on the floor. They were penalised for their indiscipline when Alex Cutbert came off the blindside wing and after barging through two tackles inside the visitors’ 22, the Wales wing touched down at the posts for Halfpenny to improve.
Laidlaw’s penalty, after 51 minutes cut the lead to five points, but by now, the Blues had a sniff of victory and Halfpenny restored his side’s eight point advantage after Edinburgh had been penalised at a scrum.
With Tonks preparing for his return, the Blues were reduced to 14 men. Laidlaw hacked forward a bouncing ball and though Richie Rees was unable to collect, five yards short of the Blues lines, Josh Navidi kicked possession on the floor and was duly sent to the bin.
From the ensuing scrum, the Blues were nicked for wheeling through 90 degrees and referee Wilkinson awarded a penalty try that Laidlaw converted.
Edinburgh then botched two three-on- one overlaps and had to wait until the 78th minute before Laidlaw dropped a goal to win the game. It was no more than Edinburgh deserved, although they had made heavy weather of it.
Cardiff: Tries: Cuthbert. Conversions: Halfpenny. Penalties: Halfpenny (4)
Edinburgh: Tries: Visser, pen try. Conversions: Laidlaw. Penalties: Laidlaw (2). Drop goal: Laidlaw
Cardiff Blues: L Halfpenny (R Patchell 59); A Cuthbert, G Evans, D Hewitt, T James; C Sweeney, L Jones (L Williams 50); T Filise, R Williams (M Breeze 56), B Bourrust (T Davies 47), B Davies, J Down (L Reed 62), J Navidi, S Warburton, A Pretorius
Edinburgh: G Tonks; L Jones, N De Luca, J Houston, T Visser; G Laidlaw (capt), R Rees (C Leck 70); A Jacobsen (J Yapp 50), R Ford A Titterrell 70), G Cross (W Nel 50), G Gilchrist (P Parker 72(, S Cox, D Denton, R Grant, S McInally (N Talei 74)
Referee: D Wilkinson (Ireland)