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I HAVE SEEN THE FUTURE ...

Edinburgh: 21 (13) Cardiff: 12 (6)



... and its name is Rory.

An alarmingly long time ago, one recalls a callow Chris Paterson coming on at Myreside as a late replacement and almost immediately scoring a classic stand-off's try.  Standing on the enemy 22 at first receiver, he saw the gap and had the gas to slice clean through for the score.  There was a feeling that evening that a special talent had arrived.  Tonight's sparse crowd at Murrayfield may have seen something similar in the hour long shift put in by Rory Hutton.

You don't want to over-hype the guy, he was an unknown quantity to Cardiff, it's wrong to read too much into one performance etc, etc, etc. Having said all that, this young(ish) man looks like the real deal.  The highlight of his evening may well have been the creation of a fine try for Ross 'Rosco' Rennie late in the first half.  But there was much in his play to like.  Not only does he have the skills in attack, but he seems to have the necessary temperament and he looked solid in defence.  Hopefully we will see rather more of him in future.

If we never see this evening's referee ever again, however, few of those who found his whistling so difficult to fathom will be too disappointed.  Embra folk have a reputation for being reserved.  It generally takes a strong sense of injustice as a result of one or two controversial refereeing decisions to get them fired up.  Mr Lacey certainly did not disappoint on that score.  Indeed, there were times during proceedings when one wondered whether the Magnersleague organisers had in fact mistakenly engaged the services of Mary-Beth Lacey, the fictional '80s New York detective. A ridiculous suggestion - the feisty working mother would surely have had a stronger grasp of the laws of the game than the unfortunate Irishman, who was roundly booed from the arena after no-side.  Quite how he managed to card two Embra forwards and no-one in the visiting side, despite Edinburgh having the lion's share of possession and pressure for the last hour of this match, is a mystery.  To say that he seemed to give Cardiff the benefit of a pretty generous doubt in the second period, in particular, is something of an understatement.  That said, he also managed to deny the Blues what looked a valid try in the final quarter, so it was not all one-way traffic.

Yet Edinburgh still won, if not quite as well as perhaps they should have done.  The try drought is over, two well-worked touchdowns either side of the interval seeing them comfortably home and back into the playoff zone - for the moment at least - in third place.  In so doing, they again did the double over the Blues.

Hutton played an important role, but he was helped in large measure by a much improved forward effort, especially in the loose.  It was surely no accident that the Gunners' increased competitiveness at the tackle area coincided with the return of Ross Rennie, who richly deserved his Man of the Match award.  As well as the subterranean work at the breakdown, Rennie's support play was excellent.  His try was the result of a classic piece of openside play - getting on the shoulder of his breaking stand-off and taking the pass for the score.  Meanwhile, Roddy Grant showed up well at No 8 and one was impressed by Scott Macleod's improved work in the lineout.

Things started ominously for Edinburgh, though.  They will have been disappointed to be facing a side steered by that tidy little footballer, Ceri Sweeney, as opposed to the soon-to-depart Australian Norton-Knight.  And the Blues were looking to run the ball from the off, their enterprise winning them an early penalty, which Sweeney clipped over.  But Embra were back on level terms almost immediately, drawing a similar Cardiff penalty, which Paterson goaled.

Mossy put the home side in the lead on 14 mintues after more promising Cardiff play, Halfpenny, in particular, looking dangerous.  But Sweeney's own second penalty saw the scores level at the end of the first quarter.  Cardiff had been the stronger side, but Hutton had looked the part in the playmaker role.

The collective blood pressure of the 1,500 crowd reached dangerous levels for the first time of the night over the next ten minutes.  With Edinburgh pressing repeatedly in the Blues' red zone, three times one felt that Cardiff were allowed to get away with Blues murder at the Edinburgh breakdown. Turnovers in those circumstances do not happen without a fair bit of jiggery pokery on the floor, but the whistle never came.

