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Edinburgh Rugby: 20 (10) Newcastle Falcons: 17 (10)

... and a fair bit more.

Young Sep had a run in the starting XV for the first half with Visser Major coming on for the second period.  Both of them had their moments in an encouraging home performance prior to the serious business of the regular season beginning with Cardiff next Friday.

It's fair to say that the off-season in the Murrayfield area this year has been somewhat more eventful than usual.  And that's saying something.  There is a palpable feeling of a new dawn about the place at the moment.  I don't think it's a false dawn this time either.  You may disagree.  But the much vaunted standing area last night seemed well organised and quite well populated, while the ST area in the East Stand seemed to be well policed.  The overall crowd of 2,500 for a pre-season match, coupled with an apparent mini-surge in season ticket sales, suggests that the long-suffering Embra tifosi are signing up for another year after much agonizing.  The new club website looks great and Edinburgh Rugby seemed to have discovered the concept of advertising.  Stick with it.

Meanwhile, things on the field look - whisper it - quite good.  Visser Minor was one of a number of youngsters who looked sharp.  I'm increasingly reluctant to tip young folk for future greatness, given the kiss of death it has proved to be for so many in the past - Rory Hutton being one of the more spectacular examples of recent years.  But I do like Tom Brown as a full back and Gregor Hunter also impressed when he came on at 10.  Dave 'Big Hair' Denton once again performed superbly well in a back row that had a nice balance to it overall.

Of the old codgers, it was good to see Phil Godman back in action and standing flat throughout his spell.  Once John Houston got going, he gave his pack a target as he crashed over the gainline on a regular basis.  But the outstanding player afield was Greig Laidlaw, who looked as comfortable in his half hour stint at full back as he had done at scrum half.  Equally impressive was his calm, unhurried leadership.  He is responding to Andy Robinson's decision not to take him to the World Cup in exemplary fashion. 

Winning last night was not really all that important, yet it was good that the margin of victory was tight, for there is some fine-tuning still to be done.  The quality of handling was very poor at times.  One can recall Kyle Traynor spilling three passes, but a number of others with less visible headgear were equally loose - and these barely forced errors frequently cost Edinburgh dear.  Not a few times they blew scoring opportunities that they will need to take if they are going to be successful this term.  The set piece also looks shaky and will be a concern until the first choice front row are back from the World Cup, if not beyond.  There remains a need for more ballast in the front five.

The Gunners started this match strongly, building phases in the enemy 22 from the off.  But Newcastle cleared after the home side had wasted a two man overlap.  Edinburgh looked comfortable in defence in return, but were fortunate to escape unscathed when Gopperth hit the post with a penalty effort on 12 minutes.

Godman's vision shortly afterwards sparked a super Embra break, halted only by a cynical Newcastle boot at the breakdown, which allowed Laidlaw to open the scoring with a penalty on 14 minutes.  Gopperth replied in kind five minutes later when Edinburgh failed to roll away in the tackle.  This set up a  period of Falcon pressure, at the end of which Jim Thompson looked unlucky to be penalised and carded when he intercepted a Newcastle pass near his own 5 metre line, although the referee was well positioned to judge. Newcastle took full advantage immediately, Eves scoring a simple try in the corner, very well converted by Gopperth. 3-10 Embra.

With the clock ticking down, Edinburgh exploded to life with a fine try.  It all started with great defensive work from Sep Visser on his 22, which allowed Edinburgh to clear.  A poor Newcastle kick allowed the Gunners to break to the left wing and work their way upfield.  Tom Brown's scything inside run was halted in the Newcastle 22, but he offloaded to Laidlaw to canter over for the score.  The skipper's conversion tied the score at the break, which was just about fair on the run of play. 

Both sides took a while to regain their rhythm after the restart, given the usual raft of pre-season replacements.  But Tim Vissser looked dangerous every time he had the ball and seemed to have at least two or three yards of pace on his opposite number.  One of the Flying Dutchman's surges up the left wing following his own kick ahead was halted as he clattered in to two stray defenders, or they clattered into him, depending on your point of view.  It looked like referee McMenamin had been correct to see nothing in it, but it was quite fun for the tifosi to feign outrage all the same.

Yet it was the visitors who scored next, just before the hour, Fielden pouncing on a neat grubber behind the defence, again very well converted from the corner, this time by Hodgson. 

Edinburgh hit back soon after, sparked by the skipper.  Now at full back, Laidlaw collected a deep clearance, throwing the ball in to himself.  Tim Visser made good ground up the wing with plenty of support.  He offloaded to Laidlaw thence to Scott who found the charging Steve 'Stevie' Lawrie in the Falcons' 22.  The replacement hooker surged over untouched, Laidlaw adding the extras.  All square again with around 15 minutes left.

As Newcastle now seemed to be playing a bit more for territory, one wondered whether both sides would be content to run the clock down.  But the Gunners kept at it and eventually won a penalty for a Newcastle offside.  Laidlaw's successful kick and the pack's accuracy in the dying couple of minutes delivered the win.  Things are shaping up nicely.

So that was the phoney war.  Now for the real thing, starting with the Blues at Murrayfield next Friday evening at 1930.

See you there.



Edinburgh: Laidlaw 1T, 2C, 2P, Lawrie 1T .

Newcastle: Gopperth 1C 1P, Hodgson 1C, Eves 1T Fielden 1T


Edinburgh: T Brown; S Visser, J Thompson, J Houston, L Jones; P Godman, G Laidlaw; K Traynor, A Kelly, J Gilding, G Gilbert, S Turnbull, S Cox, R Grant, D Denton. Replacements: T Visser, E Lazada, H Watson, M Scott, S Lawrie, L Niven, A Black, J King, G Hunter C Leck.

Newcastle: T Catterick; L Fielden, J Fitzpatrick, L Evans, R Sheriffe; J Gopperth, C Pilgrim; G Shiells, R Vickers, A Wells, J Hudson, A Van der Heijden, M Wilson, R Pennycook, R Mayhew. Replacements: J Graham, T Swinson, W Welch, A 'Hoggy' Hogg, J Pasqualin.

Attendance: 2,352

Referee: McMenamin