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THE SLAP IS IMMENSE ONCE MORE

Edinburgh Rugby: 38 (14) Union Bordeaux-Begles: 20 (6)



Edinburgh delivered what can only be described as an immense slap, un slap enorme, to visiting Union Bordeaux-Begles last night, cruising into the Challenge Cup quarters with a dominant four try bonus point win.

Once again, the Gunners' most feared strike runner notched a touchdown.  But enough about WP 'WP' Nel.  The headlines after no-side were hogged by SHC (CN! CG!) and his 28 point haul, including two tries of his own.  Matt Scott's effort completed the set, the bonus leaving the Embramen on 22 points from their five wins.  Other results this weekend may yet go their way, but for now it looks likely that they will have to go on the road for the quarter final.  That need not faze them.

And Edinburgh have been the best team in this pool.  One look at the stats tells you why that is.  The team that has won most rucks is Edinburgh (480); the team that has won most lineouts is Edinburgh (73); and the player who has scored most penalties is SHC (11). The Gunners' pack have won the battle up front, they have dominated the breakdown and have put the opposition under such pressure that they have been forced to cough up penalties galore.

Let's just take it as read that many would like to see a more expansive gameplan.  This was their first four try bonus of the competition in a pool where hapless London Welsh were crying out to have tries put on them.  And it is a matter of some concern that they currently have a tendency to ease up when they feel the job is done.  It should have been the Embramen piling on the agony in the last ten minutes this evening and yet it was UBB who had the last word.  Credit to them for not caving in and to Pierre Bernard for crossing and converting on 75 minutes.  But one would like to see the Gunners sprinting all the way through the line in future, as opposed to slowing to a jog in the last 20 metres.

They got off to a flyer this evening by smashing the UBB scrum to win a penalty on 6 minutes and never looked back. And hats off to Ali Dickinson.  He destroyed not one but two tightheads, including former international Jean-Baptiste Poux.  Not bad for a loosehead who not so long ago many observers, myself included, thought was great in the loose, but poor in the tight.  He is currently one of the form looseheads in European rugby in a pack that has developed into a formidable unit.

After SHC's early three pointer came the softening up process. The home pack smashed UBB up fornt and it was from a driving maul that the first try came.  Having pulled in the defenders, the half back scooted round the blindside to touch down in the corner, a hint of a half dummy to Visser opening up just enough space for him to nip through.  The score left Edinburgh with an 8-0 advantage.

Two penalties each from SHC and Lionel Beauxis respectively left the score at the break a handy 14-6 advantage for the Embramen. UBB had been under enormous pressure in the first period and that would surely tell in the second. 

The 4,800 home crowd didn't have to wait long to see the first signs of the floodgates opening,  Firstly, SHC booted his fourth penalty on 42 minutes.  Then Dickinson showed what he can do in the loose, picking up ruck ball, punching through the defence and setting sail for the line with some alacrity.  Although he was stopped short, Matt Scott was on hand to pick up and dive over, SHC's conversion stretching the lead to 24-6 on 51 minutes.

UBB did not give up, Serin collecting Bernard's kick behind the defence for the score on 54 minutes, albeit he looked ahead of the kicker when the ball was poked through. 24-13.  WP hit back immediately, though, with a short range try on 55 minutes, SHC's conversion killing the game off at 31-13 moving into the final quarter.  The try came off a lovely short pass from SHC to Visser, who was stopped just shy of the line.  Once again, the support got to the tackled man quickly, ball was won smartly and the defence did not have time to reorganise.

And SHC duly secured the bonus on 65 minutes, waltzing through heavy traffic for his brace, converted by himself.  38-13 and quarter final rugby a certainty.  Then came a dual yellow for props Poirot and Andress on 70 minutes and Bernard's lovely late solo try to leave the final score 38-20 to the Embramen.

EMBRA EDGED IN LYON

Lyon Olympique: 21 (10) Edinburgh Rugby: 19 (13)

Well, it certainly wasn't Lyon Rampant. But the Top 14 side nonetheless secured a narrow Euro win last night in freezing conditions at the Matmut Stadium through a late dropped goal from centre Estebanez after SHC (CN! CG!) had kicked the visitors into a precious lead with ten minutes left on the clock.  Ultimately, it was the side that had just that little bit more composure late on that came away with the spoils.

At this time in European competition, observers reach for abacus and slide rule to compute the qualification chances of the competing clubs.  And it is the Embramen who are still in the box seat, as befits the only team in the group having lost just the once so far.  They sit on 17 points, with the precious losing bonus secured in France keeping their noses just ahead of second placed Bordeaux-Begles on 16.  Lyon remain third, but have moved up to 14 points. 

The Gunners have their destiny in their own hands.  If they

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(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)

Edinburgh Rugby: 20 (20) Glasgow Warriors: 8 (3)

What a way to handsel the New Year. 

It's been a few years since I last heard the Beastie Boys belt that one out.  About 28, in fact, which is quite disturbing if you're unwise enough to think about it.  Yet as it boomed over the BT Murrayfield tannoy at no-side this evening, it seemed strangely appropriate.  'Fight for your Right' was actually intended as a bit of a mickey take, not least as the 'Boys were in fact terribly nice middle class kids from Brooklyn, if memory serves.  But many folk took them seriously.  Equally, one has felt that the Embramen have lost out in fixtures such as this in the past because they have lacked the dog to impose themselves physically and psychologically. This evening's match is a promising sign that that weakness may be a thing of the past and sets them up nicely for key fixtures in Europe and the Pro 12 in the coming weeks.

One hopes that this track will become the Gunners' theme

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