Limp Blues scrape home
October 9, 2010
Chris Czekaj scored the Blues' first try during the clash at the Cardiff City Stadium
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Cardiff Blues got their Heineken Cup campaign off to a winning start with an 18-17 victory over Edinburgh in a dismal game at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday.
The Blues, last season's Amlin Challenge Cup champions, have been tipped by many as possible tournament dark horses but they turned in a limp, insipid performance against a committed but limited Edinburgh side.
The teams shared two tries apiece, with Chris Czekaj and the irrepressible Casey Laulala scoring for the hosts and Allan Jacobsen and Ben Cairns for the Scottish side. The Blues were not aided by a dire performance from fly-half Dan Parks, who missed a host of penalty opportunities and failed to deliver in terms of invention and his tactical kicking game.
Edinburgh fullback Chris Paterson got the scoreboard ticking over with a second minute penalty but his accuracy was not matched by Parks, who sent three penalties flying past the uprights in quick succession.
With a modest crowd already voicing their frustration the Blues were almost undone by a crafty midfield move from the visitors, who sent Jim Thompson hurtling into space only for Xavier Rush to eat up the ground and pull off a try-saving tackle. Blues wing Leigh Halfpenny opened up the home side's first opportunity with a dab of pace and a grubber, but their support play broke down as the ball was lost forward with the line begging.
Parks' miserable start to the game continued as he knocked on under little pressure and his general lethargy spread to the rest of the home side as an overthrown lineout from Rhys Thomas landed in the grateful arms of Mike Blair, who quickly sent Jacobsen barrelling over the line.
The Blues' response was almost instantaneous as quick hands from Laulala and Ben Blair sent Halfpenny haring for the corner, only for Mike Blair to halt his progress with a desperate tap-tackle. Cardiff finally strung together some meaningful possession and their efforts saw reward in the form of a yellow card for Paterson, who took the visiting side's competitiveness at the breakdown too far for referee Romain Poite.
Parks kicked the penalty from directly in front and the Blues' opening try arrived shortly after thanks to some patient handling. After some strong thrusts from Rush and the pack, Laulala crafted an offload to give Paul Tito enough time to send Czekaj over. Parks smashed over the conversion with the help of an old-fashioned heel to the ground.
Cardiff's offloading game kicked into gear as half-time neared and Edinburgh were again forced to infringe to halt the tide of Blues shirts. Parks, growing in confidence, popped over another three points to give the home side a three-point lead at the break.
Parks missed a drop-goal and a penalty at the start of the second-half to leave the Blues struggling in the face of overwhelming Edinburgh possession. Laulala attempted to inject some life into the game with a massive hand-off on Tim Visser, but his team-mates were slow to follow his example.
David Blair went close to scoring Edinburgh's second after hacking through a loose ball, but the fly-half's hesitant collection allowed the Blues to regroup and force a knock-on from replacement Netani Talei.
Despite Edinburgh's dominance of the possession stats, the Blues bagged the next try and it was no surprise to see Laulala diving across the whitewash. The Kiwi centre rounded off a long spell of pressure by picking an offload from Rush off his toes and beating the last man to score.
Parks missed the conversion and the Blues were punished immediately. Blair strolled through a massive gap in the home side's midfield defence and after their pack had smashed away from close range, Cairns was sent over in the corner thanks to a suspiciously forward pass from Paterson. The Edinburgh fullback banged over the conversion to leave both sides to rumble away in the closing minutes, neither doing enough to raise the volume inside the stadium.
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