After Visser had come close on the left wing on 31 minutes, there was a feeling that Edinburgh really had to score soon.  Happily, they did with five minutes left in the half.  Hutton took the ball in traffic just inside the enemy ten metre line and danced through the Cardiff pack.  Good feet once he was through saw him elude a number of tacklers before finding the supporting Rennie a couple of metres out, the openside crossing for the try, converted by Paterson.  And that combination nearly conjured a second score shortly afterwards, but Edinburgh were pinged for holding on in the Cardiff 22.  At 13-6 at the half, Edinburgh were looking good value for the lead, having bossed the second quarter.

They were looking even better shortly after the restart.  In the Cardiff 22, a nice dart from the tyro playmaker, then a jink inside from Paterson opened a little space on the left wing.  The ball was shipped over for Visser to feed Jim Thompson for a great try in the corner.  18-6 with over 30 minutes to go. 

On the rare occasions when Cardiff made it beyond the Edinburgh 10, the home side defended comfortably.  And it was the Gunners who continued to look the more dangerous side, excellent line breaks by Roddy Grant and - rather more surprisingly - Allan Jacobsen in the next ten minutes piling on the pressure.  Yet it seemed that the Blues could pretty well infringe with impunity in defence and it was Cardiff who scored next, long-range specialist Leigh Halfpenny knocking over a fine penalty from distance around the hour mark. 

Hutton was replaced at the end of the third quarter, leaving the field to a warm ovation from a supporteriat who had very much liked what they'd seen.  He was followed off the park shortly afterwards by replacement Fraser McKenzie, carded for a marginal offence.  Justice was done when Sweeney missed the penalty; but Mr Lacey gave him another go a minute later, which he nailed - 18-12 Edinburgh with a quarter of an hour left.

The Embra riposte was immediate.  They drove deep into Cardiff territory and spun the ball along the line left.  With men over, a try looked almost certain.  The last defender knocked on and was surely lucky to give away only a scrummage rather than a penalty for what looked a pretty deliberate offence.  It did short-handed Edinburgh some good, though.  Greig Laidlaw again showed characteristic good sense as the pack, aided by auxiliary flanker Tim Visser, ran down some time with a couple of scrummages in the Cardiff 22. And they earned a penalty shortly afterwards, Paterson stretching the lead to 21-12 with ten minutes left.

After Cardiff replacement, the improbably named Dai Flanagan, had sclaffed a penalty spectacularly with five minutes on the clock, Grant was carded for an offence at the breakdown. Again, Flanagan missed the penalty effort badly and the Gunners closed out the win.

This was by no means a polished performance, particularly as it was a home match against an out-of-form Blues side who played well in patches, but did not really threaten to get over the tryline.  That said, there was a deal more urgency about Edinburgh's work at the breakdown and there were signs that the missing cutting edge is not too far away.  After the second try was scored, a try bonus looked possible and the Gunners will be feeling a lot more confident as they prepare for next weekend's must-win match at Ravenhill.  They have won there already this term, of course.  But Ulster have improved since then and Edinburgh will have to up their performance again if they are to retain hopes of qualifying for the Heineken quarter finals going into the final match - the visit of Stade Francais to Murrayfield in a fortnight's time.

 

MAN OF THE MATCH: ROSS RENNIE.  He's back

SCORERS:

Edinburgh: Paterson 3P 1C, Rennie 1T, Thompson 1T

Cardiff: Sweeney 3P, Halfpenny 1P

TEAMS:

Edinburgh: Chris Paterson (capt), Jim Thompson, Ben Cairns, John Houston, Tim Visser, Rory Hutton, Greig Laidlaw, Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, David Young, Jim Hamilton, Scott MacLeod, Alan MacDonald, Ross Rennie, Roddy Grant.
Replacements: Andrew Kelly, Kyle Traynor, Craig Hamilton, Scott Newlands, Ross Samson, Nick De Luca, Mark Robertson. 

Blues: Leigh Halfpenny; Richard Mustoe, Casey Laulala, Jamie Roberts, Tom James; Ceri Sweeney, Gareth Cooper; Sam Hobbs, T Rhys Thomas, Taufa'au Filise, Deiniol Jones, Paul Tito (capt), Andries Pretorius, Andy Powell, Martyn Williams.Replacements: Rhys James, Scott Andrews, Bradley Davies, Ben White, Richie Rees, Dai Flanagan, Gareth Thomas.

Referee: Lacey (IRFU)