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Edinburgh Rugby: 14 Newport Gwent Dragons: 19

Second half rally falls just short

The national team, at one time, had a fearsome lineout. In recent years, however, it has deteriorated somewhat. The throw in now tends to be preceded by a great deal of sprinting around, feinting, and the occasional round of applause, before the hooker draws back and, with a flourish, throws the ball to the opposition. The importance of the lineout as an attacking weapon was demonstrated at Meadowbank tonight, with Messrs Kelly and Scott Murray combining to great effect to give the Gunners the upper hand in that department. The Preston Lodge Lighthouse, indeed, managed several steals on the enemy throw in and threw in a useful display in the loose for good measure.

On a night for the purists, the Dragons' Percy Montgomery turned in a bravura performance with the boot. Students of the game were impressed by the lovely spiral on his touch kicks; and he hoofed the ball for miles, with several clearances last seen heading for the Musselburgh area. The Springbok played an important role in a narrow victory for the visitors, which keeps them in the hunt for the title. In the proverbial game of two halves, the Dragons had the best of the first half, with the home team taking time to gel after the Six Nations absences, while the Gunners were on top for most of the second period.

Unusually for a game involving Edinburgh, it was some 17 minutes into the first half before the deadlock was broken with Montgomery's first penalty. The visitors' scrummage was looking strong, and only a sloppy forward pass had denied Brew a good chance of a try in the corner five minutes before. The Gunners had their moments, but little unforced errors were perhaps the result of trying to force the game a little too much early on.

On 22 minutes, a towering garryowen by Warlow, who had a quietly authoritative game, was held by Blair, but the home scrum-half was isolated, the ball was turned over, and the visitors spun the ball out quickly for Sidoli to go over in the corner, Montgomery gaoling from wide out to take the score to 10-0. The Dragons' midfield were causing Edinburgh problems by coming up very quickly in defence, so that Di Rollo in particular tended to get man and ball much of the time.

An exchange of penalties by Laney and Montgomery took the score to 13-3 on the half-hour, before Edinburgh began to get a little momentum. Returning skipper Blackadder was looking up for it, with a number of good runs, and Webster and Kelly in particular showed up well in the loose. Another Laney penalty took the score to 13-6 before a Blackadder burst on the Gunners' 22 set off a good series of phases, which took play to the visitors' 22. But while a white body was clearly lying on the wrong side in a Gunners' attacking ruck, the referee saw a home offence, and the chance was lost on the stroke of half-time.

Referee Lewis made a more spectacular contribution to the match on the opening kick off of the second period, collapsing theatrically with a leg injury. The crowd watched with studied indifference as the official received extensive treatment before deciding that he could not continue. Just to prove, once more, that refereeing is a thankless task, sympathy would not be the first emotion that would come to mind in describing the general reaction to his departure.

After the lengthy delay, the Gunners had a strong start to the half, with some good pick and drives. Hugo was almost away on 50 minutes, and a quick tap penalty shortly afterwards almost saw Webster over.

"Nitro" didn't have to wait long for another chance, though, and a series of forward drives around the fringes, with Murray and Jacobsen, to the fore set up the quick ball that put Webster over in the corner. A missed conversion left the score at 13-11 to the Welshmen, but the Gunners were now on top, keeping the Dragons around their own 22, with several telling touchfinders from Hugo. A Laney penalty after the hour gave the home team the lead, and they seemed set fair for the win.

But despite their pressure, the Gunners could not break through the resolute Dragons' defence again, and substitute stand-off Jarvis struck two penalties, one with five minutes to go, the other in injury time, for a 19-14 away win.

The Gunners will be disappointed that they could not grind out an important victory, although the bonus point preserves their 10 point margin over Glasgow in the League. On a brighter note, the returning internationals looked in good form, and Todd Blackadder does not look like a man who hasn't played since Christmas.

In the words of Scott Murray, next weekend's game in Toulouse is "an all or nothing game, so we've got to put our bodies on the line." Scotland's Six Nations was disappointing in terms of results, but there have been some promising performances from the likes of youngsters Hogg, Philip, and Webster. In front of the biggest ever crowd for a Heineken quarter-final in France next week, these Gunners and their team-mates have a chance to show what Scottish rugby is capable of. They know what to expect from Toulouse. And they know that, given the breaks, they can win and bring the semi-final to the national stadium.

VIRGIN TRAINS MAN OF THE MATCH: ANDREW KELLY for a fine performance in tight and loose. SCOTT MURRAY picked up the Supporters' Club award.

Edinburgh: Laney 3C, Webster 1T
Newport Gwent Dragons: Montgomery2P 1C, Jarvis 2P, Sidoli 1T

Edinburgh Rugby: Lee; Webster, Di Rollo, Dickson, Hugo; Laney, Blair; Jacobsen, Kelly, Brannigan, Hines, Murray, Blackadder (c), Dall, Cross. Subs: Di Ciacca, Smith, Kellock, Strokosch, Lawson, Warnock, Joiner.

Newport Gwent Dragons: Tuipulotu; Brew, Montgomery, Winn, Luscombe; Warlow, Baber; Black, S Jones, Thomas, Gough, Sidoli, Beattie, Forster (c), Skinstad Replacements: Crawford, Snow, Owen, Ringer, R Jones, Jarvis, Breeze

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland) (Sub - Ian Heard 41)