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Gunners shine despite visiting win

Gunners: 24 Sale: 25



Various ill-informed observers - and the odd quite astute one too - have in the past remarked that the Gunners will only be consistently successful at the highest level if their forwards become more abrasive. To be in the hunt for the Celtic League, you must win your home games, and grind out five or six away wins. Can Edinburgh do it? During the 2003-04 Heineken campaign, Stephen Jones remarked in the Sunday Times that he wouldn't be afraid of meeting the Edinburgh pack in a dark alley. Miaow.

But things are beginning to change. Last season's best victory was not the cuffing of Perpignan, or the stuffing of the Dragons at Murrayfield. It was actually the narrow pipping of Newport at Rodney Parade. It was an immensely physical, confrontational match; the sort of game that the Newporters had always won in the past. Yet Edinburgh dogged it out to become the first Celtic side to beat Newport at home since regional rugby arrived in Wales.

One might have thought that the loss over the summer of one of the less polite Edinburgh forwards, Nathan Hines, would be a backward step. But in a game where Sale's tackling was as late as their arrival at Murrayfield, it was good to see Edinburgh slugging it out with their exotic Mancunian visitors, with an early dust-up between Dave Hewett and French openside Chabal perhaps the highlight. Very promising.

Last night's start was not so promising, with a loose Blair pass gifting Sale winger Wakley a converted try on three minutes, with scrum half Courrent's penalty stretching the led to ten in a rusty opening period. The penalty had resulted from a Rob Dewey late tackle.

Following the Hewett punch up, good lineout ball saw Webster arcing in to the 22. Sale were penalised at the breakdown and Paterson got Edinburgh on the board with a penalty, which Larrechea replied in indentical fashion. Better was to come, though, as the impressive Dewey slid in for the try under the posts, Paterson goaling.

Another Sale late tackle from a member of their cosmopolitan lineup saw Faure carded. Hogg made the most of the power play with a classic back row try off the back of a scrum ten yards out. A Sale try left the half-time score 18-17 to the visitors.

Both sides made widespread changes during and around half-time. Unsurprisingly, the quality - which had not been overly high in any event - suffered a bit as a result. After a Bruno try, Dewey scored his second excellent touchdown off a Godman reverse pass. The centre ran a good angle to cut through the defence from 22 yards out. Paterson's conversion ended the scoring for the evening.

The phoney war comes to an end with an away match against Glasgow at Whitecraigs, before the Gunners open the season at Stradey with the first of this year's four tussles with the Scarlets. The equivalent fixture last year saw a heavy loss. The result and performance this time will tell us whether this year really will see Edinburgh step up to the next level.