Edinburgh

k.o. time: 4:00 pm

23 November, 2014

BT Murrayfield

Spectators: 3,803

Cardiff Blues
referee
Leo Colgan
scorers
Adam Thomas (1)
Gareth Davies (1)
Gareth Davies (2)

We know that the club is struggling to overcome a disastrous few years. The legacy of Lewis in keeping the club poor is a battle on one front but the internal battle of overcoming the disastrous regime of Phil Davies is probably of greater concern. This means that the best XXIII isn’t strong enough, so when it’s missing the best part of a dozen players then what is left behind is obviously not going to be good enough.

The team that started at Edinburgh was weak, but that was weakened further when Hoeata was sent to the sin bin within the first ten minutes and then was injured shortly after his return. His sin binning set the tone of the game whereby the Referee had looked to punish him for an offence must less severe than we had witnessed at MSCAP the day previous by his countryman Dane Coles. On that offence, Barnes chose to penalise the All Blacks by pushing them back 10 metres. This ref, however, punished Cardiff with ten minutes.

He didn’t stop there, however, as he also sent Hobbs and Jenkins to the bin for minor offences. He looked to prevent Cardiff gaining any momentum until the game was beyond them but, in the most ironic twist, he wasn’t their greatest enemy. Rather, it was the players themselves as they spilled the ball three times within 5 metres of the opposition try line. Therefore, the story of the game is that a poor team went to Scotland, played poorly, got reffed off the park but still should have won as they left 21 easy points on the pitch.

The pre-match blurb was all about the debut of Anscombe, so it was interesting to see Hammett pick him at 15. The great Welsh debate about who plays ten would only have reignited had Anscombe made his debut there, so this was a smart move by Hammett.

Anscombe was soon in the game but looked hesitant at full back as his instinct seemed to be to always run with the ball whereas the team is set up to kick first. However, the more he got into the game the more his class showed as he carried the ball at pace, often easily beyond the first man and always looked to keep the ball alive. It’s clear that he was a rose amongst thorns in that back line, but he still shone.

It was that back line that ultimately cost Cardiff the game as it was packed with players at best uncomfortable, at worst out of their depth, at this level. There is no leadership from the half backs but the pairing of Thomas and Evans in the centre is the worst since the rebrand of 2003. We had Tristan Davies and Jonny Bryant at one time, but they look like Little and Horan compared to this pair.

Therefore, even with enough of possession, there was so little go forward in this team that it made it easy for Edinburgh to soak up the pressure. They would double or triple mark Vosawai as they knew that there were no other physical ball carriers in that pack. Cook, disappointingly, spent the game trying to be Jamie Heaslip in the wide areas whereas Hobbs, Dacey and Dicomidis were just physically unable to break the gainline.

The biggest disappointment of the season, however, must be Turnbull. He seems a very odd choice at six (Cook is a far superior 6 and, if given the opportunity, so is Hoeata). What does Turnbull offer? He lacks ball carrying ability, he lacks physicality with the ball in hand, he doesn’t grunt on the floor. In fairness, he can put in a big tackle once in a while, but he’s no Dan Baugh. Again, in this game, he was anonymous.

After the loss of Hoeata, Edinburgh were soon on the scorecard with their South African centre scoring the first try of the match when Cardiff were down to 14. From the kick off, it was 7-3 as Referee Colgan awarded his favourite penalty (in front of the kicker) to allow Gareth Davies to scrape the ball in off the uprights. It was odd that Anscombe wasn’t kicking, but Davies didn’t miss. However, he did shortly afterwards and this allowed Edinburgh to stretch their lead based on simple Cardiff errors.

As Edinburgh ticked over the scoreboard it was clear that Colgan wasn’t happy with how Cardiff played. An exciting piece of Cardiff play (with Anscombe offloading from the tackle) led to Dicomidis being free with the ball in hand and he charged toward the line. This was bound to be a try, right? Wrong. He fluffed it enormously and was held up short, allowing Colgan to penalise Cardiff at the ensuing scrum. This incident was a huge turnaround in the game as it should have meant (along with Davies’ missed penalty) Cardiff go into the lead. Instead, Colgan penalise the scrum, soon sin binned Jenkins thereafter for an offence he allowed Edinburgh to get away with all game at the ruck, and so it was soon 13-3 when it should have been 10-13.

The second half was more of the same of Cardiff errors, the referee affecting the score by sin binning random players (including pushing Edinburgh to 13 men as he evened up the penalty count in the last ten minutes) but Edinburgh coasting through the game. It seemed that all tries in the game were scored when the opposition were down to 14 men, but this was a game spoiled not only by the referee but also by very poor players on both sides.

15
Gareth Anscombe
7
/10
A very promising debut that showed the talents that he has as a runner with the ball in hand. He has a good step, good acceleration and looks to offload. It’s clear from this why he would want to be first receiver but does he have the necessary kicking game for Pro12 rugby?
14
Richard Smith
4
/10
Had very, very little opportunity to play and no space to work with, but was his normal gutsy self.
13
Adam Thomas
12
Gavin Evans
1
/10
Its quite incredible that he has a contract.
11
Dan Fish
5
/10
He plays like the excitable kid in school so something will always happen when he has the ball. He’s clearly a frustrated outside half, however, as he wants the ball at first receiver and really lacks the discipline to play adequately in the back three.
10
Gareth Davies
1
/10
No control, no leadership, no defence, no idea.
9
Lloyd Williams
2
/10
It may be harsh to judge him when he has nothing outside of him to work with but his play is not of a 9 who wants to control the game as his predecessors Spice and Rees could.
8
Manoa Vosawai
8
/10
A one man ball carrier in the pack but was also prominent in winning turnovers and penalties in the tackle area. He carried the pack as a go forward target with little to no tight support from anybody else.
7
Ellis Jenkins
6
/10
He needs more games, many more games, at this level to progress. The talent is there and the tight play is prominent in that he really looks to get over the ball as soon as possible. He’s a far closer player to Warburton in terms of style than is Navidi.
6
Josh Turnbull
1
/10
Why?
5
Macauley Cook
3
/10
The Kiwis do love their ball carrying locks playing out wide but Cook is wasted doing this. He needs to graft in order to cover for Turnbull, who would be far better suited to playing the glory role.
4
Jarrad Hoeata
2
/10
3
Adam Bomber Jones
3
/10
Poor in the scrum, non-existant in the loose, a passive captain.
2
Kristian Dacey
3
/10
This was an opportunity for him to show the ball carrying game that many admire but he just showed that he lacks the physicality to play at the top level. If Hibbard is the target in terms of carrying, Dacey is still a work in progress.
1
Sam Hobbs
2
/10
His poorest game of the season, ending with him in the bin.