Challenge Cup: below-par Edinburgh pay the price as Blues cruise into semis

There was no denying that Cardiff deserved to go through

Edinburgh players leave the field
Disconsolate Edinburgh players leave the field after their loss to Cardiff. Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson.




@ BT Murrayfield

CONSISTENCY has been the hallmark of Edinburgh’s displays in recent weeks, but it deserted them in this Challenge Cup quarter-final as they reserved one of their poorest displays of the season for one of their biggest games.

They came closest to scoring a try in the last 10 minutes when Cardiff had Ellis Jenkins in the sinbin, and had they done so that might have made for an extremely interesting closing spell. But there was no denying that Cardiff deserved to go through to a last-four home game against Pau: they played to the conditions better; they took control of the contest with two first-half tries; and they showed admirable composure when under heavy pressure – a quality that Edinburgh conspicuously lacked.

A shrewd kicking performance from Jarrod Evans produced those tries for Ellis Jenkins and Blaine Scully, albeit with a substantial slice of help from Edinburgh errors. The stand-off converted both and added two penalties, while the home side’s only points came from two Jaco van der Walt penalties.

Cockerill disappointed

“They took their tries well, although fortuitous as they were,” Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill acknowledged after the game. “But if you don’t deal with it, you don’t deal with it. One hits the back of one of our players and they score, and the other one we dive and we miss it and they pick it up and score from the next phase.

“We got a bit jittery. I’m starting to learn that we have to be composed in these big games, and we were a little bit off our game tonight, which was disappointing.

“No complaints. They were better than us tonight, and disappointing that we didn’t show up as well as we’d like to on an important night.

“So I’m disappointed with how we played, but there’s no point criticising them too much right now. We can have a look at it back on Monday and we can deal with that. We have to learn as a team. We’ve still got some very big fixtures coming up and the season’s very much alive for us.”

Ulster next

The next fixture, against Ulster on Friday, is one of the biggest, with a win being enough to put Edinburgh into the play-offs. That carrot should be more than enough motivation for the squad to learn quickly from this defeat and regain the panache with which they have played in recent weeks.

“It shouldn’t be very hard at all,” Cockerill agreed. “We’ve lost one game in seven, so our win ratio’s pretty good; we have to make sure we get our detail right. Ulster are coming here, they need to win, we need to win because that puts us in pole position to qualify. We’ll qualify next week if we win, so you’ve got to show some character as a team and as a club and we need to make sure we get it right next Friday.”

The match

While Cardiff were well on top over the piece in this game, the opening 15 minutes were very even, with an off-target penalty attempt from Jarrod Evans being the closest either team came to breaking their duck in that time. An offence by Josh Navidi finally allowed Van der Walt to open the scoring with a 35m penalty, but curiously, the game opened up immediately after that, and Cardiff soon took advantage.

After several phases had taken the attack to the edge of the 22, Evans, with men over on the right, launched a high diagonal towards the corner. Nathan Fowles appeared to have it covered, but lost track of the ball as it came down. It bounced off the scrum-half’s back and straight into the path of Ellis Jenkins, who dived to touch down for a score which Evans converted.

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Buoyed by that score, Cardiff were soon back on the attack against opponents who were curiously lacking in the confidence that had characterised their six-game winning run in the PRO14. That hesitancy on the part of the home side was nowhere better illustrated than at  the Blues’ second try after half an hour. A grubber kick caused the damage this time, and when it was fumbled by full-back Blair Kinghorn, Rey Lee-Lo was on hand to gather and pop up a pass to Scully. The winger ran in unopposed, and Evans again added the two points.

Edinburgh’s best chance to add to their tally before the break came when they awarded a kickable penalty 20 metres inside Blues territory, but Mark Bennett tapped and ran, and when he passed to Dougie Fife, the winger was soon crowded out. That left the score at 14-3 at the break – a lead that in no way flattered Cardiff.

The second half

The best that could be said at half-time from Edinburgh’s point of view was that they should not find it difficult to play better after the break. Cockerill resisted the temptation to make changes at the interval, presumably on the grounds that too many players might justifiably have been substituted.

His team did begin the second 40 with a greater sense of purpose, and eventually, when the Blues were penalised for an offence on the deck, Van der Walt doubled his team’s tally from 30 metres. Within two minutes, however, Evans was given an easy kick at goal, and he made no mistake to restore his team’s 11-point lead.

No Weir Effect

Kinghorn began to look more dangerous and less error-prone as Edinburgh tried to up the tempo, but Cardiff’s scrambled defence was often able to isolate him. When Duncan Weir came off the bench after 62 minutes he was the last of Edinburgh’s replacements. The stand-off has performed heroics as a late substitute in recent weeks, but that was when his team in a far better collective state of mind, and before he was able to influence proceedings, Evans had slotted home another penalty.

With 15 minutes left, Kinghorn finally found a lot of space and was only hauled down metres from the line. As play was recycled, Ellis Jenkins was sinbinned for killing the ball, and Cardiff had to dig deep in defence as Edinburgh refused to accept defeat.

However, opting for scrums when awarded very kickable penalties, they failed to secure the score that could at least have thrown the outcome into doubt and produced a frantic few final minutes.


Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Fife, M Bennett, C Dean, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, N Fowles; J Lay, S McInally, W Nel, F McKenzie, G Gilchrist, M Bradbury, J Hardie, W Mata. Substitutes: N Cochrane, R Sutherland, S Berghan, L Carmichael, C du Preez, S Kennedy, D Weir, P Burleigh,

Cardiff Blues: G Anscombe; B Scully, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, O Lane; J Evans, T Williams; G Jenkins capt, K Dacey, D Lewis, G Earle, J Turnbull, J Navidi, E Jenkins, N Williams. Substitutes: K Myhill, R Gill, A Peikrishvili, S Davies, M Cook, L Williams, G Smith, M Morgan.


Edinburgh: Pens: Van der Walt 2.

Cardiff: Tries: E Jenkins, Scully 30. Cons: Evans 2. Pens: Evans 2.

Scoring sequence: 3-0, 3-5, 3-7, 3-12, 3-14 half-time, 6-14, 6-17, 6-20.

Yellow card: Cardiff: E Jenkins.

Referee: M Raynal (France).

Attendance: 7,065.

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About Stuart Bathgate 1262 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. Edinburgh were poor tonight and got what they deserved out of the match – nothing.
    Wee question though; towards the end of the game, the Cardiff scrum half took the ball out of the back of the Edinburgh scrum and wasn’t penalised for it. Why? From where we were sitting, everyone thought it was a blatant penalty and probably a yellow card. Was there a reason why it wasn’t?

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