Edinburgh Rugby go top of the table after Mark Bennett double secures bonus point victory over Cardiff
No fans, no problem. Edinburgh moved to the top of the United Rugby Championship with a bonus-point victory over Cardiff which was as convincing as the 34-10 scoreline suggests.
Concerns that the absence of spectators might impact on Edinburgh’s unbeaten record at the DAM Health Stadium were quickly quashed as the home side ran in two early tries.
The scores, from Argentine wingers Ramiro Moyano and Emiliano Boffelli, set the tone and Edinburgh pressed home their advantage with further first-half tries from the outstanding Mark Bennett and James Lang.
Bennett added another in the second half, dummying and swerving his way to the line from 35 metres out to set the seal on a win which puts Edinburgh four points clear of Leinster at the summit.
It was Cardiff’s first URC match in 77 days and it showed. Mike Blair, the Edinburgh coach, had talked up Moyano on the eve of the match, comparing him favourably to his old team-mate Derrick Lee, and it was the Argentina international who opened the scoring.
Magnus Bradbury won a turnover in his own half and Lang made the hard yards with a superb break. Ben Vellacott took it on and the scrum-half’s pass missed out Bennett and found Moyano who ran in the score.
Boffelli converted then quickly emulated his compatriot with a try of his own. Bennett was the architect, stepping inside as he embarked on a surging run from his own half before passing to Boffelli who had the freedom of the left flank. The winger missed the conversion on this occasion but Edinburgh were 12-0 ahead before Cardiff had even woken up.
The pressure continued, with Cardiff conceding a string of penalties. Edinburgh pushed and probed, kicking to the corners before eventually settling for three points from the boot of Boffelli.
The visitors cut the lead with a penalty of their own from Rhys Priestland but it was temporary respite and Edinburgh added two more tries in the final ten minutes of the half to secure a bonus point before the interval.
Bennett got the first, exchanging passes with Boffelli before plunging down into the corner. Lang then got in on the act, finishing off a smart move sparked by Kinghorn. The stand-off’s long looping pass found Jamie Ritchie standing out on the left wing and the Scotland flanker played in the on-rushing Lang.
Boffelli converted the first but not the second and Edinburgh went in at the turn 27-3 to the good.
The work had been done and fireworks were in short supply in the second half. Moyano had one memorable run but was stopped short. Edinburgh were then forced to defend on their own line and did so gamely.
Cardiff tried to find a way through as the game wore on but found the hosts in mean mood. Bradbury, impressive throughout, was particularly solid, knocking back Rey Lee-Lo and then Willis Halaholo.
Cardiff’s cause wasn’t helped by serious looking injuries to Liam Belcher and James Botham and the loss of the former saw the introduction of uncontested scrums.
The Welsh side kept pressing and got their reward after a loose pass by Ritchie. Owen Lane fly-hacked the ball on from halfway and the winger showed neat footballing skills to dribble all the way to the Edinburgh line for the try. Jarrod Evans converted.
Bennett had the final say, running in a superb fifth try from his own half, which Jaco van der Walt converted.