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GUNNERS STUMBLE TO VICTORY OVER SECOND STRING LEINSTER

Gunners:20 (6) Leinster: 14 (9)



A little remarked upon factor behind our poor language skills is the eccentric nature of the school French curriculum.  Many years ago, your correspondent, for example, spent a year attempting gamely to translate excerpts from "Les Jeux Sont Fait" by Jean- Paul Sartre.  This gentleman was an existentialist, and as a result the book appeared to involve loads of deceased lads from the 1960s walking through walls and conducting unlikely conversations with Marie Antoinette.  Naturally, students, whose grip on the language was tenuous at best, were left feeling mildly uneasy about the whole thing and quickly concluded that modern languages were not for them.  Quite why the book appeared in the Higher French curriculum in the first place remains a mystery.

A similar sense of vague bemusement descended on Murrayfield this evening as the Gunners huffed and puffed their way to an unconvincing 20-14 over visiting Leinster.  With the IRFU showing its strong commitment to the new Magners League by withdrawing all Irish internationals from the first four rounds of the tournament, Leinster fielded a largely second string side with six imports making their debut.  As a result, they looked and played like a scratch team.  Unfortunately, Edinburgh also looked as if they had just met each other tonight, with the result that although they secured the lion's share of possession and territory during the game, they failed to do much of note with it. 

Referee Owen(s) added to the fun with a mercurial display of whistling.  So poor was his positional sense, for example, that he set a world record for slight injuries sustained by an official in one game as time after time he blundered into the path of the ball carrier. 

The tone was set on the opening kick off, when Contepomi blasted his kick harmlessly deep into the home 22, where Hogg promptly knocked on under no pressure.  An Edinburgh offiside allowed the Argentine ace to knock Leinster into a three point lead with only a minute on the clock. 

The Gunners did at least waken up and immediately powered into the enemy 22, where they were just held up over the line.  Further driving play forced the penalty on four minutes, converted by Paterson.  And the Gunners quickly gained the upper hand, with the set piece in particular looking solid. But Contepomi regained the lead for the visitors with another penalty after eight minutes.

A dangerous home attack on 15 minutes was sparked by Paterson and Webster interplay down the left wing, the momentum only halted when the referee obstructed a Gunners pick and drive ten yards out.  But while Edinburgh were making promising breaks, too often the support runners were just not there.  A great Di Rollo break from his own 22 saw the centre reach halfway, but as none of his colleagues had had the gumption to follow him, he lost the ball in contact.

Paterson did take advantage of Edinburgh's territorial superiority with a penalty on 25 minutes. But after Leinster loosehead McCormack had been carded for his second piece of foul play with five minutes of the half to play, short-handed Leinster nevertheless regained the lead at half time with a third penalty. It had been a half where Edinburgh had been largely in charge, but had failed to make their advantage count due to poor passing, poor handling, poor support, slow ball, and basic errors at crucial moments.  The full set.

It was largely more of the same for most of the second period, save for a fifteen minute burst where Edinburgh finally put together some fluent passages of play.

After 56 minutes, some good continuity saw Edinburgh probe several times then pick and drive for Hogg to go over for the short range try, converted by Paterson.  Edinburgh were beginning to turn the screw a little, and their driving maul was used to good effect for the first time in the game.

With ten minutes left, the Gunners made sure of the win with a fine move.  Hogg exploded through a gap around the Leinster 10 and sped towards the line.  Although halted by a despairing tackle, he offloaded to veteran stand-off Hodge, who flopped over for the try, again converted by Paterson.

The No 8's mixed evening was, however, then crowned by a yellow card, when he was rightly sent to the touchline after a ruck offence as Leinster pressed for a score.  Their try followed shortly after, with McCormick nipping over for a well-taken touchdown after the Gunners had seemingly stopped an attacking Leinster maul. Contepomi's failure with the conversion left the final score 20-14 to the home team.

The Gunners will be happy to have secured four points at the expense of one of the likely contenders for the league title.   But one would have expected to see them playing with a great deal more fluency than they displayed this evening.  Securing a win over Ulster at Murrayfield next Friday is imperative, but the Gunners will certainly not do that if they repeat this error-strewn performance.

MAN OF THE MATCH: A tough one, given that no-one really shone tonight.  MIKE BLAIR.

SCORERS:

Edinburgh: Paterson 2P 2C, Hogg 1T, Hodge 1T

Leinster: Contepomi 3P, McCormack 1T

Edinburgh: Hugo; Chris Paterson (capt), Marcus Di Rollo, Rob Dewey, Simon Webster; Phil Godman, Mike Blair; Allan Jacobsen, Dougie Hall, Craig Smith, Matt Mustchin, Scott Murray, Alasdair Strokosch, Allister Hogg, Ross Rennie. Replacements: Cairns , Hodge , Laidlaw , Kelly , Dickinson , Pringle, Callam 

Leinster: Rob Kearney, Gary Brown, Kieran Lewis, Michael Berne, Some guy, Felipe Contepomi, Ronan McCormack, Harry Vermaas, Will Green, Trevor Hogan, Owen Finegan, Stephen Keogh, Niall Ronan, Jamie Heaslip.

Referee: Owen(s) (Wales)