Edinburgh opened their RaboDirect Pro12 campaign with a lacklustre showing against Cardiff Blues at Murrayfield, the visitors running out 38-15 winners after a performance which home head coach Michael Bradley described as “painful”. He added, “It was a poor start (to the season). The positives were that we were able to create, the big negative being that we lost the match.”
It was the Blues, also under the tutelage of a new coach in the form of Justin Burrell, who drew first blood, fly-half Ceri Sweeney punishing Edinburgh after a calamitous start. Straight from kick-off the ball bounced onto the chest of breakaway forward David Denton, before being picked up by a colleague in an offside position. Sweeney stroked over the resulting penalty to give his side the lead inside the opening 60 seconds.
The Edinburgh backline appeared to be functioning more smoothly than in last week’s victory over Newcastle Falcons, with both Simon Webster and Matt Scott making notable impact in the opening exchanges. Their first clear-cut opportunity arose after an intelligent chip kick from Phil Godman freed flying machine Tim Visser down the left wing. The move was eventually brought to a halt by the scrambling Blues defence, yet a Cardiff infringement on the deck allowed skipper Greig Laidlaw to bring the scores level.
As the game progressed, Cardiff’s playmakers began to take a stranglehold of the midfield, with Casey Laulala looking imperious along with his partner in the centre Gavin Evans. And it was Evans who instigated the move which led to the game’s first try, his chip ahead causing havoc in the home defensive ranks. Having brushed aside the challenge of Webster, Evans continued his run to the heart of the Edinburgh rearguard. The Blues then shifted the ball wide, where international back-row Martyn Williams was on hand to provide the scoring pass to Sam Hobbs for an unconverted score.
Laidlaw and Sweeney traded penalties before an electrifying break from Jim Thomson had the somewhat paltry Murrayfield crowd on their feet. The move resulted in a penalty in front of the Cardiff posts, which Laidlaw duly knocked over to edge his side back into the contest, but a further Sweeney penalty on the stroke of half time ensured the visitors went into the break with a five-point advantage.
Edinburgh passed up an early opportunity to reduce the deficit at the start of the second period, as Laidlaw pushed a penalty attempt wide, but the hosts were now undoubtedly in the ascendance. It appeared as though they had snatched the lead when an improvised pass from Scott in midfield released Visser. His inside ball was dotted down by Sean Cox, only for the play to be called back, with the Dutchman adjudged to have stepped into touch before delivering his final pass.
The home side were not to be denied the lead however, and two Laidlaw penalties in quick succession put them in a strong position with the game entering its final quarter. Yet rather than safeguarding their lead, the final quarter saw a capitulation from the hosts which saw Cardiff run away with the encounter. Converted tries from Andries Pretorius and a second touchdown for Hobbs, along with a fourth Sweeney penalty gave Burrell’s side an unassailable lead. A further score from winger Tom James, who showed a clean pair of heels to the entire home defence, converted by Sweeney, rounded off the victory “We created a lot of opportunities but we didn’t take them. Cardiff are a quality outfit and they upped their game in the second half which was disappointing for us. They were deserved winners,” admitted Bradley.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Penalties: Laidlaw (5). Cardiff: Tries: Hobbs (2), Pretorius, James. Conversions: Sweeney (3). Penalties: Sweeney (4)
Edinburgh: J Thompson, L Jones, S Webster, M Scott, T Visser, P Godman, G Laidlaw, K Traynor, S Lawrie, L Niven, G Gilchrist, S Turnbull, S Cox, R Grant, D Denton. Subs used: J Gilding, E Lozada, H Watson, C Leck, G Hunter, J Houston.
Cardiff: C Czekaj, R Mustoe, C Laulala, G Evans, T James, C Sweeney, R Rees, S Hobbs, R Thomas, S Andrews, J Down, D Jones, M Paterson, M Williams, A Pretorius. Subs used: N Trevett, R Harford, P Tito, M Molitika, L Jones, D Hewitt.