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Leinster: 37 (10) Edinburgh: 28 (14)

The Gunners fell short of reaching the inaugural Magners end of season playoffs in Dublin this evening in a thrilling encounter with the defending champion Leinster squad.  Edinburgh were always up against it, needing to win at the RDS with a bonus point, while hoping that Cardiff could not only beat Muster, but deny them a losing bonus. In the end, although they did manage four good tries, a late Leinster double against 13 man Embra, coupled with a Munster losing bonus, meant that the capital side ended their campaign outside the playoff zone, placing sixth, only two points ahead of Newport and with a losing 8-10 record.

Edinburgh have scored more tries - 40 - than anyone else in the league.  So much for the mid-season angst about a try drought.  But they have conceded more points than anyone else too - lowly Connacht apart, who were hammered again this weekend.  It's great to score four in Dublin against the likely champions.  Thompson and Robertson's first half efforts were matched by 'Ned' Kelly and Robertson scores in the second.  But Leinster scored four of their own to motor into first place going into the playoffs, their 55 points giving them home advantage, albeit against Munster, who should be quite motivated for a range of reasons.

After going into the break 14-10 up, the Gunners were five points to the good going into the final ten minutes, but losing Jacobsen and Hogg to yellow cards proved too much of a handicap to overcome.  They were certainly a changed side from that which gave up the ghost so pitifully to Ulster at Murrayfield. Yet it is frustrating that they put themselves in such a position, when a relatively easy run-in should have put them comfortably in the top four.

 Looking back on this season, it is again a story of opportunities not taken and key confrontations bloused out of.  While winning three matches in Europe was an improvement on recent years, Edinburgh enjoyed possibly the weakest group they have had for some years, yet they failed to put away an eminently beatable Bath at The Rec, or Ulster at Ravenhill.  They flunked the easiest run-in of any of any of the playoff contenders in the Magners.  Perhaps most revealingly, though, they wimped out big style in the face of a marvellously aggressive Glasgow side in the twin 1872 matches.

It used to be said of Glasgow sides in the old days that 'when the going gets tough, the tough go skiing'. Not any more.  What has impressed me about Glasgow this term is not the Killer Bs, or the emergence of Messrs Low and Welsh up front, nor even the form of a rejuvenated Dan Parks.  It has been their much improved mental approach to the game that has taken them to third in the league, with a good chance of overcoming the Ospreys in the semi-final.  They seem to have developed a winning mentality that will serve them in good stead in future seasons.

Meanwhile, the Gunners seem to have lost the poise and confidence that characterised their better performances this season, and their improvement of the previous couple of seasons under Andy Robinson.  As they have shown once again this term, they can not only beat the best sides in Europe, but are eminently capable of ripping them apart.  But only when they are in the mood.  While some may feel that the change in coaching staff has had an impact, ultimately it is the players themselves who need to front up; the leaders in the side who need to take control. All of them would do very well to read Mike Brearley's excellent 'The Art of Captaincy', to learn how a man who was an indifferent batsman but a brilliant leader managed to achieve great things both with the England cricket side and Middlesex.

The image that will stay with me from this season is the sight of a rather forlorn squad standing on the Murrayfield turf after no-side, watching the Embra tifosi leave the stadium in a state of extreme rage after the Ulster capitulation.  That cannot have been a pleasant experience for them.  But I hope that they can remember how that felt and make a commitment to themselves that they will not allow it to happen again.

We all have ideas about who could come in to improve the side.  A dominating tighthead and an aggressive ball carrying blindside in the mould of Stephen Ferris or Isitolo Maka would be top of mine.  But more important than that is the development of more leaders in the existing squad.  This column has gone on about Greig Laidlaw's strengths on that front, and one senses that 'Big' Jim Hamilton is another.  Undoubtedly Ali Hogg's long term absence was a factor.  But one hopes that the likes of Roddy Grant, who has really come on this season, will also step forward. 

Because there is much in the garden that is rosy, and not much that's wrong that can't be fixed with a bit of application.   These guys are capable of great things if they are willing to put in the effort.  Tim Visser may be a poorer tackler than most folk's grannies, but he knows how to score tries.  Meanwhile, Mark 'Son of Keith' Robertson is a real threat on the other wing.  Nick de Luca showed glimpses of what he's capable of in attack, and defended consistently well, while John Houston never seems to fail to get over the gainline.  Ben 'Cairnsy' Cairns is a class act.  Simple as that.

It will be interesting to see how much game time the youngest Blair gets next season.  While Phil Godman is the man in possession, he is going to have to work hard on his game management and his tactical kicking if Edinburgh are going to achieve their potential - and if he is going to get the Scotland playmaker role back.  Laidlaw ended the season as first choice scrum half and Mike Blair, to my mind, is going to have to go some to get back into the side.

Edinburgh's set piece work was inconsistent - sometimes excellent, sometimes abysmal.  Ross Ford and Allan 'Chunk' Jacobsen are feared around the Magners, with Kyle Traynor making good progress over the year.  But one feels that Geoff Cross treaded water, at best, this season, and needs to work hard to fulfil his potential.  The Gunners are well served at second row, with Jim Hamilton and any of the other locks a quality combination - Stevie Turnbull impressing when he had the chance.  Finally, I am not a great fan of the three opensides experiment.  A key factor in Edinburgh's less impressive performances was the poor quality of their support play.  Too often, the ball carrier would get isolated and have to go to ground when surely at least one of the opensides should have been on his shoulder.  Yes, Edinburgh are indeed blessed with three quality operators, with a fit Ross 'Rosco' Rennie the pick of the trio.  But Scott Newlands' injury and those of Hogg and Callam exposed a lack of depth among the bigger boys.  Hogg's imminent departure to Newcastle leaves a big hole.

Finally, a word about one definite departure - Simon Cross.  The Colonel has been around for some years and is one of the more experienced campaigners in the squad.  Appointing him club captain was a shrewd move, given that he comes from a family where the previous three or four generations served in the military, so he knows a bit about leadership.  He gave a tremendous amount to the club and the wider rugby community in and around Edinburgh.  Recently, one has been startled to hear him popping up as a presenter on Radio Scotland's 'Sports Weekly', among other things.  Although he is obviously handicapped by being articulate, one hopes that he can carve out a niche for himself in that field, while also passing on his expertise through coaching. Colonel, we salute you.

Here's to a good summer, and a rather better 2010/2011 campaign.