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EMBRA EDGED IN LYON

Lyon Olympique: 21 (10) Edinburgh Rugby: 19 (13)



Well, it certainly wasn't Lyon Rampant. But the Top 14 side nonetheless secured a narrow Euro win last night in freezing conditions at the Matmut Stadium through a late dropped goal from centre Estebanez after SHC (CN! CG!) had kicked the visitors into a precious lead with ten minutes left on the clock.  Ultimately, it was the side that had just that little bit more composure late on that came away with the spoils.

At this time in European competition, observers reach for abacus and slide rule to compute the qualification chances of the competing clubs.  And it is the Embramen who are still in the box seat, as befits the only team in the group having lost just the once so far.  They sit on 17 points, with the precious losing bonus secured in France keeping their noses just ahead of second placed Bordeaux-Begles on 16.  Lyon remain third, but have moved up to 14 points. 

The Gunners have their destiny in their own hands.  If they win at Murrayfield next week, they will win the group.  Lyon may well come second, as they are virtually guaranteed a bonus point victory over hapless London Welsh - if they want it.  The chances are that a loss or a draw at home next week will not be sufficient for the Embramen to qualify as one of the three best runners up.  So they need to win.  One hopes that they do not rue passing up the chance of a try bonus against the Oxford club in the dual fixtures.

Whisper it quietly, but we may be getting our Timbo back.  Tim Visser was again on the scoresheet, notching the visitors' first try of the evening, and he looked frisky.  Meanwhile, his wing twin 'Deadly' DougIe Fife also crossed in the first period as the capital side looked more threatening in the back division than they have for some time.  Undoubtedly, Greg Tonks' presence at 10 is a factor, as is SHC, whose strength of personality and determination have been catalysts in Edinburgh's decent run of form in recent months.  A local scribe described the young scrummie as resembling a character in a Quentin Tarantino movie.  It seems an oddly appropriate description - coolly brutal or brutally cool.

But one can't help but feel that a more creative pairing at centre - if one can 'park' the conviction that Matt Scott's best position remains at second five-eighth rather than centre threequarter - is what's been missing.  Now that Burleigh and Scott are establishing themselves as a partnership, one hopes that it will give the coaching team the confidence to open things up a bit tactically.

Certainly, if the initial Solomonic objective was to mould a robustly abrasive pack that would not take one step backwards, then it is mission accomplished.  Equally, the defence is the soundest it has been for years.  Both of these welcome features of Edinburgh's game were on show in Lyon.

An early SHC penalty, followed soon after by Visser's well-worked try, put the visitors 8-0 up.  Olympique's New Zealand import, Lachie Munro, pulled a penalty back before Fife notched the second Embra try, again unconverted.  A 13-3 advantage in the first half should have been the platform from which Edinburgh would go on to win.

But, as in Galway last week, the Gunners lost a bit of focus just before the break.  First, Scott was carded for a breakdown offence, more because of the number of Embra offences leading up to his transgression rather than the egregiousness of his own. And before half time, Lyon took advantage.  Full back Loursac scored a try, goaled by Munro for a narrow 13-10 Edinburgh advantage and all to play for.  One felt then that this short passage of play might prove crucial in the end and so it turned out.  The Embramen would do well to reflect on the old sprinter's adage that you should run through the line, rather than ease up before you get there.

After SHC had stretched the lead in the second half with his second penalty, Fitzpatrick notched Lyon's second touchdown to bring the hosts to only 16-15 down, the conversion having failed.  Things were getting uncomfortably close.

Porical gained the lead for the French side for the first time in the evening with a penalty, only for SHC's final three pointer to give Edinburgh the advantage going into the dying minutes.  But in a frantic last 10, Lyon manoeuvred Estebanez into position for the late, late winner. 

Next Friday's clash against Bordeaux-Begles, being a winner takes all affair, should see a bumper home crowd.  Hopefully they will be cheering their favourites to victory and qualification.