Edinburgh lost their first match in seven starts and deserved to lose, dropping out of the Challenge Cup in the process. The club have been admirably gritty and composed this season but they played some brainless rugby against Cardiff in last night’s quarter-final.
The home side’s defence failed them in the first half when two individual howlers gifted Cardiff two easy tries and, when Edinburgh had the lion’s share of the ball after the break, their attack lacked the accuracy required to pierce a determined Blues line.
Nathan Fowles had an evening to forget. The scrum-half kicked poorly, too long to contest and not very accurate, he had a hand in Cardiff’s opening try (see below for details) and his distribution was wayward. Edinburgh’s passing in general lacked accuracy, balls went behind the receiver or to no one at all.
The Cardiff flankers, Josh Navidi and Ellis Jenkins, bossed the breakdown mercilessly and Edinburgh’s attack never quite came to terms with the Cardiff’s line speed.
But the biggest difference between the two teams was tactically, with Cardiff’s Jarrod Evans the class act. The fly-half constantly nudged the ball in behind Edinburgh’s rush defence. This ploy led directly to two Cardiff tries.
Edinburgh have been composed and competitive for much of this season but they reverted to their previous role as headless chickens as soon as they fell behind.
Blair Kinghorn attempted to run the ball out of defence late in the first half and was turned over for his trouble. Mark Bennett tapped a kickable penalty just after the break, which would have narrowed the gap to eight points, and the same man threw a wild pass early in the second half that put his team under the cosh. The fans have seen it all before, and far too often.
When the first try appeared in the 21st minute it was in bizarre circumstances. Magnus Bradbury was turned over in a choke tackle and from the resulting scrum Cardiff played right then left until fly-half Evans aimed a kick/pass at the right wing.
Fowles was covering back but the scrum-half, back to the ball, allowed it to ricochet off the back of his head and Cardiff flanker Jenkins was first to claim the rebound.
After the wait for the opening try the second came hot on its heels. Cardiff had their tails up and Gareth Anscombe grubbered behind the Edinburgh defence, Kinghorn failed to secure the bobbling ball which instead fell nicely for Rey Lee-Lo who fed Blaine Scully for one of the winger’s simpler scores.
It stayed at 14-3 at half-time, although Edinburgh rode their luck at the start of the second 40 when Evans missed a simple penalty from dead ahead. Jaco van der Walt narrowed the gap at the other end of the field only for Edinburgh to concede almost immediately, Evans making no mistake this time.
Richard Cockerill went to the bench with Simon Berghan and Lewis Carmichael appearing on the 50-minute mark, Sean Kennedy and Phil Burleigh joining them a little later.
The change of personnel gave Edinburgh the impetus they had been missing, only for a loss of concentration in the set scrum to allow Evans another simple three points from a penalty, extending Cardiff’s lead to 20-6.
Circling the plug hole the home team dug deep, they held on to the ball for long periods and began to find the odd chink in Cardiff’s defence. Kinghorn looked like he had carved his way through to the Cardiff line with one mazy 60-metre run but Edinburgh’s only reward was a yellow card for Ellis Jenkins on 66 minutes.
Edinburgh had three five-metre scrums against the seven-man Cardiff scrum but were unable to execute under pressure. Neil Cochrane spilled a pass on the Cardiff 22, the visitors cleared all the way up-field and what little chance Edinburgh had of snatching this one out the fire disappeared altogether.