The first ever Guinness Pro14 match to take place at the Arms Park saw Cardiff Blues fall to a lacklustre defeat against Edinburgh on Friday.
Head coach Danny Wilson summed it up in his post-match press conference by saying “it’s not a good night for us, it’s the not the standard we expect”, clearly a thought echoed by the Cardiff Blues fans as boos were heard upon the final whistle.
There had been optimism amongst the Arms Park faithful after an unbeaten pre-season, including the defeat of English champions Exeter Chiefs, as a crop of highly talented youngsters caused excitement wherever they went.
However, 10 minutes in and Edinburgh, in their first game under former Leicester head coach Richard Cockerill, were ahead. A 14 phase attack was defended well by the home side, but a knock on gave the visitors a scrum inside the 22.
Magnus Bradbury popped the ball back to Sam Hidalgo-Clyne who went down the blindside. Rey Lee-Lo bit inside allowing the Edinburgh scrum-half to feed his full-back Blair Kinghorn who powered over, despite a questionably forward pass.
Cardiff did try and get back into the game, a lengthy attacking set seeing them camped on Edinburgh’s five-metre line, but some stuttering offence and handling issues wasted a try opportunity.
Issues in midfield with the attacking breakdown saw the Blues conceded a penalty, which Duncan Weir knocked over to make the score 10-0, before Alex Cuthbert almost was gifted an interception try, but was unable to grab the floating pass.
It took until five minutes before the break for Cardiff Blues to finally get on the scoreboard, when another multiple phase attack got the home side within reaching distance of the try line.
A loose Aled Summerhill offload threatened to end the attack, but Matthew Morgan managed to force a knock-on, and Cardiff regrouped to eventually allow Jarrod Evans the opportunity to find Josh Navidi with a cross-kick, with the openside producing a good finish.
Evans’ conversion made it 7-10 at the break, as Cardiff Blues finished the half on a high.
That continued into the second half, as early scrum dominance gave Jarrod Evans the chance to kick the simplest of penalties, and the home side were level at 10-10.
Unfortunately that would be the last Cardiff Blues points of the game, as Edinburgh re-took the lead five minutes later after the hosts found themselves isolated at the offensive breakdown again, with Weir more than capable of punishing them off the tee.
They then extended their advantage shortly after, when Chris Dean saved the blushes of Jamie Ritchie and Jason Harries by crashing over.
An Edinburgh penalty advantage saw Ritchie fly through a gap in the Cardiff defence, but a poorly timed pass allowed Matthew Morgan to make a try saving tackle on Harries as the line beckoned.
Fortunately Edinburgh remained calm and, as legs in the Blues defence started to tire, gaps opened for Blair Kinghorn to offload to Dean who used his momentum to ride a Macauley Cook tackle and touch down.
Duncan Weir kicked the conversion again, but despite Cardiff Blues being the team now needing to chase the game, it was the visitors who almost scored next as Nathan Fowles fumbled the ball while reaching for the line, before Josh Navidi was forced to touch down over his own line after a stabbed kick through.
Lost lineouts, slow ruck ball and handling errors were the order of the day for a Cardiff team that was met with the harsh reality of the league after a promising pre-season campaign.
Captain on the night Matthew Rees was philosophical after the game. “It’s a case of going in on Monday, addressing the issues, the main one being the contact area, and make sure we can put that right, ready for Leinster.”
While Josh Navidi tried to stay optimistic, “going out there, we’ll be positive for next week, and look what we can improve on for that game and hopefully we can get a win out there.”
However, deep down they’ll be aware it was a missed opportunity to start the season with a home win. Tricky fixtures await with three Irish sides away and a home game against Glasgow to come in the next four weeks.
Improvements will be needed, and fast, to ensure the season isn’t over before it’s even got going for the Cardiff Blues.