There was a tough start to this season at the Arms Park for Cardiff Blues on Saturday thanks to an 11-19 loss at hands of Edinburgh.
On a wet evening in the Welsh capital, some six months after the last home Guinness Pro14 game, a lacklustre performance failed to back up a bonus point win picked up over Southern Kings in round one, leaving John Mulvihill and the coaching staff with plenty of work to do.
The head coach had made just one change to the matchday 23 which was originally named against the Kings, with Owen Lane replacing Jason Harries on the wing after recovering from a knock, but the same first half issues persisted as ill-discipline allowed Edinburgh to take an early lead.
Jaco van der Walt was successful twice off the tee in the opening 10 minutes to give the visitors an advantage, but Cardiff Blues seemed to finally get going shortly after, finally winning a penalty of our own and kicking to the corner.
Successive penalties won at the driving maul saw Edinburgh second row Fraser McKenzie sent to the sin bin, and although the home side couldn’t instantly capitalise as Liam Belcher knocked on in the act of scoring, lineout ball just inside our half offered an opportunity to attack.
Off the top of the set piece Cardiff Blues moved the ball wide through the hands of Willis Halaholo and Jarrod Evans, with the latter putting Garyn Smith through a gap. Aled Summerhill did brilliantly to track across from the blindside and linked play between Smith and Owen Lane for the Wales winger to grab his first try of the season.
Unfortunately momentum shifted again from kick-off as Olly Robinson knocked on as we tried to exit, and although van der Walt’s penalty hit the post, Edinburgh stayed on the attack. A lineout saw them set up a driving maul, and although it appeared the away player entered from the side, Seb Davies was rightly yellow carded for tipping him out of the way.
With the visitors back to full strength Cardiff Blues had to defend valiantly on the line, with a Halaholo tackle dislodging possession and Lloyd Williams snaffling the loose ball well, before play was cleared and Liam Belcher won a penalty over the ball, allowing Evans to take three points.
Once again though it was the exit play from the kick-off that let the hosts down, with Nick Williams carrying well only for us to go through another phase and see Edinburgh win a penalty over the ball for van der Walt to kick once again.
At 8-9 down at half-time the game was finely poised, although not a high quality affair. It set up what could have been an exciting second half, but unfortunately the stop-start nature of the game continued.
Penalties from Evans and van der Walt were exchanged to make the score 11-12 going into the last 10 minutes as Cardiff Blues were unable to string together any meaningful phases while getting increasingly frustrated with seemingly being on the wrong end of marginal decisions at the breakdown.
In the end it was missed tackles that were the downfall of the hosts though, as George Taylor was able to break through far too easily and find centre partner Mark Bennett on his shoulder to score under the posts, with van der Walt converting.
Cardiff Blues attempted to get back into the game with less than 10 minutes remaining, but a poor kick and a handling error summed up the performance, with truthfully no points being deserved after what Mulvihill would describe as a ‘lacklustre’ performance.
Next up the team travel to Glasgow next Saturday evening, knowing that a much improved showing will be required if any points are to be returned from Scotstoun.