Cardiff win at Edinburgh to earn home Challenge Cup semi

Cardiff win at Edinburgh to earn home Challenge Cup semi
Cardiff Blues celebrate Blaine Scully’s first-half try, which put them in command
European Challenge Cup quarter-final
Edinburgh (3) 6
Pens: Van der Walt 2
Cardiff Blues (14) 20
Tries: E Jenkins, Scully Cons: Evans 2 Pens: Evans 2

Cardiff Blues ended Edinburgh’s European Challenge Cup campaign to earn a home semi against French side Pau.

The hosts led with a Jaco van der Walt penalty but conceded two soft tries.

Nathan Fowles allowed Jarrod Evans’ kick to bounce off his shoulder for Ellis Jenkins to score, Blaine Scully crossing after Blair Kinghorn’s fumble.

Van der Walt brought Edinburgh to 6-14 but two Evans penalties restored Blues’ cushion and they held out despite losing Jenkins to the sin-bin.

Kinghorn was a lone attacking beacon for Edinburgh, and two second-half breaks might have led to tries.

But a lack of cutting edge and a series of handling errors ended the Scottish outfit’s five-match winning run, and their participation at the quarter-final stage for the second year in a row.

The Blues, who won the Challenge Cup in 2010, extended their own winning run to six matches and can now look forward to a home semi-final on the weekend of 20-22 April.

The early exchanges were dominated by ill-discipline from both sides, as French referee Mathieu Raynal repeatedly penalised players for infringements at the break-down.

Evans missed his first penalty attempt after Grant Gilchrist infringed, and Van der Walt gave Edinburgh the lead after 18 minutes after Josh Navidi was penalised.

But Blues scored the game’s first try when Evans’ cross-field kick bamboozled Fowles, who turned his back and allowed it to bounce off his shoulder, Jenkins touching down in the corner.

The kicking of Jarrod Evans (centre) and Gareth Anscombe (right) caused Edinburgh problems

Evans converted from the touchline to put the Welsh side 7-3 in front.

Edinburgh’s error count mounted, and the Blues were rewarded with a second try after half an hour.

Anscombe, making his first start since returning from Six Nations duty with Wales, put a grubber into the Edinburgh 22 and Kinghorn attempted to clear the danger.

But the new Scotland cap scooped the ball into the air, allowing Blues centre Rey Lee-Lo to gather and offload to American winger Scully, who finished in the corner.

Evans added the extras to make it 14-3 and continued to pull the strings for the Blues, pinning Edinburgh back with probing kicks.

Evans scuffed a penalty short on the resumption before South African Van der Walt responded with three points.

Blair Kinghorn made two scything breaks, but Edinburgh couldn’t capitalise

But once again Edinburgh were punished at the breakdown, Welsh international Navidi forcing a penalty which Evans kicked to make it 17-6.

Richard Cockerill’s men looked a shadow of the side who have put themselves on the verge of a Pro14 play-off spot as errors continued to pile up against a stifling Blues defence.

Evans knocked over another penalty before Kinghorn sliced through the Blues defence from his own half before being brought down five metres short.

The move broke down but from the field position Edinburgh built pressure for the first time in the match, winning several scrum penalties close to the Blues’ line.

Jenkins was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on but Edinburgh couldn’t take advantage.

Replacement fly-half Duncan Weir’s pass went behind Duhan Van der Merwe, the wing knocking on with the try-line begging, and any hope of a late comeback was gone.

Post-match reaction:

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill: “We were beaten by a better side on the night. We didn’t play half as well as we can.

“They took their tries well, as fortuitous as they were, but they were two errors on our behalf – we should deal with that.

“We just didn’t get going. We were jittery and it just shows where we are at. We have got to learn to be more composed on these big occasions.”

Blues head coach Danny Wilson: “This is an in-form Edinburgh team and to come to their place and get a win is outstanding.

“I’m really pleased with the boys. It was a dogged display and not the prettiest of games, but I thought our defence was outstanding.

“It’s a massive result for the Blues and it’s great to have two Welsh regions [along with Scarlets in the Champions Cup] in the semi-finals of Europe.”

Edinburgh: B Kinghorn, D Fife, M Bennett, C Dean, D van der Merwe, J van der Walt, N Fowles; J Lay, S McInally, WP Nel, F McKenzie (capt), G Gilchrist, M Bradbury, J Hardie, B Mata.

Replacements: N Cochrane (for McInally, 62), R Sutherland (for Lay, 62), S Berghan (for Nel, 52), L Carmichael (for McKenzie, 52), C du Preez (for Bradbury, 61), S Kennedy (for Fowles, 55), D Weir (for Van der Walt, 62), P Burleigh (for Dean, 55).

Cardiff Blues: G Anscombe; B Scully, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, O Lane, J Evans, T Williams, G Jenkins (capt), K Dacey, D Lewis, G Earle, J Turnbull, J Navidi, E Jenkins, N Williams.

Replacements: K Myhill (for Dacey, 72), R Gill (for G Jenkins, 56), A Peikrishvili (for D Lewis, 60), S Davies (for Earle, 9), M Cook, L Williams (for T Williams, 65).

Not used: G Smith, M Morgan.

Yellow card: E Jenkins (66)

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (Fra)

Touch judges: Alexandre Ruiz (Fra)and Thomas Charabas (Fra)

TMO: Eric Briquet-Campin (Fra)

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