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GOOD START GETS LOST IN DOWNPOUR

Edinburgh Rugby: 7 (12) The Ospreys: 30 (10)



With the constant throbbing of Edinburgh Rugby thundersticks throughout this game, one could close one's eyes at Murrayfield and, with a fair bit of imagination, think oneself in the Maracana Stadium as the likes of Pele, Zico, or Ronaldo bewitched their audience with dazzling displays of skill.  Back in Edinburgh, as the rain poured down, some Latin American flair was indeed on display as the crowds of youngsters made some welcome noise.  That flair was provided by the substantial man molehill that is Lucio "Big Hit" Lopez Fleming, the pint-sized Pampas Predator.  Particularly in the first half hour, when Edinburgh were in control of this game, his bonecrushing tackling and adventurous running were a joy to behold.

Sadly, even Big Hit was not able to inspire a home win, as the second stringers' inability to take full advantage of a good start, and the experience of their visitors, saw the Ospreys run out comfortable winners, albeit the margin flattered them somewhat.  The luminous barnet appended to former All Black scrum half Justin Marshall, a worthy Man of the Match, steered the South Walians to a five try bonus point win that keeps them handily placed for the Magnersleague title.

Coach Howells will not have been happy with the number of first tackles that were missed, nor the disintegration of the lineout in the second half, and the number of capital men retiring injured was a concern.  Nevertheless there were bright spots to be discerned in the gloaming.  As well as Big Hit, Ben Cairns again showed well.  Greig Laidlaw was clearly not overawed by facing Marshall, and put in the best performance one has seen from him in the red and black jersey.  Geoff Cross was prominent in the loose, and solid in the tight, while Dave McCall once again impressed in the short time he was on the park.

The opening five munutes were a far cry from last Saturday's Murrayfield catastrophe.  Lopez Fleming came close to a touchdown off an intelligent Jorgensen grubber from the off.  Then backchat from Marshall set up a kickable penalty after five minutes, which veteran stand-off Duncan "Hodgey" Hodge fired just short and wide.  The tiny Argentinian winger, combining well with Cairns, was at the heart of much good Edinburgh approach work.  But the Ospreys were content to concede penalties for ruck and offside offences and held out for the first quarter.

After Cairns had been denied a certain try off what was adjudged to have been a marginally forward pass, a high tackle on Big Hit - admittedly, not easy to avoid, given his 5'5" stature -  allowed Hodge to kick for the corner.  From the ensuing lineout, Matt Mustchin broke and stretched over for the converted try on 23 minutes that was a fair reflection of the balance of play.

Gradually, though, the Ospreys started to come back into the game.  At first, the visiting entertainment came from their kicking game.  Spice, a scrum half pressed into service at 10, had clearly never kicked for goal prior to tonight, and his woeful inaccuracy with the boot was intriguing.  South African full-back Terblanche, meanwhile, fascinated the crowd with his reverse garryowens. 

Sadly, the visitors showed that there was more to their game than comedy kicking, when Vaughton went over in the corner with five minutes left in the half, Spice missing the conversion.  And the momentum turned as Tandy scored a good try after a series of Osprey phases, Spice missing the conversion.

Early in the second half, the Ospreys changed placekicker.  Terblanche obliged at his first penalty chance by spending several minutes in an impressive, zen-like trance, approaching the ball with a great sense of purpose, before floating a beautiful effort high and wide of goal.  He got his act together at his next opportunity, though, and with half an hour left, the Ospreys were 13-7 up.

As the rain bucketed down, Edinburgh seemed to have lost a little zip, and their play became increasingly ragged as the Ospreys waxed strong.  A poor Godman tackle effort on 55 minutes saw Terblanche over for another quality try, converted by himself.  Then a perfectly executed lineout move saw Marshall nip untouched through the Edinburgh pack and race over for the bonus point score, Terblanche missing the conversion from immediately in front of the posts. 

Although 25-7 down, there was a feeling that, with 15 minutes left, Embra could still pull something back, and Cairns rewarded a spell of pressure with an unconverted try in the corner - 25-12.  But the Ospreys played sensibly, clearing well to relieve Edinburgh pressure until no-side.

Salt was rubbed in the wound when Jacobsen was carded with four minutes on the clock.  Cockbain had been lying on the wrong side of the ball at a ruck, making no effort to move away.  This is illegal.  He would therefore have expected, and duly received, a good shoeing.  Referee Fitzgibbons, whose indulgent refereeing of the visitors was a feature of the match as a whole, is clearly a sensitive soul, and inexplicably carded the PL Panther.  The Ospreys drove the ensuing lineout for a try; just for a change, Terblanche missed the conversion.

Looking through the programme prior to the game, one was struck by the lead that the Ospreys have over Edinburgh in their encounters over the years.  They never seem to be in a different class, whether the teams are at full strength or weakened by international calls.  Yet, as tonight, their rugby nous has usually been enough to give them the edge over the capital men.  That is a quality that, one hopes, those currently in the squad can develop, and those who will join over the summer will bring.

 Edinburgh: Tries: Mustchin, Cairns. Conversion: Hodge.

Ospreys: Tries: Tandy (2), Vaughton, Terblanche, Marshall. Conversion: Terblanche. Penalty: Terblanche.

Edinburgh: Warnock, Dey, Cairns, Jorgensen , Lopez Fleming, Hodge, Laidlaw, Jacobsen, Kelly, G Cross, Mustchin, Bentley, Strokosch, S Cross, MacDonald .

Ospreys: Terblanche, Mustoe, Parker, Bishop, Vaughton, Spice, Marshall, James, Williams, A Jones, Cockbain, Thomas, Lloyd, Tiatia, Tandy.

Referee: Fitzgibbon (Ireland).