Michael Bradley's long farewell began in all too familiar fashion last night as Edinburgh suffered their 17th defeat of the season at Murrayfield.

The head coach, who was told this week that his contract will not be renewed at the end of the season, had pointed out ahead of the match that his team had lost five matches by a single score this season and the visit of Cardiff Blues came to mark the second time they had lost by a point at home.

A miss is as good as a mile in this results-driven business, though, a sentiment hammered home by the squandering of three kickable penalty chances in the first half and a succession of blunders which left Bradley deeply disappointed once again. "[With] the volume of possession and chances we had, to not win that game was staggering," he lamented.

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He expressed further frustration at the failure of the referee to award his side a penalty as they repeatedly crushed Cardiff's scrummage in the closing stages but accepted that his side mainly had themselves to blame.

The tone was set in the opening quarter with inaccuracy preventing them from making their superiority count. Indiscipline when Cardiff did manage forays into their half also caused them to end it 6-0 down, courtesy of two penalties from the highly-rated Rhys Patchell.

His opposite number, Gregor Hunter, also had two penalty chances either side of those scores but both were off target. He did finally get his side on the scoreboard with his third strike at goal, but Patchell cancelled that out almost immediately and the impression that this might be another difficult night for a side bereft of confidence was reaffirmed when yet another Hunter penalty attempt sailed wide.

The young playmaker was in need of help from senior men and with a number of Scotland squad members restored to the ranks that should not have been too big an ask. In particular it was a night when Dave Denton – Scotland's No.8 throughout last season's RBS 6 Nations but a player now struggling to justify his place in the squad – was looking to catch the eye.

After a couple of decent carries early on he unfortunately did so in the worst possible way midway through the half, first getting caught napping and failing to catch the ball as it was fired his way then, after his team-mates had recovered well and set up a promising attack, attempting a wild pass which sailed over Dougie Fife's head and harmlessly into touch as the line beckoned.

Edinburgh's overall superiority was reflected in the number of kickable penalty chances they were getting and Hunter once again reduced the leeway with his second success from his fifth attempt. However, that allowed Cardiff to get out of their own half once more and yet again they returned with points as Patchell put in Michael Patterson for the score.

The stand-off's missed conversion meant there were eight points between the sides at the break and that gap was reduced to a single point 10 minutes into the second half by a fine Edinburgh try.

Initially the move started deep in Edinburgh territory, with Lee Jones twice involved as play was taken into the Cardiff half down the left flank. Play was then shifted to the opposite wing where Fife took the ball at pace and got to within five metres where his forwards arrived to maintain the momentum, WP Nel tumbling over the line for his fourth try in 13 Pro12 appearances.

When their pack then dismantled their opponents at a scrummage on the Cardiff 22, Harry Leonard, on as a replacement for Hunter, knocked over the resultant penalty to put his side in front for the first time.

Edinburgh continued to have the lion's share of the game but they were yet again made to pay for indiscipline as both Denton and Nel flopped illegally on to rucks, a penalty being awarded for the second offence. That allowed Patchell to nudge his side ahead once more with 15 minutes remaining and his strike proved decisive.

It should not have been so as, with their scrum exerting increasing dominance in the closing stages, Edinburgh had a succession of chances to snatch the victory. They literally threw them away three times, however, first when Tom Brown failed to take what looked certain to be a scoring pass from Greig Tonks, then when Andy Titterrell's put-ins to two lineouts were both intercepted by Patterson.