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Phil's divine touch answers home prayers

13 August 2004

Edinburgh Rugby: 28 (7) Exeter Chiefs: 20 (8)

There's more where that came from. Much, much more. Unfortunately.

In the meantime, Edinburgh Rugby's pre-season kicked off this evening, at the end of a week when the elements had not exactly made an unanswerable case in favour of summer rugby. With the Festival now upon us, highly sophisticated observers were reminded more of Scottish Opera's critically acclaimed Wagner's Ring Cycle than the Festival City in August. Amazingly, though, the skies cleared this afternoon, bathing Inverleith in sunshine, and the stage was set for an entertaining evening's rugby on a superb surface.

With a small army of first choice players out with an impressive array of injuries, the younger Gunners had a chance to show coaches Hadden and Edwards what they could do, particularly as many of the remaining old timers, such as captain Blackadder and Nathan Hines, saw limited game time. Ben Addison, Phil Godman, David Callam and Paul Boston looked especially impressive, but there were promising performances throughout the squad.

The constant wholesale changes made it difficult for the home team to establish a rhythm, but the Gunners wrapped up a satisfactory evening with a hard-fought win over their visitors in front of a sizeable home crowd. Mission accomplished.

Edinburgh's strongest side of the night were on top early in the first "quarter" (it is the pre-season after all). Their pressure told on nine minutes, when a good take at a lineout on the enemy 22 gave Godman quick ball. The young stand off timed his pass to Callam on the crash ball to perfection, allowing the Under 21 international to goose step his way through the cover, then dash over under the posts. Godman's conversion gave the Gunners a 7-0 lead.

Edinburgh then switched to defence for much of the rest of the quarter, looking generally solid, with new international superstar Hugo a commanding presence at full back. As the quarter came to an end, though, a useful breenge by visiting openside Willis set up good ball to set up a well-taken try by left wing Murdoch, Yapp failing with the conversion.

The second quarter saw only a solitary Yapp penalty, to take the half-time score to 8-7 Chiefs. Most of the big Gunners had been withdrawn, but Ander Monro's distribution from 10 caught the eye, and Marc Teague had several dangerous runs.

The start of the second half saw an excellent opportunist try by Paul Boston. Intercepting a wayward Exeter pass outside the visitors' 22, he looked isolated and was surrounded by a number of defenders. But he simply powered through four tackles to force his way over for the score in the corner, with Godman slotting a fine conversion from the touchline. The chance had come after the Gunners pack had rumbled a maul to good effect from the opening kick off, an area where they tended to struggle a little to generate their usual momentum during much of the game.

It was at this point that Godman began to take charge of the game, with a couple of cameos hinting at his talent. First, excellent vision and great skills allowed him to zing a pass fully 30 yards to put Teague away on the gallop; a minute later, Dewey was the beneficiary of a neat pop pass that released the winger in space. Although Exeter scored a converted try on 55 minutes, the Godman show continued shortly after. With the Gunners pressing, his lovely sleight of hand in traffic put Boston (or possibly Addison - it's pre-season for me too) over for the converted try under the posts.

Although Exeter pulled a try back on the hour, with Yapp surprisingly missing a straightforward conversion, there was a feeling that Edinburgh had the gas to ease further in front if they wanted to as the fourth quarter began. The reappearance of Blackadder, Hines, and Kellock added some more bite to the pack, and the final period saw the home team noticeably up the pace. Their mauling was more authoritative, and suddenly Exeter were starting to struggle to contain the home team. On the right wing, the pacey Addison certainly made the number 29 jersey his own, combining well with Hugo to chase the full back's usual booming punts to great effect on several occasions.

The clincher came with 10 minutes remaining. The Gunners maul was only kept out by the visitors pulling it down close to the line. From the resulting scrum, the ball was spun across to Hugo, who was pulled up just short. Lawson whipped the ball quickly back against the grain for Boston to barrel over under the posts again to complete his hat trick and leave the final score 28-20 Edinburgh.

Next up are the mighty Leicester Tigers on Saturday 21 August on Mansell Cup day at Goldenacre, before the Gunners round off their warm-up games at the equally mighty Northampton Saints the following weekend (travel packages available - see for more information).

We will then be back to "halves" and some semblance of temporal normality. Unless Alain Rolland is doing the whistling, of course.


Gunners: Godman 3C, Monro 1C, Boston 3T, Callam 1T
Chiefs: Yapp 2C 1P, Murdoch 1T, Baxter 1T, Staniforth 1T


Edinburgh Rugby Squad:

Forwards: Paul Wharakura (Stewart's-Melville FP), Joel Brannigan, Malasia Lokeni (unattached), Laiga Lokeni (unattached), Craig Smith, Alasdair Dickinson (Heriot's), Andrew Kelly, Steven Lawrie (Watsonians), Nathan Hines, Nathan Pike (Boroughmuir), Alastair Kellock, Fergus Pringle, Todd Blackadder, Alan MacDonald (Heriot's), Alasdair Strokosch, Peter Crichton (unattached), Craig Harrison (Heriot's)

Backs: Hugo, Nick De Luca (Heriot's), Paul Boston (unattached), Rob Dewey (Heriot's), Ben Addison (Stirling County), Marc Teague (Heriot's), Marcus Di Rollo, Ben Cairns (Currie), Matt Dey, Ander Monro (Heriot's), Phil Godman, Rory Lawson, Jon Clarke (unattached)

Exeter Chiefs: Staniforth; Cooper, Tatialofa, Ward, Murdoch; Tapp, Thomas; Liddington, Blythe, Davis, Bentley, Baxter, Walker, Willis, Baxter. Replacements: Wordley, porte, Sims, Miller, Britton, Tucker, Kingdom.

Referee: G Hannah (Kirkcaldy)

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