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FRISKY TURNBULL DELIVERS BONUS

Edinburgh: 32 (13) Connacht: 5 (0)



When the clock was running down in that classic Wales-Ireland match at the Millennium Stadium last weekend, everyone in the crowd knew exactly what Ireland were up to.  The forward pick and drives on the Welsh 22 steadily took the ball infield.  Veteran scrum half Peter Stringer directed operations, waiting patiently before firing the ball back to his Munster colleague Ronan O'Gara.  The stand off, standing deep in the pocket, calmly knocked over the winning goal and Ireland retook the lead to deliver their first Grand Slam since the beginning of time.

These guys had been through pressure moments in the Heineken, in particular, and knew what it takes to be successful. 

That Scotland have had another poor tournament is uncontroversial.  Plenty of folk have ideas about why that is and what should be done about it.  However, what is also clear is that Scottish players, on the whole, struggle to deliver under pressure.  They tend to snatch at chances, try to do the impossible or simply make too many unforced errors.  There was a bit of that sort of thing on display at Murrayfield tonight as Edinburgh ran out 32-5 victors over visiting Connacht.

Yes, it was a bonus point win.  But it took until the last play of the match to deliver it in a contest that was considerably less evenly-matched than the half time egg and spoon race between rival mascots Flinty the Stag and visiting Eddie the Eagle.  After a relatively even first quarter, Edinburgh were streets ahead for the next 40 minutes and should really have been out of sight before half time.  That they were not was down in part to some stout defending by the visitors, but mostly due to a litany of wrong options taken by the dominant side tonight.

The first quarter was lit up only by Simon Webster's extraordinary fluorescent yellow boots and the impressive facial hair displayed by enemy full back Nathan.  Handling was difficult in the high wind and driving rain, yet while Connacht looked like they had never seen a rugby ball before, Embra hands were generally much safer.  The home side looked eager, moving the ball from the off with flying winger Andy "Turny" Turnbull particularly threatening.

Yet it was the pack who opened the scoring on 19 minutes.  Godman kicked a penalty for collapsing a maul by illegal means to the corner.  With Connacht perhaps wary of being pinged for the same thing, the Embra pack rumbled around a bit before driving propping tyro Traynor over for a try, goaled from the corner by Paterson.

Mossy added to the lead five minutes later with a penalty conceded by Connacht under more pressure, then de Luca nearly released Cairns on a great angle, which would surely have delivered a try from distance.

There are some ideas that look like turkeys from the off.  One thinks, for example, of Scottish Water's decision this week to dig up Edinburgh's key artery, Queensferry Road, immediately after British Gas Networks have filled in the last of their own trenches, which have been causing mid-intensity rage among homebound Fifers for several months.  

Another one is Connacht stand off Keatley's bizarre pre-kick ritual.  The playmaker resembles nothing less than a demented kangaroo that has had its feet nailed to the floor, trying in vain to hop off in to the sunset.  After bobbing up and down six times (count 'em), he steps up and sends the ball comfortably wide of the posts.  It is a routine that cries out to be ridiculed and the home support were happy to oblige.  It can't do much for the guy's concentration.  He duly missed two penalty efforts in the first period before Paterson brought the half-time score to 13-0 Embra with his second penalty.

Embra upped the pace from the off in the second period.  After a great Paterson counter had put Webster seemingly away for a score - the winger being a little too unselfish and the chance was lost - try number two was secured on 50 minutes.  A flowing move went from the left wing across to the right, where Edinburgh enjoyed an overlap.  Ross Ford rumbled through two tacklers to touch down, leaving the unmarked Mustchin on the wing cursing the hooker's good fortune. 

Better was to come, with Edinburgh moving the ball immediately from the restart left, then back up the right wing.  Mike Blair took a tap penalty on halfway after a great Hogg surge.  The skipper released Turnbull in traffic on the Connacht 10.  Every time the tiny winger had possession tonight, the Connacht defence looked like rabbits in the headlights, and the wee man danced through tackles and scooted over for a brilliant try.  Paterson's conversion killed the game with 25 minutes left.  All that was left was to secure the bonus.

But there followed a succession of near misses, Turnbull the first to be denied only by a last ditch tacle immediately after.  Then playing against ten men after Ofisa was carded, Cairns seemed to have put Jim Hamilton over on the wing, only to be called back for a forward pass.

Edinburgh gave the entire bench a run with 12 minutes to go, which inevitably disrupted their rhythm somewhat.  Connacht took advantage, venturing into the enemy half for the first time in the second period with ten minutes to go. They were rewarded with a consolation try by Nathan and suddenly showed more purpose than they had done in the preceding 75 minutes.

It was Embra who had the last word, though.  They ran the ball from deep inside their own 22, with a great David Blair break setting up the phases that eventually led to a fine touchdown for Ali "Hoggy" Hogg under the posts, Paterson converting for a comfortable 32-5 home win.

The win puts Edinburgh on 32 points, fourth in the Magnersleague for the moment, 13 points behind leaders Munster, who secured a bonus point win of their own tonight, against Glasgow at Firhill.


MAN OF THE MATCH: The Magners award went to ANDY "TURNY" TURNBULL, while tonight's match sponsors astutely gave their prize to hard-scrummaging KYLE TRAYNOR.


SCORERS:

Edinburgh: Paterson 3C 2P, Traynor 1T, Ford 1T, Turnbull 1T, Hogg 1T 

Connacht: Nathan 1T'

TEAMS

Edinburgh: Paterson; Turnbull, Cairns, De Luca,  Webster, Godman, Mike Blair (capt),  Traynor,  Ford, Geoff Cross, Craig Hamilton, Jim Hamilton, Newlands, MacDonald, Hogg. Replacements:  Kelly, Kerr, MacLeod, Mustchin,  Laidlaw, David Blair, Houston.

Connacht: T Nathan; L Bibo, G Duffy, K Matthews, F Carr; I Keatley, K Campbell; B Wilkinson, S Cronin, R Morris; M Swift, A Farley; A Browne, R Ofisa, J Muldoon (capt). Replacements: A Flavin, R Loughney, D Gannon, J O'Connor; C O'Loughlin, A Dunne, M Deane.