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GUNNERS PUMMELLED IN PERPIGNAN

USA Perpignan: 31 (3) Edinburgh Rugby: 14 (7)



Many years ago now, back in 2005, I think it was, Edinburgh whipped Perpignan 40-17 at Murrayfield in a game that meant little to the Edimbourgeois, being the last one in the pool, but which the Catalans had had to win in order to reach the knock-out stages.  The match report on this site that day was entitled 'What Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Stronger' in a touching tribute to those two eminent philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche and Todd Blackadder, as well as to 2,000 years of Christian thought.  Sadly, the scribe's words of wisdom seem to have disappeared from the archive, but I do remember that it was a lot of fun to watch.

The headline has a fair bit of resonance these days, given the travails of the last couple of seasons.  Back in 2005, the Gunners had gone down fighting in the first leg, 23-0, and the Stade Aime Giral is once again a tough place to go at the best of times.  It's even tougher when you have had such a difficult early season.  But Coach Solomons' prediction that we probably wouldn't see much improvement until November looks likely to be proved a little out, as last week's outing against Munster at home, coupled with today's display in France, suggest that incremental progress is being made.

USAP eventually ran out comfortable winners, thanks to a phenomenal four try blitz in the third quarter, but there was plenty to be encouraged about in the application and attitude - if not necessarily the accuracy - of the Gunners squad this afternoon.  It was an error-strewn encounter, though, and it took one of the sides to click, albeit briefly, to decide the outcome.  Edinburgh looked dangerous at times, but errors killed them.  Progress, then, but it really is incremental and there remains a mountain to climb.

The Embra men were under early pressure from the nuclear explosion that coach Omar had predicted this week, and USAP edged ahead on 9 minutes with a James Hook penalty.  They gave as good as they got, though, and the TMO ruled out a possible Gunner try on 15 minutes as the Scots got stuck in.  They had to dig deep, though, as Perpignan, before their passionate home crowd, started to up the pressure as the half went on.  Yet the defence held out in a tight game and, with the break approaching rapidly, it was Edinburgh who eventually got over the whitewash first.  Visser crossed on 38 minutes, Laidlaw's conversion putting Edinburgh 7-3 up at the half.

There must have been a fairly frisky chat in the home dressing room at half time as USAP scored  two quickfire tries, through Michel and Mjekevu (the South African an early replacement on the wing), both goaled by Hook to put them 17-7 up on 48 minutes.  The passes were now going to hand and they looked altogether a more threatening unit.  As any self-respecting pundit would have said, the next score was always going to be crucial.  Had it been for Edinburgh, it was game on; for USAP, game over.

And though Edinburgh attacked gamely themselves, two further Perpignan tries for the bonus, through blindside Purll and a second for Mjekevu, around the hour put the game out of sight on 31-7 as Italo-Scot Tommy Allan came on for Hook in the first five-eighth berth.

It was the visitors who were to have the last word as Cornell du Preez crossed on 76 minutes, the score this time given by the TMO. Laidlaw's conversion narrowed the differential to 31-14 with no-side approaching rapidly.  And they finished on the offensive, with Laidlaw knocking a penalty to the corner to have another bash, but that was that.  So no famous triumph on French soil, but something there to build on.