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GROOVY GUNNERS PREVAIL IN WAR OF ATTRITION

Gunners: 30 (5) Reivers: 25 (8)



With the Chemical Brothers' seminal work, "hey boy hey girl", booming aggressively over the Murrayfield PA during the warm-up, and the remainder of the pre-game playlist displaying similar good taste, the stage was set for Edinburgh to banish memories of their Netherdale capitulation in October with a comprehensive home win over the visiting Reivers. By again selecting two back rows on the bench, and only two backs, the Borderers had signalled that they were going to play exactly the same stifling game as they had done that fateful night. Edinburgh, one would have thought, would cope better second time round.

They did, insofar as the Gunners ran out deserved victors. But once again, when faced with a side that refused to stand back and allow the home backs the quick ball they need to do some damage, Edinburgh were not ruthless enough at the breakdown. A misfiring lineout didn't help much either. Nor, indeed, did the presence on the whistle of Malcolm Changleng. The Galashiels official seemed reluctant to ping visiting tacklers on an afternoon when they spent a fair chunk of it lying on the ball.

But such churlishness apart, the Reivers showed why they have made enormous progress even in the last year under Steve Bates' tutelage. Their pack were the better unit for much of the game; the Townsend-Cusiter hinge looked very good at times; and Stuart Moffat actually caught two high balls in one game for the first time in living memory. Their current league position does not flatter them.

Nothing much happened in the first half hour. On a grey, damp day, both sides had trouble controlling the ball. Knock-ons and errors were the order of the day as both defences looked sound. Only a Charlie Hore penalty on 15 minutes relieved the monotony.

Edinburgh had had most of the pressure. So it was no surprise when they eventually made it onto the scoreboard with a peach of a try by Marcus Di Rollo. A fine jink by Godman, revelling in his role as undisputed first choice at stand off, saw Murray make great progress on the right. A slick pass to Jorgensen and quick hands by the Aussie centre put the international superstar through the gap to canter 20 yeards down the touchline for the unconverted score on 32 minutes.

But the Reivers regained the lead five minutes later with Opeta Palepoi detaching himself from a strong driving maul to flop over the line. It looked from the stand as if he had dropped the ball, but Galashiels-based referee Changleng was perfectly positioned and adjudged that the ball had been grounded. 5 - 8 Reivers at half time, with most observers hoping that things would liven up a bit in the second period.

They certainly did in the third quarter. First, a fine Godman clearance was guddled by a visiting defender, and Paterson nearly pounced for the opportunist score. Then Paterson just missed a long penalty attempt. Hore knocked on under no pressure when fielding the kick, and the Gunners drove over for the Hogg try at the succeeding scrummage, converted this time by the skipper. 12 - 8.

The Gunners gave away an unlucky penalty for offside from the succeeding kick off, allowing Hore to pull back three points with the penalty. But then Edinburgh started to up the ante. First, Paterson almost scored again after a trademark Gunners attack featuring Blair and Godman. Then a classic try off a scrum 22. Blair gave to Godman, whose flip found a speeding Jorgensen bursting through the first line of defence on a good angle. On a day when "Jorgo" shone at inside centre, the former Wallaby streaked to a couple of yards out, then slid over for the score under the posts, converted by Paterson.

On the hour, Paterson kicked the penalty which kept the scoreboard ticking over, something the Gunners have in the past failed to do in close games such as this.

Yet the Reivers came back immediately. A speculative Townsend dink behind the defence rebounded off a post and, as various Gunners looked at each other, Hore alertly snaffled the try, converted by himself to take the score to 22 - 18 Gunners.

Another Paterson penalty on 77 minutes put Edinburgh a converted try ahead, before the Gunners made sure of the win going into injury time. First, a cynical ruck offence saw McKerchar carded with the Gunners pressing. Although Edinburgh had been in control in the scrummage all game, only after Kelly's arrival at hooker did they gain any authority in the lineout. And it was from the succeeding lineout that the pack drove Kellock over for the bonus point score that takes them level with Munster at the top of the table.

If Cusiter had edged the scrum half duel at Netherdale, Mikey Blair took the honours this time. But the Reivers' Lion had the last word tonight, with a smartly taken individual try on the stroke of no-side, Hore's conversion leaving the final score 30-25 Edinburgh, and a deserved bonus point for the visitors.

Not a polished performance today, nor a convincing one. But after a run of three straight losses, any win would have been good news. With the Celtic League title now Edinburgh's sole focus this term, they will finish the year where they have been all season - in the top three. Munster are next up, on 7 January, with a game similarly built on power rather than flair. This afternoon's game will have been the perfect dress rehearsal, and a win over the Irishmen would get the title bid back on track.

Edinburgh: Hugo, C Paterson (Capt), M Di Rollo, P Jorgensen, S Webster, P Godman, M Blair, A Jacobsen, D Hall, C Smith, A Kellock, S Murray, A Hogg, S Taylor, S Cross Replacements: A Kelly, D Hewett, A Strokosch, A MacDonald, R Lawson, M Dey, F Leonelli

Borders: S Moffat, S Danielli, B MacDougall, C Hore, N Walker, G Townsend, C Cusiter, P Thomson (Capt), R Ford, B Douglas, S MacLeod, O Palepoi, K Brown, S Sititi, S Gray. Replacements: T McGee, S Scott, C Stewart, A Miller, B McKerchar, A Rennick, C MacRae.