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ATTITUDE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE

Edinburgh: 50 (31) Zebre: 15 (8)



After years of scoffing at friends who would spend days devouring TV 'box sets' I have found myself doing the same recently with the Discovery Channel's 'Deadliest Catch'.  It is the everyday story of Alaskan crab fishermen battling the Bering Sea, mechanical failures and sometimes each other as they seek out the surprisingly lucrative King, Opelio and, indeed, Bairdi crab.  It's amazingly compelling viewing.

One of the skippers, Aleutian legend 'Wild' Bill Wichrowski, has adopted as his boat's motto the phrase 'Attitude Makes The Difference'.  The importance of the right attitude has resonance in life in general, including elite rugby, as Ireland discovered against Japan in the Rugby World Cup this morning.  By contrast, a quiet middle quarter in the seocnd half apart, Edinburgh got an A+ for mental application this evening and the result duly followed.

This season's opener at BT Murrayfield saw the Embramen field a strong squad, despite extensive international calls.  They have recruited wisely to fill the gaps, from returning prodigal Murray Douglas, back for a sabbatical from Super Rugby's Brumbies, returning North Berwick legend Lewis Carmichael, playing on the blindside tonight, to the veteran nous of Nic Groom at half back.  And both Matt Scott and 'Gordon' Bennett have looked in good shape in pre-season.  But they needed to approach this one with the right attitude if they were to get this PRO14 season off to a flyer against visiting Zebre.

They certainly looked up for it from the off.  After a decent spell of Zebre pressure following the kick off, sparked by their lively England Sevens first five-eighth Charlie Walker, a brilliant touchfinder from van der Walt set up a home attacking lineout around the enemy 22.  With referee Clancy playing advantage for an Italian infringement, the Embra maul rumbled brutally over for 'Big' Fraz McKenzie to notch their first try, Jaco's conversion putting them 7-0 up after as many minutes.  The Italians pulled a three pointer back on 11 minutes after Walker had sparked another Zebre attack. But that was about all they showed offensively in the first period as Edinburgh blew them away.

The Gunners looked to be living up to coach Cockerill's promise to play more expansive rugby, putting a lot of pace and width on the ball.  And their second try was sparked on half way by van der Merwe, who released Scott on another barnstorming run down the left wing.  He was caught in the 22 and Groom slowed the play down with several forward drives.  But then the South African dinked a cute grubber behind the Zebre defence on a free play for Bennett to score under the posts.  14-3 on 17 minutes and Edinburgh were looking comfortable.  Power and pace in attack and defence.

But the visiting No 8 Licata charged down a defensive clearance and grounded the ball brilliantly for a fine opportunist try at the end of the first quarter.  It was loose from the Gunners in protecting their half back, but Zebre were hanging in there,14-8 down following the failed conversion. 

Edinburgh hit back immediately from deep.  A fine piece of handling from van der Walt under pressure from the blitz put Scott surging away on the left again.  The first five-eighth had an outstanding match in attack and defence.  Haining took the ball on well before releasing van der Merwe,  The big winger stepped back inside, committed two defenders then released skipper Groom, runing a smart supporting line,  to cruise over beneath the posts for a 21-8 advantage on 24 minutes.  The question was whether the bonus would come before or after the break. 

The extra league point duly came on 33 minutes.  The Gunners tied in the blitz defence around halfway with several forward drives, before Pierre Schoeman in space delivered a Russell-esque sublime no look pass to release his backs.  Then Cumnock man Bennett found his midfield partner Scott, who surged to the line, stepping in to beat the final man to put the home side 28-8 to the good - playing good rugby to boot.

The Italians were again under severe pressure on their own line as half-time approached.  While they managed to hold out against the power of the Gunner pack, it was at the cost of a formal warning from referee Clancy for repeated infringement and a van der Walt penalty.  31-8 Edinburgh at the break.  This was a very assured, powerful and entertaining performance from the Embramen, who were well worth the margin and would be looking forward to the second period rather more than their shell shocked guests.  

The test for the home side was more whether they would maintain their focus and dominance for the second 40 minutes or take the foot off the gas and freewheel home.

Mark Bennett was absolutely red hot After sparking another Gunner foray into the enemy 22, setting up a couple of quick fire phases, he ran a gorgeous line back against the drifting defence released by partner Scott to beat three defenders and touch down under the posts for the fifth try.  The score was classic Bennett - that power and pace again, personifying this Edinburgh performance.  38-8 on 50 minutes as Scott came off after a great shift.  And even when it looked like Zebre might have created a chance of their own following the restart, sound Edinburgh maul defence snuffed out the danger.

As the third quarter came to an end, the match won, Edinburgh rang the changes to rest key players for next weekend's visit to Cardiff, while giving the likes of Charlie Shiel a bit of game time.  Meanwhile, Zebre were trying to play with ambition but were getting no change from the suffocating Embra defence.

As the fizz went out of this match, out of the blue on 68 minutes, Zebre's extravagantly coiffured 18 year old debutant Mori scored the best try of the night.  Brilliant interplay in midfield unpicked the Edinburgh defence to put the youngster sprinting away to cross for Zebre's second try - 38-15 going into the final 10 minutes.

But order was restored from a brilliant Embra move off first phase.  Off a lineout on the Zebre 10, the Gunners looked to set up the maul, only for 'Bing' Crosbie to play the breaking scrum half round the back of the lineout, putting his actual scrum half Shiel scooting through a gap in the defence at pace.  The youngster committed the last line of defence to release Bennett for his hat-trick.  An absolute joy to see Mark in such glorious form after his injury woes of recent years.  His Guinness Man of the Match award was richly deserved.  45-15 with five minutes left to run.

In the last minute, the pack punched deep into the Zebre 22, quickfire phases tying in the tiring defence, before 'Denis' Hickie launched a wounded duck of a bomb to the right wing.  Jamie Farndale was perfectly positioned to gather and slide over in the corner to leave the final score 50-15 as the Gunners put Zebre out of their misery and got their league campaign off to the perfect start