EDINBURGH’s hopes of claiming a play-off place were dealt a damaging blow as they surrendered a 17-0 lead to Cardiff Blues. With Ulster and Benetton both recording big wins, Richard Cockerill’s side are now down to fourth in the table with five rounds of the regular season to play, and the losing bonus point came as little or no consolation after they had been on top for so much of the match.

Jason Harries came off the bench to score twice for the Blues against his old club, and in the end there was no denying the fact that the visitors deserved the win over the piece.

“Disappointing, isn’t it?” Cockerill said. “We had a good start, a 14-point lead at half time. You lose the second half 19-3. If you don’t take your ­opportunities – and we had opportunities in that second half to score again – you get what you ­deserve.

“We were just a bit lacklustre at times. And if you just sit back on your heels and don’t defend then you let sides come at you. And especially with that back line Cardiff have got, you get punished.”

Edinburgh welcomed Damien Hoyland back to their starting line-up after almost exactly a year out with injury, while substitute Mark Bennett was in the squad for the first time since sustaining hamstring damage five months ago.

The return of the two internationals, however, was more than counter-balanced by the absence of nine first-choice players on Scotland duty and several more on the injury list.

After an even start to the match, it was Edinburgh who struck first. Hooker David Cherry sprinted clear from a lineout around halfway, and scrum-half Nathan Fowles was up in support to claim the pop-up pass and run in the try, which Jaco van der Walt converted.

Encouraged by that early advantage, the hosts continued to play an enterprising, high-tempo game. They had two chances to extend their lead with penalties, but opted to send both to touch and failed to score from the resultant attacks.

That did not deter them, however, and they soon doubled their lead. Fowles turned instigator this time, darting clear from the back of a ruck then slinging the scoring pass to Bill Mata. Van der Walt again converted.

Cardiff had shown nothing in ­attack up to that point, but midway through the first half they came close to opening their account only to cough up possession deep in the home 22. The Welsh side thought they were about to score again not long afterwards as Lloyd Williams broke free, but Mata recovered excellently to haul the scrum-half down metres from the line, before the Blues conceded a penalty in their eagerness to recycle quickly.

Both teams replaced their full-backs at half time, former Edinburgh back Jason Harries coming on for Fish and Simon Hickey substituting for Dougie Fife – although it was Van der Walt who dropped back to 15 with Hickey taking over at stand-off.

The home team kept Cardiff pinned back in their own half for the first 10 minutes and more of the second 40, thanks in no small part to Van der Walt’s precise kicking from hand. And, when the next scoring ­opportunity presented itself, it was the South African who took advantage, dinking over a penalty from in front of the posts.

Edinburgh appeared to lose attention for the first time in the match immediately after that score, and the Blues quickly took advantage. Flanker Olly Robinson broke and found Harries, whose pass put Liam Williams clear for a try which Jarrod Evans converted.

Cardiff were soon back on the ­attack, and scored again just past the hour mark. A lineout on the left established the platform, an apparent misreading by the Edinburgh ­defence allowed an overlap on the right, and Harries was there to run it in for the try.

The conversion attempt was ­unsuccessful, but the momentum was now firmly with Cardiff.

Bennett then came off the bench, replacing Duhan van der Merwe, as Edinburgh sought to re-establish control. But it was Cardiff who finished the stronger, with Harries scoring again in the left corner 10 minutes from time.

Evans’ conversion put the Blues ahead, and they had little difficulty in staying in front against opponents who ended the match in dispirited and disjointed fashion.

Edinburgh: Tries: Fowles, Mata. Cons: Van der Walt 2. Pen: Van der Walt.

Cardiff: Tries: L Williams, Harries 2. Cons: Evans 2.

Edinburgh: Fife (Hickey 40); Hoyland, Johnstone, Socino, Van der Merwe (Bennett 66); Van der Walt, Fowles (Shiel 76); Schoeman (Sutherland 63), Cherry (Ford 55), Ceccarelli (McCallum 55), McKenzie (capt), Hunter-Hill, Miller, Crosbie, Mata (Nayalo 71).

Cardiff Blues: Fish (Harries 40); Lane, Lee-Lo, Halaholo, Summerhill; Evans, L Williams; Carré, (Domachowski 49), Belcher (Lewis 54), Arhip (Andrews 54), Earle (Cook 63), Thornton, Lewis-Hughes, Robinson, N Williams (capt).