Cardiff Blues saw their hopes of finishing in the top three of the Guinness PRO14 come to an end despite a stirring second-half comeback to secure a bonus-point 34-15 victory over Edinburgh at the Arms Park on Monday night.
Cardiff needed to see off Edinburgh, who had an outside chance of claiming a top-three finish themselves, and hope Welsh rivals Scarlets slipped to defeat against second-placed Connacht.
However, Scarlets overturned a 21-point half-time deficit to seal a 41-36 bonus-point win in Llanelli to secure third place in Conference B.
An out-of-sorts Blues should have trailed by more than 10-3 at the interval but four second-half tries from Liam Belcher, Rey Lee-Lo, James Ratti and Jarrod Evans was enough to secure the bonus-point win. Evans completed the scoring with two penalties and four conversions.
Edinburgh’s defeat extinguished their hopes – they still have two games remaining in Conference B – despite two tries from George Taylor. Charlie Savala added a penalty and a conversion for the visitors.
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) March 22, 2021
Edinburgh dominated the opening period with the home side unable to break out of their own half. The Scottish side’s powerful number eight Bill Mata tested the Blues’ defence with a number of surges but the visitors could not make their early superiority count.
Cardiff broke out of defence and should have taken the lead but a straightforward penalty from Evans rebounded back off a post.
A couple of elusive runs from Blues’ full-back Matthew Morgan enlivened proceedings but he then gave away a penalty for not releasing, which debutant Savala kicked. Evans was successful with his second attempt before Edinburgh scored the first try of the game when Taylor cut a neat angle to breach the defence and score.
Savala converted before missing a simple penalty shortly afterwards but his side still held a deserved 10-3 half-time lead. Bearing in mind the importance of the game, Blues were strangely lethargic in the first half but perhaps buoyed with news of Scarlets’ first-half capitulation – they trailed 33-12 to Connacht at the interval – the home side seemed rejuvenated after the restart.
Within four minutes, Evans had kicked a second penalty before Edinburgh lost tighthead prop Lee-Roy Atalifo to a leg injury. After 51 minutes, Blues took the lead for the first time when Belcher finished off a succession of forward drives before the Scots suffered another injury setback when lock Andrew Davidson was carried off the pitch on a stretcher.
Four minutes later, Cardiff scored their second try. A superb run out of defence from Morgan tore Edinburgh apart with Aled Summerhill up in support to send Lee-Lo over to put the hosts 20-10 ahead.
Edinburgh looked in trouble but they rallied with a period of pressure, which ended with Taylor collecting his second score after a strong run from Damian Hoyland to cut the deficit to five points.
But Blues sealed victory when Evans raced on to a well-judged pass from Lloyd Williams to score before Ratti crashed over for the bonus-point try, with Evans converting both for a match tally of 19 points.
'I came over last March and weighed 108kgs. I’m now 115kgs… I’m 100 per cent a different man than when I walked in'@Highlanders lock @JackRegan16 left Ireland with just 1 PRO14 sub appearance. Now he's playing with @AllBlacks , writes @heagneyl ???https://t.co/2s4YhHCYov
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 21, 2021
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