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FRENCH CLOWN COSTS EMBRA VICTORY

Edinburgh: 16 (3) Wasps 25 (12)



Don't get me started.

Extensive scientific research has demonstrated conclusively that flamboyantly attired sportsfolk are consistently more successful than those who are not.  Consider, for example, the notorious Stade Francais pink flowery jersey, track legend Michael Johnson's golden boots, or Gavin Henson's no less golden tan.  To that pantheon can be added Serge Betsen's spectacular fluorescent yellow headguard.  Its owner did the unglamorous tasks well tonight in a solid Wasps performance that, coupled with Danny Cipriani's accurate placekicking, was enough to see the High Wycombe side emerge with a victory at Murrayfield tonight.

The game was a pretty turgid affair.  But what little adventure there was did not come from Wasps.  Edinburgh played what rugby was on show and will count themselves extremely unfortunate not to have won.  Against a visiting side that is clearly low in confidence, Edinburgh probably tried to force things a little too much in the first half.  As a result, they gave away a series of unnecessary penalties that gifted a 12-3 half time cushion to the elite Buckinghamshire side.

All you really need to know about the first period is that Embra had most of the territory and possession, but failed to break down the enemy defence.

The second half started much more brightly.  Paterson knocked over his second penalty of the night after a lengthy ping pong kicking rally worthy of Steffi Graf and one of the other great baseliners of women's tennis.  Immediately after that, another Gunner attack forced Wasps to kill the ball under pressure.  Metronomic Mossy kicked over his third penalty to narrow the gap to three.

Coach Robinson had clearly told his team to tighten things up at the half, using forward drives round the fringes to tie in the defence before spinning the ball wide.  It worked well throughout the third quarter, a Webster dart on 51 minutes nearly seeing the winger over.  But Cipriani's fifth penalty of the night, against the run of play, gave the visitors a six point cushion on the hour.

Edinburgh came back immediately.  With referee Berdos playing advantage for a cynical Wasps offence with Edinburgh pressing, Godman saw The Human Highlight,  Mark "Son of Keith" Robertson, lurking on the right wing.  Wasps' back three seemed pretty ropey under the high ball, so the pint-sized playmaker launched a well judged bomb.  Robertson was first to the touchdown, Paterson's fine conversion giving Edinburgh the lead for the first time in the match.

With the home side bossing Wasps' lineout as well as their own, "Big" Jim Hamilton again outstanding, and Godman keeping play in the enemy half, one felt that the game was there for the taking.

When I saw Christophe Berdos' name in the match programme before kick off, my heart sank.  We have seen this guy before.  Unfortunately, the French whistler then lived down to his reputation with the sort of crass officiating error that has become commonplace in the Heineken. 

Van Ginsbergen nearly intercepted an Embra pass on the home ten metre line, but lost the ball forward into Embra arms.  Berdos and his touch judges somehow failed to see it, allowing play to go on.  Edinburgh were driven back to their 22.  Berdos then interfered with play and bizarrely adjudged that Edinburgh had knocked on.  From the ensuing scrum, Rennie was - correctly - penalised and carded for a dangerous tackle on Sackey. The Cipriani boot made no mistake and Wasps were back in front.  It was a crucial passage of play and probably decided the outcome in the visitors' favour. 

Having said that, more discipline on Edinburgh's part in the first half would have denied the momentum that Cipriani's goalkicking gave Wasps.

To their credit, 14 man Edinburgh did not give up and kept pressing for the remainder of the match.  But Wasps scored a short-range try through Rees on 76 minutes to make matters safe, the referee - not uncontroversially - adjudging no double movement.

On a brighter note, the crowd of 7,700, boosted by a small travelling support, was Embra's biggest ever Heineken gate.  It has been another disappointing campaign, with opportunities blown aplenty.  Nevertheless, Edinburgh should feel aggrieved enough to travel to High Wycombe confident in their ability and determined to win the second leg of this double header.


MAN OF THE MATCH: MIKE BLAIR for another captain's performance that was not quite enough to inspire his men to a deserved victory.

SCORERS:

Edinburgh: Paterson 3P 1c, Robertson 1T

Wasps: Cipriani 6P 1C, Rees 1T

TEAMS:

Edinburgh: Paterson, Robertson, Cairns, De Luca, Webster, Godman, M. Blair, Jacobsen, Ford, G. Cross, C. Hamilton, J. Hamilton, MacDonald, Rennie, Hogg. 

Wasps: van Gisbergen, Sackey, Waldouck, Flutey, Lewsey, Cipriani, Reddan, Payne, Webber, Vickery, Skivington, Birkett, Betsen, Rees, Haskell.

Referee: Berdos (FRU)