Edinburgh 11-16 Cardiff Blues, Magners League, March 4
Halfpenny boots Blues to victory
March 4, 2011
Cardiff Blues' fullback Chris Czekaj looks to protect the ball during the Murrayfield clash
© PA Photos
Leigh Halfpenny returned from injury to kick Cardiff Blues to a 16-11 victory over Edinburgh at Murrayfield.
The Wales international slotted three penalties and a conversion of Chris Czekaj's try to condemn the Scots to their fifth straight league defeat. A late fightback from Edinburgh proved valiant enough to secure a bonus point, but Tim Visser's last-gasp try and two David Blair penalties were unable to halt their losing streak.
The first quarter was dominated by the Welsh side, with Xavier Rush and Paul Tito making notable contributions in the early stages, their frequent strong carries keeping the Edinburgh defence on their toes. The first chance fell to the visitors, centre Dafydd Hewitt, and back row Martyn Williams combining to carve open the home defence. The ball was recycled and moved left, only for Halfpenny to knock on with the line at his mercy.
It looked as though the deadlock would be broken moments later, but resolute defence from the hosts culminated in a try-saving tackle by Simon Webster on opposite number Richard Mustoe. Edinburgh were handed a chance to steal an undeserved lead just after the 20 minute mark, when Cardiff were penalised for not releasing at the breakdown, but Blair was off the mark with his penalty attempt.
The hosts were made to pay minutes later, Halfpenny slotting a penalty from 40 metres out to hand his side the initiative. Registering on the scoreboard appeared to relax the Cardiff backs, Hewitt and Casey Laulala stamping their authority on the midfield. Inevitably, the pink-shirted Blues furthered their advantage before the break, fullback Czekaj crossing for the game's first try, played in by a fantastic offload from the ubiquitous Rush. Halfpenny converted to send Cardiff in at half-time with a 10-0 lead.
The second period had a similar rhythm to the first, Edinburgh conceding possession far too frequently to build up any pressure. Despite that, it was the hosts who were first to register on the scoreboard, Blair making amends for his earlier miss by slotting a straightforward penalty.
Halfpenny restored his side's 10-point margin with a second successful penalty, before adding a further three points after home wing Visser was penalised for a petty push on Cardiff's Tom Slater.
The introduction of Scotland international second row Scott McLeod after 58 minutes seemed to have an immediate impact, his presence helping the home forwards to move up a gear and exert greater pressure. Visser almost atoned for his misdemeanour, thundering towards the corner after Greig Laidlaw's tap penalty opened up the defence. But the flying Dutchman was bundled into touch. However, following disrupted Cardiff lineout ball, Blair was handed a penalty opportunity, which he duly knocked between the uprights.
Blair and Halfpenny both missed further penalty opportunities as the hosts began to turn the screw, yet the Cardiff defence combated any advances with relative ease, with Rush particularly impressive. Them with the final possession of the game, Visser managed to secure his side a losing bonus point, evading Halfpenny's desperate tackle to slide over in the corner.
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