Round 16 of the Guinness PRO14 continues on Saturday night as Edinburgh host Cardiff Blues at BT Murrayfield.
Edinburgh will look to consolidate their position near the top of Conference B, while the Blues are in the midst of an almighty battle in the middle of Conference A.
What’s at stake?
Richard Cockerill Edinburgh men bounced back from Round 14 defeat away to Southern Kings by beating Dragons 34-17 last weekend, and will hope victory this time around will help them pull clear of third-placed Benetton.
The visiting Blues, by contrast, were on the wrong end of a thrilling encounter against Glasgow Warriors last weekend, but are still firmly in the hunt for a place in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series.
The Welsh province are just four points behind Connacht in third, heading into the 7.35pm kick-off at BT Murrayfield.
Team news (Edinburgh): Scotland international winger, Damien Hoyland, will make his long-awaited return from injury as Edinburgh look to continue their unbeaten home record in all competitions this season.
Hoyland is joined in the back three by the in-form Duhan van der Merwe and recent Scotland call-up Dougie Fife, who has been released by the national squad to start at full-back.
The capital side also welcome back Mark Bennett who is named amongst the replacements – the centre has been sidelined due to injury since the game against Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium in September last year.
Team news (Cardiff Blues): Promising loosehead prop Rhys Carré will make his first Guinness PRO14 start as Cardiff Blues travel to the Scottish capital.
Carré is one of five changes made by the Welsh region, with head coach John Mulvihill restructuring his pack for the trip to BT Murrayfield.
Hooker Liam Belcher also makes his first Guinness PRO14 start, with No.8 Nick Williams taking over the captaincy duties in the absence of Kristian Dacey.
A reminder of YOUR Edinburgh team to face Cardiff Blues at BT Murrayfield tomorrow night! 💪
Read the full story: https://t.co/yfuXnJoXm1
— Edinburgh Rugby (@EdinburghRugby) February 22, 2019
Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill: We’re missing a few more bodies this week due to international call-ups, but we have a strong desire to win and the capability to do so.
“These games are all important in the run towards the play-offs, so I’m expecting the boys to leave everything out there in order to get the right result.”
Cardiff Blues head coach: “Richard Cockerill will have them primed as a very physical team, and that’s in his DNA.
“It would be nice to win on the road before facing the Kings at home. Those games will set us up nicely before we play a run of Scarlets, Munster, Connacht and Ospreys.
“We’re still in the mix with a few games to go, but we know that we’re in a really strong conference.”
Dougie Fife v Matthew Morgan
The returning Fife will no doubt be keen to prove that Scotland were wrong to discard him from their latest Guinness Six Nations squad, but will have his work cut out against the dangerous Morgan, who has thrilled with his direct running and trickery this season.
His Champions Cup solo effort against Saracens was one of the tries of the season so far, and shows what a threat the 26-year-old can be in broken play.
— Cardiff Blues (@cardiff_blues) February 21, 2019
Key fact: Edinburgh Rugby’s only defeat in their last nine matches in all competitions was to Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth in January.
Did you know? Cardiff Blues have not beaten a Scottish opponent in the Guinness PRO14 since downing Edinburgh by the narrowest of margins in February 2017.
Edinburgh: Dougie Fife; Damien Hoyland, James Johnstone, Juan Pablo Socino, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Nathan Fowles; Pierre Schoeman, David Cherry, Pietro Ceccarelli; Fraser McKenzie, Callum Hunter-Hill; Ally Miller, Luke Crosbie, Viliame Mata
Replacements: Ross Ford, Rory Sutherland, Murray McCallum, Jamie Hodgson, Senitiki Nayalo, Charlie Shiel, Simon Hickey, Mark Bennett
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Aled Summerhill; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher, Dmitri Arhip, George Earle, Rory Thornton, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams (c)
Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Corey Domachowski, Scott Andrews, Macauley Cook, Alun Lawrence, Dane Blacker, Steven Shingler, Jason Harries
TV: BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh, 7.35pm. Live on Premier Sports 2, SuperSport 1
Referee: Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)
AR1: Keith Allen, AR2: Eddie Hogan O’Connell
TMO: Andrew McMenemy
Citing Commissioner: John Kirk
Jason Harries returned to haunt his former side as Cardiff Blues staged a remarkable second-half comeback to defeat Edinburgh 19-17 at BT Murrayfield.
The former Edinburgh man started on the bench for the visitors but was introduced after the restart and grabbed a brace to down Richard Cockerill’s men.
Edinburgh appeared to be coasting at half-time, leading 14-0 thanks to tries from Nathan Fowles and Bill Mata, and they extended their lead with a penalty from Jaco van der Walt.
But the Blues love playing in Edinburgh, winning on six of their last seven visits to the Scottish capital in the Guinness PRO14, and three second-half tries turned the game on its head.
The result was a boost for Cardiff’s Guinness PRO14 Final Series ambitions, moving them level on points with Connacht in Conference A, while Edinburgh slipped to fourth in Conference B.
The hosts got off to a bright start and crossed the whitewash after seven minutes, with David Cherry’s brilliant break and offload setting up Fowles for the opening try.
Van der Walt added the extras and it was not long before Edinburgh were over for a second try, with Mata adding to his points tally for the season with another score.
That is the effort it took tonight. Literally out in their feet. A monumental effort to come back pic.twitter.com/yCBp6YEkfr
— Cardiff Blues (@cardiff_blues) February 23, 2019
The Fijian ran at the Cardiff defence before being brought down, but Fowles gathered the ball and found a gap in the visitors’ line before whipping the ball back to the No.8 to dot down.
Van der Walt converted once again to double Edinburgh’s lead, before Mata came to the fore at the other end of the pitch with a try-saving tackle to deny Lloyd Williams.
The hosts maintained their 14-0 lead going into the break, leaving the Blues with a mountain to climb in the second half to get themselves back into the game.
And their task was made even harder when van der Walt slotted a penalty seven minutes after the restart, with the Blues penalised for an infringement right in front of the posts.
The visitors had to score next and they did just that moments later when Ollie Robinson put Harries through the hole, with the latter offloading to Williams to finish the move off.
Jarrod Evans converted and suddenly Blues had their tails up. A second try soon followed just after the hour mark, with Harries this time crossing against his former team.
While Evans was unable to convert, Cardiff made the most of their momentum to grab the lead for the first time as Aled Summerhill put Harries away for his second try of the game.
A fine conversion from the touchline from Evans put the Blues two points ahead with less than ten minutes on the clock and they held on to claim a memorable victory.