SPIRIT OF 48-47 ...
Bordeaux Begles: 13 (3) Edinburgh Rugby: 15 (0)
;How do you figure this team? One week they're being unceremonially humped in abject fashion, a couple of weeks later they put in a gutsy effort like this to down a high-flying Top 14 side in Bordeaux-Begles on the road. UBB currently sit third in the French top tier, and are second in terms of points scored only to Toulouse. This is not the first time that the Gunners have won in France and there is always a suspicion that the French sides see European competition as a second order priority. But there should be no quibbling, no debate. This was a fantastic result.
It was a win built on character. This team has had to put up with a great deal of flak so far this season on the basis of their recent performances. And, sad to say, they have deserved all of it. Given the investment in the squad, given the talent that is there, they have badly underachieved. At times they have seemed wholly lacking in commitment. And the jury remains out, despite Coach Solomons' statement after no-side that he'd never seen anything like it in 37 years in rugby. Let's not forget that the last time they had a good run in Europe, they reached new levels of hopelessness in the bread and butter business of the Celtic League and that is the place they're at in the Guinness Pro 12 at present. But this was a performance that reminded one of Todd Blackadder's remark a few years ago, inspired by that cheery German, Friedrich Nietzsche, that 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger'. It gives one hope that they can turn the corner. With a typically Visser-esque try - albeit notched by 'Deadly' Dougie Fife - making the difference last night, it also gives one hope that they may start to play a bit of rugby. Great to see and let's see much, much more.
On a beautiful evening at the stade André Moga, the Gunners edged a close contest in their opening European Rugby Challenge Cup match to secure a precious away victory. With (a lot) of imagination, there were shades of that extraordinary 48-47 victory over Racing Metro at Murrayfield in the Heineken a few years back. Then, as last night, the French side could have snatched victory at the death with a dropped goal. Happily, replacement Bernard missed and the Embramen returned home with the points.
There were rather fewer tries and rather less derring-do than on that famous evening. It was less fun to watch and the great Allan 'Chunk' Jacobsen was not showing off his silky skills with ball in hand. But the Embramen outscored UBB two tries to one, albeit the best score of the night was a classic French backs touchdown notched by scrum half Serin after a beautiful inside pass had unlocked the Edinburgh defence. You can relive both Serin and Fife's efforts at:http://www.ubbrugby.com/mediatheque.html
It was a brutal encounter, as visits to this part of the world tend to be. Skipper Mike Coman retired early with a knock, Roddy coming on to replace him. Although that left the visitors with a fairly lightweight back row, facing a big pack and veteran stand-off Lionel Beauxis pulling the strings, they got stuck in and refused to give up. You only win around here if you front up. The Embramen fronted up.
Both sides started brightly, but handling errors and sound defence saw several decent chances go abegging. After Beauxis had almost created the opener for UBB, Edinburgh came close themselves, but no-one could get a hand on the ball bouncing in-goal.
As the half progressed, though, it seemed as if UBB were starting to gain some control. They eventually took the lead their play had deserved, Beauxis knocking over a penalty after a scrum infringement on 32 minutes. The score at the break was a narrow 3-0 home advantage, but good Embra discipline in defence, helped by a lack of accuracy on the part of UBB in attack, meant it was all to play for in the second period.
After Beauxis had missed a long-ish penalty attempt, Fife scored the opening try. It came off scrum ball whipped to 'Deadly' on the blind side. The winger surged into the red zone before he was taken to ground. Quick ball led to two breakdowns moving the ball back infield to five metres out before SHC's long miss pass back right to Burleigh saw the first five-eighth feed his man on the wing. Fife cut back inside and crossed for the unconverted score. A well-worked effort, created by speed of thought and execution. One has been crying out for this side to play with tempo in recent matches. This is what tempo does.
UBB hit back almost immediately, though. After they had turned over attacking Edinburgh ball, Beauxis' inside pass off the breakdown created a huge hole in the drifting defence for Dornvo to canter clean through. He committed the covering Tonks before releasing Serin for a lovely try. 10-5 UBB. The home side looked to be upping the pace a bit going into the final quarter to secure the win and Hamish Watson had to look lively to thwart more danger. And when Beauxis put the home side eight points up on the hour with a penalty for a breakdown offence, things were starting to look ominous.
They looked even worse when Burleigh was carded on 61 minutes for a dangerous tackle. But the Gunners refused to buckle during the power play and, in fact, it was they who added to their score while short-handed. Heathcote, who had just come on the park in place of Tonks, knocked over a penalty on 69 minutes to narrow the difference to 13-8.
Amazingly, on an evening when the home rolling maul had looked most effective, this match was decided by the Embra maul. The latter was making stately progress towards the enemy tryline when it was taken down. The referee had little option but to give the penalty try on 73 minutes. Heathcote's conversion put the Gunners 15-13 up going into the last five minutes. Home blindside Graham was carded for the offence, with Lespinasse following his colleague into the bin shortly afterwards as UBB desperately tried to secure ball to set up the pot at goal. But Bernard's late effort failed and the Gunners secured a fine win.