Cardiff scramble home after Parks' walk on the wild side

Cardiff 18 Edinburgh 17
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The Independent Online

Cardiff had won 12 of their last 13 matches in all competitions and were warm favourites to emerge as the Celtic tigers in this opener in Pool One of the Heineken Cup. Perhaps Dan Parks hadn't read the script.

Cardiff's early pressure earned them a profusion of penalties and up stepped Parks to attempt to convert them into points. In rapid succession the stand-off, formerly of Glasgow, missed three out of three. To miss one was careless, two, sigh-inducing from the crowd – but three was downright profligate.

And all this after Chris Paterson, the man who doesn't miss for Scotland, had landed a long-range effort to give his side the lead. Heartened by Parks' loss of radar, Edinburgh began to play as if it could be their night. They built a 10-0 lead but what happened next hit them for six – well, 13 actually. Paterson was shown a yellow card for not releasing and in his 10-minute absence Cardiff scored 13 points.

Casey Laulala made a half-break and Paul Tito was on hand to give a scoring pass to Chris Czekaj. Parks, who had kicked the penalty arising from Paterson's offence, added the conversion but missed another penalty. Cardiff's second try arrived in the 69th minute when Xavier Rush slipped an inside pass to Laulala, who managed to make it to the line.

Cardiff had an eight-point cushion but it might as well have been a hairshirt. In the 73rd minute Paterson sent Ben Cairns on an overlap and made the touchline conversion to make it 18-17.

Edinburgh had great chances to win it. Their first try had arrived in the 24th minute. Cardiff threw long at a line-out where they lost control and Mike Blair made a dart which led to the prop Allan Jacobsen, who has the build of a sumo wrestler, crashing over.

Jacobsen would have been the sumo man of the match had he held on to a scoring pass in the second half, when Cardiff's attacks repeatedly broke down, presenting David Blair with the opportunity to counter-attack. Through misfortune or last-ditch defence, Edinburgh came up short.

So too did Cardiff, whose next Heineken assignment is away to Castres. "I'm expecting a tough, physical battle," Dai Young, the Cardiff coach, said. "Castres caused Northampton a lot of problems on Friday and that was with only 50 per cent of their strongest side."

Cardiff: Tries Czekaj, Laulala; Conversion Parks; Penalty Parks (2). Edinburgh: Tries Jacobsen, Cairns; Conversions Paterson (2); Penalty Paterson.

Cardiff B Blair; L Halfpenny, C Laulala, T Shanklin, C Czekaj; D Parks, R Rees; G Jenkins, R Thomas, T Filise, B Davies, P Tito (capt), M Molitika, X Rush, M Williams. Replacements D Hewitt for T Shanklin, 57; J Yapp for G Jenkins, 53; D Jones for P Tito, 63.

Edinburgh C Paterson; J Thomson, B Cairns, A Grove, T Visser; D Blair, M Blair; A Jacobsen, R Ford, G Cross, S Macleod, F McKenzie, A Macdonald, R Grant, R Rennie; Replacements J King for A Grove, 55; G Laidlaw for M Blair, 71; K Traynor for A Jacobsen, 71; A Kelly for R Ford, 71; D Young for G Cross, 60; C Hamilton for S Macleod, 62; N Talei for R Rennie, 43; M Robertson for R Grant, 78.

Referee R Poite (France).