Edinburgh’s recent winning run hit the buffers of a resolute Cardiff Blues defence in their European Challenge Cup quarter-final at BT Murrayfield with the capital club’s first loss since the first week in January.
Two first half tries caused by defensive blunders fielding kicks gave Edinburgh a mountain to climb but they never really looked like penetrating the Blues backline, for whom Welsh international Josh Navidi was a huge force.
Despite 14 penalties against the Blues and most of the second half territory and possession, Edinburgh looked a little one-paced and unimaginative, only Blair Kinghorn’s running providing any relief for a frustrated Murrayfield crowd.
It means the Scots exit Europe in a home quarter-final for the second year in a row, and Richard Cockerill will have to regroup his squad for next week’s PRO14 play-off decider against Ulster.
Cardiff were well worth their two tries in the first half exploiting the space behind Edinburgh’s rush defence with some deft kicking plays.
Jarrod Evans missed an early penalty for the visitors and Edinburgh were working off slim pickings, only a succession of penalties at a messy breakdown battle getting them much territory. Navidi was eventually pinged in front of the posts for Jaco van der Walt to kick the home side ahead.
But the second quarter belonged to the Blues, as the Welshmen forced a turnover at the restart, attacked with ambition and started to exploit the space in the Edinburgh backfield.
Their first success was a bizarre one, however, Evans’ cross-kick to the in-goal area apparently covered by Nathan Fowles but the scrum-half couldn’t locate the ball in the air and it bounced off his shoulder into the arms of Ellis Jenkins who dived for the try.
Evans converted and on the half-hour it was Gareth Ainscombe’s grubber kick into the 22 that squirmed from the grasp of Blair Kinghorn, Ray Lee-Lo seizing the loose ball and feeding Blaine Scully for the try.
Edinburgh made no impact in the opposition 22 for much of the first half and tried to run it out of their own 22 early in the second, but another miss-hit penalty by Evans got them off the hook.
Van der Walt kicked his second penalty on a rare Edinburgh foray into Blues territory, but they gave the three points back almost immediately from the restart with Evans’ first penalty of the night.
One Kinghorn break from his own 22 lifted Edinburgh’s spirits briefly, but a penalty at the scrum took the Blues two converted tries ahead when Evans was again on target.
Another searing break from Kinghorn and a yellow card for Ellis Jenkins in retreat at last gave Edinburgh a platform, but a succession of penalties and scrums failed to produce a try when replacement Duncan Weir’s pass couldn’t find Duhan van der Merwe.
The Cardiff defence forced more mistakes from the home team to see out the yellow card and to reach full-time without seeing their try-line crossed.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Fife, M Bennett, C Dean, R van der Merwe; J van der Walt, N Fowles; J Lay, S McInally, WP Nel; F McKenzie (capt), G Gilchrist; M Bradbury, J Hardie, W Mata.
Replacements: N Cochrane for McInally 61, R Sutherland for Lay 61, S Berghan for Nel 53, L Carmichael for McKenzie 53, C du Preez for Bradbury 61, S Kennedy for Fowles 55, D Weir for van der Walt 62, P Burleigh for Dean 73.
Cardiff: G Anscombe; B Scully, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, O Lane; J Evans, T Williams; G Jenkins (capt), K Dacey, D Lewis; G Earle, J Turnbull; J Navidi, E Jenkins, N Williams.
Replacements: K Myhill for Dacey 72, R Gill for G Jenkins 55, A Peikrishvili for Lewis 60, S Davies for Earle 9, M Cook for N Williams 72, L Williams for T Williams 66, G Smith, M Morgan.
Ref: M Raynal (FFR)