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Bonus Point Goes Begging

Edinburgh Win Ugly, But Fail To Capitalise

Sadly, our regular correspondent Martin Bell is away on a business trip, so we are deprived of his unique style and flair this week.  Instead you have to put up with an inferior version, but hopefully Martin will be back in harness next time.

If you're reading this Martin, you didn't miss much.  In truth this was a vintage Edinburgh performance in that, once again, they struggled to put away a far inferior side.  Borders never really showed much and yet were always in the game as Edinburgh failed to show much more.

Neither side was helped by the weather.  Although it stayed dry throughout the game it rained hard for most of the hour beforehand, leaving the ground wet and the ball slippery.  Throughout the game players lost their footing or the ball at key moments, with promising movements fizzling out accordingly.  Unlike the rain the wind did decide to hang around for the game, causing havoc to both sides' line-outs; all the hookers struggled with their throw-ins and referee Graeme Hannah probably blew-up for "Not straight at the line-out" more times than in the whole of the rest of the season thus far.  Despite that, Edinburgh did some fine disruptive work to win several line-outs on the Borders throw, which is one of the few real positives that they can take from this game.

Otherwise it was a dour affair.  Edinburgh started brightly and quickly established a beachhead in Borders territory.  Twice they scorned what looked like kickable penalties in favour of the kick to touch, and twice their handling let them down.  Finally, at the third time of asking, captain Chris Paterson stepped up to the mark and slotted the goal.  Three-nil Edinburgh.

At this stage Edinburgh had the Borders well pinned back in their own half and it seemed only a matter of time before they scored again.  Even the lone Borders raid of the half, a fine sweeping move from their own 22, was easily snuffed out at the Edinburgh 22 and the Borders were immediately pinned back again by a fine boot from Southwell.  In fact, Edinburgh must have been indulging in some extra kicking practice this week, with Southwell, Godman, Paterson and Di Rollo all kicking particularly well from hand throughout the match, despite the difficult conditions.

Nevertheless, it took the sin-binning of one of the Borders forwards, coming in from the side once too often, to give Edinburgh the edge they needed to turn pressure into points.  Allan "Chunk" Jacobsen it was who dived forward from the last of a succession of rucks close to the line for Edinburgh's first try.  With Mossy adding the conversion it seemed that Edinburgh would finally be able to turn on the style.

And yet it was the last move of the half that proved more prescient.  A fine break from stand-off Phil Godman, followed by some great support work had Edinburgh in the Borders 22 with their defence in disarray.  From the resultant ruck the ball was quickly spun back inside and the pass slipped to Ally Strokosch, who crossed the line unopposed as he dropped the ball.

However, to single out Strokosch would be unfair.  He was not alone in making basic errors, another particularly glaring example having come earlier in the half when Edinburgh had a three-to-two overlap two meters from the line and squandered it with a long cut-out pass that found touch rather than its man, when simple movement through hands would have done the trick.

The second half was a less exciting affair.  The Borders scored a penalty early on.  But from there it was all downhill.  Lots of huffing-and-puffing with little to show for it.  Lucio Lopez Fleming, on for his Edinburgh debut at the half for the injured Southwell, must have wondered what he was doing out there, as he only saw the ball a couple of times.

Just as the game was dying on its feet a rare Borders attack broke down on the Edinburgh 10, over by the East Stand.  Somehow the ball came out to Ben Cairns, who demonstrated his fabulous turn-of-speed to outstrip the cover defence.  He even had the presence of mind to make his late cut inside at precisely the same spot that Simon Webster used last week against the Aussies.  At least that's what it looked like as the Borders cover defence fell down in the same manner as Australia's to enable Cairns to touch-down under the posts.  Paterson again added the extras, and with twenty minutes remaining expectation was high that Edinburgh could turn the screw and get the bonus point.

But it was not to be.  The game somehow slipped away from Edinburgh and they never managed to dominate.  Borders meanwhile rarely managed to threaten, even the introduction of (former?) Scotland greats Stuart Grimes and Gregor Townsend failing to spark them into life.

Ally Strokosch went off mid-way through the second half, having soldiered on for several minutes after taking a bad knock on the restart following the Borders' penalty.  John Senio came on mid-way through the half to get his first run-out at scrum-half and turned in a solid performance.  The third debutant, Andrew Easson, playing at inside centre, also had a solid game, but worryingly was carried off the pitch on the stretcher at the end of the game.

In truth Edinburgh never really got to grips with this match.  Amongst the backs Ben Cairns and Phil Godman shone and in the pack Matt Mustchin and Allan Jacobsen stood out.  Otherwise Edinburgh looked rusty, and they will have to raise their game quite considerably for their next two matches, the home-and-away double bill against Gloucester in the Heineken Cup.

Man-of-the-Match: Phil Godman

Supporters' Club Man-of-the-Match: Allan Jacobsen

Match Report: John Clark