Laulala adds Kiwi polish to rough and ready Blues

Cardiff Blues 18 Edinburgh 17
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The Independent Online

The Cardiff Blues once again reliedon their Kiwi influence to pull out a victory when it mattered in Europe, as they staggered home by a single point in their first match of this season's Heineken Cup.

The centre Casey Laulala was an inspiration for the Blues on their way to lifting the Amlin Challenge Cup last May and he was the difference again yesterday. The former All Black used all his craft and guile to create one try and score another and nudge the Blues across the finishing line. He saved them from a defeat that could have seriously damaged their hopes of reaching next year's final, which will be held less than a mile down the road at the Millennium Stadium in May.

The Blues' coach, Dai Young, said: "We didn't play as well as we'd like but Edinburgh always cause us problems. They matched our physicality and were always dangerous with ball in hand. But most of their breakaways and line breaks were caused by our inaccuracies."

Young has shown good sense on the transfer market, not only in bringing in Laulala but in holding on to the No 8 Xavier Rush, who combined with his fellow countryman for the second try. However, Young's major signing of the summer, the Scotland fly-half Dan Parks, had a rare off-day, missing six kicks. The Blues also lost Gethin Jenkins and Tom Shanklin to injury.

Edinburgh's coach, Rob Moffat, said: "We weren't far away. But it's not enough to be good losers. We made some basic errors which stopped us building pressure and we gave away two or three daft penalties in the first half. We were lucky that Dan Parks missed them. At least we picked up a losing bonus point that could prove vital because this group is going to be tight."

Edinburgh's Chris Paterson kicked a penalty inside three minutes, before Parks missed his first three. Edinburgh's forwards thrived on the back of effective kicking from Mike and David Blair and the backs were willing, Tim Visser being denied by a tackle from Rush.

A kick to the corner by Mike Blair led to Edinburgh scoring the first try on 23 minutes. The Blues made a mess of the line-out under pressure and Blair, the scrum-half, was quickest to the loose ball. The prop Allan Jacobsen followed up to score his second Heineken Cup try.

Edinburgh looked comfortable, but they could not get to grips with the Blues' wing Leigh Halfpenny, who almost hit back from the restart. He caused panic whenever he got the ball in his hands and only an intervention from Mike Blair, a faint but telling ankle-tap, saved a try. Jacobsen was fortunate to get away with pulling Halfpenny's shirt as he chased a kick. The Edinburgh prop should have known better, having seen Paterson being shown the yellow card for not releasing the openside Martyn Williams as the Blues pressed.

Parks hit the mark with his fourth penalty attempt and the Blues then made their advantage count a minute before Paterson returned. Laulala stepped past David Blair before releasing a pass to Paul Tito. The captain, another New Zealander, shipped the ball to Chris Czekaj and Edinburgh ran out of defenders. Parks converted and kicked a penalty before Blair missed a drop-goal to leave Edinburgh trailing 13-10 at half-time.

The second half was uneventful before the final 11 minutes, when Laulala and then Edinburgh's Ben Cairns went over.

Cardiff Blues B Blair; L Halfpenny, C Laulala, T Shanklin (D Hewitt, 58), C Czekaj; D Parks, R Rees; G Jenkins (J Yapp, 52), T Thomas, T Filise, B Davies, P Tito (capt; D Jones, 62), M Molitika, X Rush, M Williams.

Edinburgh C Paterson; J Thompson, B Cairns, A Grove (J King, 55), T Visser; D Blair, M Blair (M Robertson, 78); A Jacobsen, R Ford (K Traynor, 78), G Cross (A Kelly, 62), S MacLeod (C Hamilton, 62), F McKenzie, A MacDonald (N Talei, 62), R Grant (capt), R Rennie.

Referee R Poite (France).