Edinburgh v Cardiff: superb first-half display takes Scots to URC summit

Inspired play by backs sets up platform for commanding victory

Magnus Bradbury replaces Jame Ritchie at blindside flanker. Image: ©Craig Watson
Magnus Bradbury is leaving Edinburgh in the summer to join Bristol Bears. Image: ©Craig Watson

EDINBURGH 34

CARDIFF 10

 

STUART BATHGATE

At the DAM Health Stadium

A DRAW or even a loss with two bonus points was all Edinburgh needed to go to the top of the United Rugby Championship table, but instead they reached the summit in some style as four first-half tries put the game beyond Cardiff. The second half was a tamer affair, but Mike Blair’s team still played some superb running rugby to make it six wins in eight starts in the league and go four points clear of Leinster, who are not in action this weekend. 

Still, as he had done after announcing his team selection on Friday, Blair insisted that neither he nor his squad were paying much attention to the table at this stage in proceedings, pointing out that the second half of the fixture list looked appreciably tougher for Edinburgh than the first half. “It’s not something I’m massively focused on,” he  said.  “It’s not something we’ve really been talking about. 

“The way that the fixtures have gone, the second half of the league is going to be tougher. We’re going to have more away games, and some games against some quality Irish opposition in particular, but also some quality Welsh opposition. 

“We’re pleased with where we are, because getting points on the board early on is excellent, but we don’t want to get carried away. There was some great stuff out there, but there was a five-minute period where we’ve got some learning to do as well.”

Edinburgh had not played since their win over Saracens 28 days earlier, while Cardiff had been inactive for 21, but neither team showed any real signs of rustiness in a lively opening to the game. The Welsh team had the first sustained period of pressure, but a Magnus Bradbury turnover on the edge of their own 22 gave the home side a chance to counter-attack – and they took it with devastating effectiveness.

James Lang made the initial break in midfield then fed Ben Vellacott, and as the defence closed him down the scrum-half passed to Ramiro Moyano, who had a simple run to the line. Emiliano Boffelli converted.

Cardiff were soon back on the attack, but again coughed up possession and again were made to pay for it. Boffelli was the finisher this time, after Mark Bennett had done the hard yards.
The Pumas international missed the conversion, but soon made it 15-0 with a penalty. Yet despite that scoreline, it was by no means one-way traffic, and Cardiff eventually got off the mark when Rhys Priestland was on target with a penalty after Hamish Watson had offended.

Edinburgh remained in adventurous mood, however, and claimed their third try after half an hour when a one-two between Bennett and Moyano ended with the former touching down in the left corner just before making contact with the flag. They had been playing penalty advantage at the time from in front of the posts, but it was a sign of their complete confidence that they had no interest in taking the kick – and indeed had already turned down two previous chances to go for goal.

Boffelli converted from the touchline to make it 22-3, and that looked like being it for the first half until James Lang claimed the bonus-point try in the last play before the break. Blair Kinghorn and Jamie Ritchie did the approach work this time, and the forward’s short pass made it easy for Lang to finish off. The conversion was missed again, but at 27-3 the game looked to be completely in the bag.

Dave Cherry was on for Stuart McInally as play resumed. Moyano could have got his own second try and his team’s fifth in the opening minutes of the second half, but he held on to the ball instead of putting Vellacott in and the chance vanished.

Edinburgh had to defend for a time after that as Cardiff fought to get a foothold in the game, but a prolonged siege on the line ended with the defence, Pierre Schoeman to the fore, winning a penalty.

Lock Glen Young came on for his Edinburgh debut with half an hour to play, but by that time it was obvious that the sting had gone out of the game. A string of injuries to Cardiff players broke proceedings up further: the scrums had to be uncontested after replacement hooker Liam Belcher was forced off, and then No 8 James Botham needing on-field treatment for nearly ten minutes before being transported off in a buggy.

Within minutes of play resuming, the Welsh side got a try back, with winger Owen Lane hacking ahead twice then touching down after Kinghorn had fumbled. Jarrod Evans’ conversion took them into double figures.

Magnus Bradbury came close to hitting back immediately, only to lose the ball forward just before the line. Then Ritchie was also denied a score: he seized on a loose ball and touched down after Rey Lee-Lo had fumbled, but it was chalked off for a Bennett knock-on on the build-up.

At last, though, Bennett did get his team’s fifth try, cutting through a tired defence and going round between the posts to leave substitute Jaco van der Walt an easy conversion. 

“I thought Mark Bennett was excellent,” Blair added with little fear of contradiction. “We’re heading in the right direction.”

Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Moyano (5mins), Boffelli (9), Bennett (31, 75), Lang (39). Cons Boffelli 3. Pen: Boffelli (17).

Cardiff: Try: Lane (62). Con: J Evans. Pen: Priestland (26).

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 5-0, 7-0, 12-0, 15-0, 15-3, 20-3, 22-3, 27-3 half-time, 27-8, 27-10, 32-10, 34-10.

Edinburgh: H Immelman; E Boffelli (J van der Walt 62mins), M Bennett, J Lang (C Dean 57), R Moyano; B Kinghorn, B Vellacott (C Shiel 75); P Schoeman (B Venter 56), S McInally (D Cherry 41), W Nel (L de Bruin 58), J Hodgson (G Young 50), G Gilchrist (capt), J Ritchie, H Watson (N Haining 61), M Bradbury. 

