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Borders 19 Gunners 10

Many things have changed in rugby over the years. Lineouts look more like heavyweight ballet nowadays, and even props are wearing these fancy glove things to improve their handling. But one thing that has not been extinguished quite yet is the power of sheer passion to overcome the odds.

In a generally indifferent game at Netherdale this afternoon, it was Border determination that shone through to give the home side a deserved victory over a disappointing Edinburgh side. The win was delivered by a pack that refused to take a step backwards, and a fine performance by Chris Cusiter at scrum half. Mike Blair had more than a few moments of his own, and wherever else the national team may have weaknesses, there is no doubt that Scotland is blessed with two scrum halves of exceptional talent.

The first quarter was dominated by the Borders. They were clearly up for the game, and their forwards relished the physical challenge. After only two minutes, a good break and chip behind the defence by Warnock seemed to be halted by obstruction by Blair. Fortunately for the Gunners, referee Dickson, who did the Borders few favours throughout the game, saw nothing amiss.

Cusiter was looking lively, with a useful half break on 10 minutes, then a better one five minutes later off an attacking scrum. Only excellent Edinburgh defending kept him out and forced the knock on as he reached for the line.

At last, on 18 minutes, a flowing Gunners move. The spark came from a Blair attack, taken on by Laney, then the pack. Both Hugo and Lee returned clearing Borders punts during several minutes of Edinburgh pressure before Laney kicked a penalty for a home offence in the ruck. The lead lasted only four minutes, though, with Hore knocking over a penalty after Border pressure. The home centre nudged his side ahead with a second penalty on the half hour.

Then Edinburgh's best moment of the match. A Laney chip into the 22 had put Borders under pressure. From scrummage ball, Blair zipped the ball to the Chainsaw, who checked inside and danced through four tackles to notch a trademark try, converted by himself. 10-6 Gunners at the break, rather against the run of play.

The first fifteen minutes of the second half saw Edinburgh throw away the initiative with their own indiscipline. After disrupting a Borders scrum, the Gunners earned a penalty, which Laney kicked into the 22. The rolling maul was rumbling well enough, and there was a feeling that a visiting score was on the cards, but Jacobsen was both penalised for an offence and carded for his trouble.

While they held out during the power play, with Blair twice stealing possession to clear the danger, the momentum was beginning to swing to The Borders. Although the Gunners' defence in the second half was at times magnificent - and Andy Kelly did not disgrace himself as an emergency openside, with both Hogg and Callam injured - they were rarely seen as an attacking force. So it was little surprise when Hoare took his side to within a point with his third penalty with 13 minutes to go. Immediately afterwards, an alert Warnock dropped goal gave the home team the lead that they were not to relinquish.

Edinburgh injected a little more urgency into their play as the clock ran down, but a lack of discipline led to silly penalties as handbags and general niggle were always simmering away just under the surface. As the game went into injury time, Laney saw his dropped goal attempt agonisingly ping back off the inside of the post, and the Edinburgh pack once again pounded the home line.

But with the Gunners taking chances, the Borders took advantage, with a deep punt leading to an Edinburgh knock on deep in their own 22. Ex-gunner Tom McGee subsequently powered over for the converted try on the stroke of no-side that denied Edinburgh even a bonus point, but left the home team and their fans jubilant.

2004 saw the Gunners hit the Heineken heights, with an excellent 5-1 record taking them back to Toulouse, where they gave the eventual finalists a scare in the quarter final. But there have also been a few lows, with this unacceptably poor performance perhaps the nadir. Here's to more of the former, and fewer of the latter, in 2005.

A Happy New Year to all our readers.


THE BORDERS: Hoare 3P, Warnock 1DG 1C, McGee 1T
EDINBURGH; Laney: 1T 1C 1P


The Borders: S Moffat; S Danielli, C MacRae, C Hore, N Walker; A Warnock, C Cusiter; P Thomson (capt), R Ford, B Douglas, M Blair, S MacLeod, S Gray, K Brown, A Miller. Replacements: W Kay, G Cross, T McGee, C Stewart, J Dalziel, J Weston, A Dickson.

Edinburgh: D Lee; C Joiner, M Di Rollo, P Boston, Hugo; B Laney, M Blair; A Jacobsen, D Hall, C Smith, A Kellock, S Murray, T Blackadder (capt), D Callam, A Hogg. Replacements: A Kelly, A Dickinson, F Pringle, A Strokosch, R Lawson, P Godman, B MacDougall.

Referee: Dickson (SRU)