Cardiff got the season off to a winning start with a bonus point victory in the rain at the Arms Park, as everything went to plan to kick off the Pro12 season with a bang.
It was a dream opening week outing for Danny Wilson’s men who largely dominated the match and looked very comfortable as a team unit despite a large squad upheaval over the summer. With a few top class players still to welcome back into the side the signals are very encouraging indeed.
The home side struggled to recreate the flying start that saw Dan Fish score after just two minutes in this fixture last season, instead being pinned back in our own half before a Nick Williams knock-on conceded a scrum on the defensive 22. Rhys Gill was penalised for not scrummaging straight and Duncan Weir got his first points as an Edinburgh player.
It wasn’t long before we put our stamp on the game though as Weir spooned a kick up in the air to Cory Allen. The recycled ball found George Earle to release Steve Shingler before a Glenn Bryce tackle knocked the ball down before the final pass reached Ellis Jenkins. From the scrum Cardiff moved the opposition left then right, eventually allowing Shingler to sell Junior Rasolea the dummy and saunter over the line.
The new signing from Llanelli converted his own try before calling for the Flybe Tee Plane once again as Ellis Jenkins won the penalty over the ball at the breakdown. On this occasion the wind drew the ball wide to leave the score at 7-3 after a hectic opening 10 minutes.
Edinburgh retook the lead after 15 minutes as Cardiff conceded a penalty for holding on in midfield, with the Scots going to the corner. Some relentless pick and drives were eventually ended as Nathan Fowles went to Rasolea on the crash ball and this time Shingler was at fault for conceding a try, coming out of the line far too quickly and leaving his inside shoulder exposed.
Weir added the conversion before Nick Williams was harshly punished for playing the ball on the floor by referee John Lacey. Despite the fact he was solidly over the ball and on his feet, the Scottish fly-half had the chance to go for the posts from halfway which he gladly took.
At 7-13 down we needed a score and there certainly no denying that we knocked on the door with a fantastic period of attack. Rey Lee-Lo, Ellis Jenkins, Tomos Williams, Blaine Scully and particularly Nick Williams all made half-breaks, but in the end players were almost too keen to get involved and ended up obstructing each other. Fortunately a penalty advantage was already in the bag and Shingler brought us to three points behind.
By now the game had become a very short and tight affair due to the weather, reminiscent of Leinster at CAP last season. Edinburgh attempted a short carrying game but became isolated and part-time back rower Lee-Lo got over the ball. Tomos Williams, lively all game, tapped and went to get us field position and soon the penalty was ours.
Perhaps partly with the conditions in mind Shingler went to the corner and the Danny Wilson special rolling maul sparked into life as all of the initial Edinburgh set piece defence was spun away from leaving Jamie Ritchie pulling the Cardiff pack down as they headed for the line. John Lacey was under the posts, Ritchie in the sin bin.
Some things never change with Cardiff and we couldn’t take advantage of the extra man, but 17-13 up at half-time was not a bad position to be in at all, especially after finishing the first period on such a dominant footing.
The second half began in the wars somewhat for Cardiff as Macauley Cook received a bloody nose and Kirby Myhill, fairly inconspicuously, received a leg injury that actually ended his game. Kris Dacey replaced him and in his very first scrum helped win a penalty for Shingler to add three points to his total.
For a good five minutes after this it was all Edinburgh in attack, with possession and territory, but the Cardiff defence held very strong, including one huge hit from Nick Williams on Rory Sutherland. Despite a penalty being conceded eventually, it was fantastic effort to see keep the opposition away from the try line.
In response to this Danny Wilson went t his experience, introducing Gareth Anscombe and Gethin Jenkins for impressive new boys Shingler and Gill. Soon the Welsh international duo teamed up to take us deep inside Edinburgh territory. 14 phases came and went but there was no breaking down the black and red wall.
That didn’t deter the Cardiff attack though and in the 61st minute, with the rain coming down in sheets, Nick Williams would be the man to effectively bully his way to a deserved try from close range. Anscombe drilled the conversion and the hunt for the bonus point was on.
Despite the rain now reaching torrential level Cardiff were unrelenting in their dominance. It would fall to my Man of the Match Tomos Williams to gain a thoroughly deserved try and score the bonus point as a depleted Edinburgh defence parted like the red sea to allow the young scrum half to snipe from the base of the ruck.
Gareth Anscombe added a second conversion to make it 34-16 and complete the scoring. A feat in itself to score 34 points in the weather, and to suppress Edinburgh like we did from about 25 minutes onwards, and especially after half-time. No player is left out from praise with the whole team functioning as a defensive unit with excellent line speed, and adding to a high tempo attacking game that the Scots could not deal with.
To show that we can still play attractive rugby even in poor conditions is encouraging and leaves the thought of what we might do when the weather is somewhat kinder. Cardiff Arms Park continues to become the fortress required to break the top six, but it will be a big challenge on the road next week with a visit to Munster.
However, play with the team spirit shown here, and the confidence that must be taken from such a dominant opening week performance, and anything is possible. Come on Cardiff!!