Cardiff 34-15 Edinburgh: Champions Cup bid ended by defeat in Wales

Edinburgh went into this game with the hope of a third-place finish in Pro14 Conference B still intact. It ended with them learning that, although they have two games still to play, they will end up in fifth, with no chance of Champions Cup rugby next season.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 11:52 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd March 2021, 11:52 pm
Edinburgh's Bill Mata takes on Rory Thornton of Cardiff Blues. Picture: Ryan Hiscott/INPHO/Shutterstock

Richard Cockerill’s side began well enough at the Arms Park, with Mesu Kunavula and Bill Mata among those injecting some fearsome physicality into proceedings. But Cardiff were by some way the stronger side in the second half, scoring 24 points.

Edinburgh enjoyed a lot of pressure in the opening ten minutes and more of the game, with Eroni Sau being prominent with several carries and Charlie Shiel mixing up his game well. But they were unable to turn that pressure into points, and soon found themselves fortunate not to fall behind when, at the end of Cardiff’s first real attack, Jarrod Evans sent a penalty attempt crashing back off an upright.

Midway through the half, debutant stand-off Charlie Savala was on target from around the ten-metre line to give the visitors the lead. However, the Blues were soon back on the attack, and when Evans was given a second chance to go for goal he made no mistake.

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Another period of Edinburgh dominance began when Blair Kinghorn delivered an excellent restart, and after a penalty was sent to touch and both Mike Willemse and Luke Crosbie rumbled on from the lineout, George Taylor straightened up and cruised over the line. Savala converted to put his team into double figures, but missed a penalty with the last kick of the half to leave the score 10-3 at the break.

It was an uncomfortably narrow advantage to hold given Edinburgh had had the lion’s share of possession, and within a few minutes of the restart it shrank to four points when Evans added a second penalty after Kunavula had drifted offside. The Blues kept up their bright start to the second 40, and took the lead for the first time through Liam Belcher following a lineout maul. Evans’ conversion made it 13-10.

An injury picked up while attempting to stop that try ended Andrew Davidson’s evening, then Edinburgh fell further behind just as they had begun to impose some pressure. A turnover allowed Matthew Morgan to attack from deep, Aled Summerhill took it on, and Rodney Lee-Lo finished it off, with Evans adding the two points.

Jack Blain replaced Savala, with Kinghorn moving up to 10 as Edinburgh desperately sought a way back into the contest. They found it, too, as Taylor grabbed his second try after some excellent work down the left from Damien Hoyland, but Kinghorn’s conversion attempt wandered wide.

Hooker Sam Kitchen came on for his debut when Mike Willemse was injured, then Evans just failed with a penalty that would have put his team eight points clear. Minutes after that miss, though, the stand-off ran on to a lob ahead from Lloyd Williams to score between the posts. This time his kick was on target.

In the closing minutes Kinghorn was harshly ruled to have knocked on as he countered from deep, then in the last play of the game James Ratti got the Blues’ bonus-point try, with Evans adding two more points.