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Scarlets: 16 (8) Edinburgh: 17 (3)

After the disappointment of Newport's narrow win in the Murrayfield monsoon before the international break, Edinburgh got the show back on the road this evening with a solid win over Llanelli at Parc y Scarlets in similarly dreadful conditions.  In doing so, the Gunners improved their advantage in the series, which now stands at nine wins to the Scarlets' four. They returned to the top of the Magnersleague as a result, albeit for only about half an hour until Glasgow's comfortable away win over Ulster put them on top on points difference.  Even they may not be there for long, with Leinster and Munster both playing later in the weekend.

Both sides somehow managed to score two tries apiece on a night when the ball rarely made it beyond the stand offs.  Edinburgh looked rusty in the first period, although they were unlucky to go into the break five points down.  They looked sharper in the second half, a two try burst in nine minutes in the third quarter put Embra noses in front.  The pack then strangled the match, holding on to the ball for long periods in the enemy half, the Laidlaw-Blair hinge's tactical kicking game keeping them where they wanted to be - and where the Scarlets did not.  The back row put in a power of work, flame haired flanker Roddy Grant, in particular, a standout at the breakdown.

That David Blair won the Man of the Match award in the eyes of the Welsh punditerati is testament to the way he controlled much of this match.  This was not a night for running rugby.  At times, it didn't seem much of a night for kicking rugby either, such was the degree of sclaffing and general aimlessness that was displayed by the boots of both sides.  But Blair Minor generally moved the ball when something was on and a neat dummy and well-timed pass set up Craig Hamilton for the winning score.  There was something reminiscent of veteran stand off Duncan 'Hodgey' Hodge about him this evening, and that was precisely the sort of game that was required.

The Scarlets drew first blood, with an early Priestland penalty after Grant was penalised.  The lead didn't last long, though, Blair knocking over a fine dropped goal from distance on seven minutes.

It was some time before either side really threatened, and it was the Scarlets who were on the board next.  The home scrum half, Martin Roberts, who had a good game, popped up twice in quick succession as Llanelli made ground on the left wing.  Although there had been a hint of accidental offside when he first took the ball up, Roberts put Pugh away, the backrower surging over for a good try in the corner.  The score was created by alert offloading and quick ball, which was not a feature of the evening's play in general.  Priestland missed the difficult conversion, leaving the home side with a five point cushion at the end of the half.

The Embra response from the restart was just what coach Moffat will have wanted.  They had the Scarlets under pressure deep in their own 22 from the off as the pack pummelled the line with successive pick and drives.  Eventually Geoff Cross rumbled over the line somewhere within a pile of bodies.  The referee consulted the TMO, who rightly could not award the score.  It wasn't long in coming, though.  More forward drives after the attacking scrummage saw Laidlaw in possession at the base of the ruck.   He dummied the pass wide then hopped over a body to notch the try.  Paterson's conversion gave Embra the lead.

The Scarlets were back ahead shortly afterwards, though.  Stephen Jones' appearance at playmaker gave them a bit more incisiveness and the Lion put Lee Williams over for a well-worked try, Jones missing the conversion.  But Edinburgh simply got back to work.  It wasn't long before they were again pressing in the enemy 22 and Blair's vision and touch saw Hamilton barrel over for the crucial score on 56 minutes.  Naturally, Paterson converted for a 17-13 lead.

Josh Turnbull, replacing Simon Easterby, was only on the park for a minute when he was carded by Italian referee Damasco for a dangerous tackle on de Luca at the restart.  Not only did he take the snake-hipped centre in the air, but he gave him a helping hand en route to the ground.  It was a nasty tackle and the intent was there. While Damasco had no hesitation in carding him, one felt that a red might have been justified.

Edinburgh were unable to take advantage of the power play.  But it saw the very welcome return to action of replacement Dave 'DC' Callam, back after a lengthy injury absence.   The big No 8 was in typical ball carrying mode pretty much straight away.

After Davies had butchered a dangerous overlap, Jones took the Scarlets to within a point with a penalty on 69 minutes.  It could have set up a tense finale.  But in fact, Edinburgh took control, playing the remaining ten minutes deep in Scarlets' territory.  The forwards, again marshalled superbly by Laidlaw, ground out the hard yards and ran down the clock.  And although the Scarlets eventually won the ball with time almost up, the quality of the Edinburgh defence snuffed out any danger with some ease.

Not a pretty win, but an excellent four points brought home. It was a solid start to what is going to be a pivotal month for the Gunners.  The two matches against Bath will determine whether they have a realistic chance of qualifying for the Heineken quarter finals.  Meanwhile, the 1872 Cup double header with table topping Glasgow is about much more than Scottish bragging rights.  Victory in both would see either side handily placed going in to the second half of the Magners competition en route to the playoffs.


MAN OF THE MATCH: DAVID BLAIR for a quietly assured performance at stand off.


Scarlets: Priestland 1P, Jones 1P, Pugh 1T, Williams L 1T  

Edinburgh: Paterson 2C, Blair D 1DG. Laidlaw 1T, Hamilton J. 1T 


Scarlets: Daniel Evans; Lee Williams, Sean Lamont, Jon Davies, Andy Fenby; Rhys Priestland, Martin Roberts; Iestyn Thomas, Ken Owens, Deacon Manu, Lou Reed, Dominic Day, Simon Easterby, Richie Pugh, David Lyons (capt).
Replacements: Phil John, Emyr Phillips, Vernon Cooper, Josh Turnbull, Tavis Knoyle, Stephen Jones, Gareth Maule.

Edinburgh: C Paterson (capt); M Robertson, B Cairns, N De Luca, T Visser; D Blair, G Laidlaw; A Jacobsen, A Kelly, G Cross, S Turnbull, S MacLeod, A MacDonald, R Grant, S Newlands.
Replacements: Ross Ford, Kyle Traynor, Craig Hamilton, David Callam, Ross Samson, John Houston, Jim Thompson.

Referee: Damasco (Italy).