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AN APOLOGY

Gloucester: 10 Edinburgh Rugby: 16



In recent weeks, we may have given the impression that the Embramen are in some way an incompetent rabble, unable to tell even one end of a rugby ball from the other.  Headlines such as "My late grannie could control a match better than that", "Is Matt Williams In Charge At Murrayfield?" and even "Bring Back Bradley!" may have have been mistakenly understood as representing somewhat less than 100% support for the men in red and black.

We now recognise that there is not a jot nor scintilla of truth in these vile slurs.  In fact, this Edinburgh squad are giants of the sport, comparable with the all time greats.  Ben Atiga makes Ma'a Nonu look like a novice, while Jack Cuthbert is surely a worthy heir to Gavin Hastings in the national team's 15 berth.

Well, maybe not quite.  And Gloucester are not the force they were a few years back.  But after what was rightly seen as a pretty hopeless display on the Murrayfield turf last weekend, an understrength Embra squad have just been to Kingsholm, one of the more intimidating of the English grounds, and come away with a hard-fought victory that at least gives them a mathematical chance of getting to the quarters, albeit they'll need to win both of their final two matches to have any hope.  Turning over USAP at home in inclement weather in January I can see happening.  They have done it before, after all.  But travelling to Limerick the following weekend will be a rather tougher ask.

The Gunners XV that took to the park may have had a bit of a makeshift look about it, particularly when a late injury change saw Greig Tonks move inside to 10, with Cuthbert moving to full back and taking on the kicking duties, Tom 'Schooldays' Brown coming in on the wing - the latter not before time, too.  But the visitors played a tight game rather more effectively this time out, while their mental application and coolness under pressure seemed greatly improved.  A defence that had looked alarmingly porous, despite not conceding a cricket score back at the ranch, was far more secure this time.  And that is essentially what won this match.

Edinburgh had the best of the play early on.  And while they did not take advantage, their patience with ball in hand was encouraging.  Cuthbert knocked over his first penalty on 10 minutes.  He ensured that further pressure was reflected on the scoreboard with a second penalty before Gloucester eventually got off the mark in front of their anxious supporters on 35 minutes.  Yet while Burns' conversion of a penalty try for collapsing a maul looked likely to see the Cherry and Whites with their noses ahead at the break, Cuthbert's third penalty gave Edinburgh a narrow 9-7 lead - deserved on the run of play and the control that they had exerted away from home.

Burns did regain the lead for the home side shortly after the interval with a penalty.  But the decisive blow was struck shortly afterwards as the match entered the middle quarter.  Patient play in the enemy red zone eventually saw second five-eighth Atiga crash over for the try, goaled by Cuthbert for a 16-10 advantage. 

It looked like the Gunners might be made to pay when scoring sensation WP "WP" Nel was rather unluckily carded for a scrummage offence.  But as Gloucester had done the week before, they held out during the power play and, indeed, it was Gloucester who were to find themselves under pressure, Ben Morgan was carded for a silly offside offence as WP returned.  Although Cuthbert's attempt at goal was as laughable as last week's performance, the Embramen nearly killed the game when winding the clock down, but WP was denied a touchdown by the TMO.  Irrespective, they held out with little difficulty and emerged with a fine win. 

"Time to step up to the plate and restore a little pride." I wittered last week.  Mission accomplished. 

Let's keep it up now, particularly for the Inter-City.