Pro14: Edinburgh 14-6 Cardiff Blues: Hosts extend lead at top

By Andy BurkeBBC Scotland at Murrayfield
Pro14: Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues
Edinburgh (8) 14
Try: Taylor Pens: Hickey (3)
Cardiff Blues (6) 6
Pens: Tovey (2)

Edinburgh ground out an ugly win over Cardiff Blues to stretch their lead at the top of Pro14 Conference B.

As a spectacle this was dull to say the least, with try-scoring opportunities almost non-existent.

The one touchdown came when George Taylor charged down Dan Fish's attempted clearance to dot down.

Jason Tovey kicked six points for Cardiff against his former side, but nine points from the boot of Simon Hickey saw Edinburgh home.

Edinburgh edge turgid battle

Edinburgh have navigated this Six Nations period better than most, a gritty win away to Scarlets followed by a thumping home victory over Connacht which extended their winning run in the league to four matches. In fact, prior to this they had won six from seven in the Pro14, so their position at the top of Conference B was entirely merited.

Cardiff by contrast have been looking increasingly like a side struggling to keep pace with the playoff-chasers. They did nudge ahead early here, former Edinburgh man Tovey marking his return to Murrayfield with a penalty to open the scoring.

The Welsh side's attempt to consolidate that early advantage was nothing short of calamitous. Straight from the restart the ball was taken into contact and set-up for Dan Fish, a late replacement for Hallam Amos at full-back, to boot clear but he took an age to get his kick away. Taylor charged it down and the Edinburgh centre grounded the ball to give the home side the lead.

Fish almost made amends by finishing off a neat Cardiff move but was bundled into touch just the wrong side of the corner flag by Duhan van der Merwe and Bill Mata.

George Taylor try
George Taylor scored the game's only try as Edinburgh edged past Cardiff

James Johnstone broke the Cardiff line on a beautiful angle but the move fizzled out. Action inside either 22 was at a premium and Hickey and Tovey traded penalties to make it 8-6 to Edinburgh at the break.

After a largely turgid opening 40, Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill started emptying his bench early in the second period, with front-row replacement Pierre Schoeman in particular bringing some much-needed aggression with ball in hand.

These league games that fall during the Six Nations period can often have a bit of a sideshow feeling to them, like the undercard fights on a championship boxing bill. That's what this felt like. There seemed to be a lengthy injury stoppage every two minutes and when the ball was in play any signs of quality were fleeting.

As the clock ticked on, you sensed one score might settle this and it almost arrived when Hickey arrowed a cross-field kick towards Eroni Sau but the winger could only spill the ball over the line under pressure from Aled Summerhill.

Hickey deployed the same tactic moments later, this time hoisting a high bomb towards Duhan van der Merwe on the other flank, and while he managed to gather he was bundled into touch just short.

The fly-half, having missed an attempt at goal earlier in the half, made no mistake with a penalty shot seven minutes from time. A five-point lead, normally so precarious, looked like a monster cushion in this scruffiest of games and Hickey knocked over another three-pointer to seal the deal.

Edinburgh: Hoyland; Sau, Johnstone, Taylor, van der Merwe; Hickey, Shiel: Bhatti, Willemse, Berghan, Carmichael, Gilchrist (c), Haining, Crosbie, Mata.

Replacements: Fenton, Schoeman, Ceccarelli, Thomson, Barclay, Pyrgos, van der Walt, Dean.

Cardiff Blues: Fish; Harries, Smith, Llewellyn, Summerhill; Tovey, L Jones: Thyer, Dacey, Arhip, S Davies, Thornton, Boyde, Robinson, Turnbull (capt).

Replacements: Myhill, Domachowski, Assiratti, Murphy, N Williams, L Jones, Edwards, I Davies.

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