Guinness PRO14 Rivalry Unrivalled: A capital encounter

Paul Eddison
02 October 2019

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Edinburgh and Cardiff Blues both got off to winning starts in the Guinness PRO14, but while they both sit pretty with five points, those returns came in very different ways.

The Blues had to dig very deep to come away with the win on the road in Port Elizabeth, eventually getting the better of a tenacious Isuzu Southern Kings side 31-27.

Edinburgh, by contrast, were clinical in their 50-15 victory over Zebre at BT Murrayfield, laying down a marker after a difficult campaign last season in the Guinness PRO14.

The teams meet on Saturday at the Cardiff Arms Park, with some intriguing match-ups to look out for.

BATTLE OF THE FLY-HALVES

While some teams have kicked off this season without their first-choice fly-halves and the man who is supposed to pull the strings, that is not case for Edinburgh or the Blues.

Jaco van der Walt has established himself as the man in Richard Cockerill’s side and was again influential in the victory over Zebre.

The South African ten provides the ideal combination of play-making and tactical kicking and opened up his campaign with a 13-point haul against the Italians.

Jarrod Evans, meanwhile, was a late cut from Wales’ World Cup squad, but Wales’ loss is very much Cardiff Blues’ gain.

Still just 23, Evans has big boots to fill this season with Gareth Anscombe having moved to the Ospreys, but has shown the potential to do just that.

He played his part in the victory over the Kings, and John Mulvihill has the experienced option of Jason Tovey waiting in the wings if required. Tovey, of course, knows Edinburgh well having spent two years in the Scottish capital.

PRODIGIOUS TALENT COMING GOOD

Damien Hoyland looked in cracking form for Edinburgh in pre-season and he carried that form into the Guinness PRO14 opener with a fine display against Zebre.

Playing full-back in the absence of Blair Kinghorn and Darcy Graham, Hoyland has the opportunity to fulfil the potential he showed as a youngster when he earned a first cap at just 21.

He is still only 25 now, and after a couple of quiet seasons, this World Cup period could be the chance for him to re-establish himself in Cockerill’s side.

The Blues have a former wunderkind of their own at full-back with Matthew Morgan, who four years ago was starting for Wales at the World Cup.

He has fallen off the international radar in the intervening years, but as he showed against eventual champions Saracens in Europe last year, Morgan can still produce moments of breath-taking attacking flair.

He was on the scoresheet in the win over the Kings, and could be another beneficiary of Anscombe’s departure in terms of playing time this season.

Add in the potential for Mark Bennett – a hat-trick hero last week – and Willis Halaholo to face off in midfield, and this encounter has all the makings of a classic.

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