Cardiff: M Morgan (A Summerhill 53); O Lane, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, J Harries; R Priestland (J Evans 50), L Williams (T Williams 50); R Carré, K Myhill (L Belcher 33, C Domachowski 56), D Arhip (W Davies-King 58), S Davies, R Thornton, J Turnbull (capt), W Boyde (E Jenkins 54), J Botham (J Ratti 57). 

Referee: F Murphy (Ireland).

About Stuart Bathgate 1131 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.

17 Comments

  1. Great to see Bradbury playing like the animal we thought he could be. He could become Scotland’s best number 8 since Simon Taylor. Great to see Edinburgh adding an attacking edge to the toughness and discipline built under Cockerill.

  2. Just caught the highlights very impressed with Edinburgh they seem to be enjoying playing and are playing really well. They finally seam to have an attacking plan for the backs and they are executing it. Was impressed by Bennett again his 2nd try was amazing. Great to have both the teams looking the part in the league.

  3. Edinburgh had a great first half but may want to assess the second half – did they fall into a bit of a job done attitude or were Cardiff much better in the second half despite injuries and going down to 14 players?
    Either way, a bonus point win is always a good result.

  4. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow were fantastic, both making line breaks and scoring for fun. Scotlands got some real options in the backs and back row and the future is bright for both pro teams in the 2nd half of the season. I can’t wait to get back to some live rugby.

  5. I was thinking back to last year and the constant box kicking and negativity. Amazing how things have changed. Quins in England showed that attacking rugby can be successful and Blair has transformed the attitude. It’s obvious too that the team both get what he wants and love playing that way. It was great to hear the squad giving support from the stands. Lots of ‘Gunners!’ chants – time to resurrect?

    • Re your Gunners comment, we def need something better than Edinburgh ….. but Gunners isn’t used any more …. the contrast with ‘We are Warriors’ could not be more stark … anyone got any other options?

  6. Such a pity the 1872 games were cancelled. Would have loved to see Bradbury v Fagerson, particularly as it would give Bradbury a chance against better oppo than Cardiff. Was good to see him on the rampage again tho!

  7. Amazed how Bennett has come back to his best, I had him as fading out last year. Kinghorn can play 10 ! all be it moving the kicking duties away seems a sensible move.
    Bradbury was also back.

    I guess this is this all down to a change in coaching approach? If so, what an inspired change.

  8. Bradbury, Ritchie, Bennett, the back 3 and Kimghorn were all outstanding today. Fantastic win, here’s hoping Edinburgh can keep this going

    • Kinghorn does many good things,but halve hearted attempts catching ball from kickoff twice ,missing tackles ,passing to naebody wouldn’t put him in the outstanding category at that level of rugby.

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      • may be being over harsh but I tend to agree that Kinghorn looked at times like he reverted to the lack of focus he has been rightly criticised for in the past. He will be punished even more harshly against better sides – Cardiff were really poor.
        On his tackling, he did miss some, but he can make them when he shows proper intent, even the odd jackal. I did notice something that indicates that Blair etc are aware of his defensive failings; defending Cardiff lineouts he is often hidden out wide and not providing an easy target at 10 for a big forward or 12 crashing it up. Nothing wrong with recognising a weakness. George Ford is often hidden like that while the likes of Farrell, Sexton, Biggar even Russell never are. Dan Parks used to hidden regularly for Glasgow in a similar fashion. Better to hide your weakness that ignore it and be punished

      • Kinghorn is doing well but is a clearly raw and very much a work in progress at 10. So far he has faced opposition that are well below the level of the Irish teams and the SA teams with their internationals and has got away with his errors. Of course, he needs to play to develop but he needs to perform notably better than yesterday against superior opposition to be a viable option at 10. Hopefully, he can show the focus to do that.

        Regarding options at 10, I really hope Blair is keeping Nathan Chamberlain engaged as he seems to me to be as capable as Thompson but is just getting no chance to play.

  9. Edinburgh were superb in 1st half, Bennett seems pretty much back to his best (living up to his rich early promise), Bradbury was equally superb. However it was the attitude (no aimless box kicks) to have a wee look and to trust the backs to produce that was impressive and heartening. Vellacott at the heart of things and Kinghorn is a better 10 that he is a 15.

    Well played Edinburgh and Mike Blair

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    • Managed to catch Edin and Glasgow for first time in a while and agree Bennett and Bradbury back to full form and fitness. Bennett showed his class with power, pace and stepping off either foot without losing that pace, Bradbury the big powerhouse at 8. Great to watch. Darge too as Ed says above also outstanding. All three blossoming post Cockerill.
      Good news for Townsend.

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      • Agree with this – so good to see both Bennett and Bradbury coming back to their best (Magnus must be close to a well-deserved Scotland recall). Velacott and Lang also very sharp. Along the M8, Darge was very impressive as was my Greenockian ‘cousin’ Tuipulotu. Great stuff and well done on backing up the Exeter and Saracens wins despite the enforced subsequent break.

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