Parks boots Blues to victory
December 9, 2011
Edinburgh's Greig Laidlaw and Esteban Lozada compete with Cardiff Blues' Bradley Davies © PA Photos
Cardiff Blues forwards coach Justin Burnell praised a strong second-half effort from his pack after a 25-8 win over Edinburgh maintained their unbeaten start to the Heineken Cup and put them top of Pool 2.
Fly-half Dan Parks kicked two drop goals, four penalties and converted Alex Cuthbert's late try as Cardiff went three points clear at the halfway point of the pool stage. The Blues had led just 6-3 at the break after a scrappy first-half, but Wales forwards Bradley Davies, Gethin Jenkins and man-of-the-match Sam Warburton featured prominently as the home side eventually secured a comfortable victory.
And while this scrappy, error-strewn contest may not have made for absorbing viewing, Burnell was delighted to see his side make it three wins out of three. "They gave us a good battle but at the end of the day we got the three out of three which is the most important thing," he said. "If you look at the back row they picked you could see they came to try and physically outmuscle us, which meant it took us time to wear them down. But in the second half Bradley Davies and Taufa'ao Filise were exceptional going forward, and Sam Warburton and Gethin Jenkins were phenomenal from a defensive and contact area point of view."
While Parks' accuracy when going for goal was a key factor in Cardiff's win, the Scotland number 10 was guilty of bouts of aimless tactical kicking and spurned one particularly promising attacking position in the first half in favour of a drop goal attempt that veered off target. But Burnell insisted he was more than satisfied with the performance of his fly-half.
He said: "Dan had a good game. We are quick to realise he might kick a lot but he keeps us going forward and the big thing for us is he keeps the scoreboard ticking and any time they got penalised in their own half he slotted his kicks."
Victory for the Blues in the return fixture at Murrayfield in a week's time would give the Welsh side one foot in the last eight and, having already secured a bonus point win in Edinburgh when the sides met in the RaboDirect PRO12 earlier this season, Burnell says his side will travel with no fear.
He said: "If you look at the places we have had to go this season, like Racing Metro away, Connacht away, we have shown we are comfortable going away from home. We have already been to Murrayfield once this season and had a bonus point win and it doesn't phase us going on the road."
Edinburgh's points came from a Greig Laidlaw penalty and a fine second-half try from wing Lee Jones, created by a sharp pass out of the tackle from Tim Visser, but it was not enough to prevent their own unbeaten record in Europe coming to an end. And coach Michael Bradley acknowledged his side had been guilty of failing to take the opportunities that had come their way.
"It was disappointing, we started brightly enough and we kept the pressure on Cardiff but we did not take our chances or convert our territory into scores," he said. "At half-time Cardiff were 6-3 up without doing a lot, but they were doing more things right than us, and in the second half they forced penalties which allowed them to pull away.
"We were always chasing from there which is not what you want to be doing against Cardiff. We made some uncharacteristic errors tonight, there were a couple of knock ons and instances where the ball shot out the back of rucks and we lacked composure, which I hope we will have in more familiar surroundings next week. The gulf is not insurmountable for next week."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September