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KING SHINES AS HERONS HAMMERED

Edinburgh: 50 (31) Aironi: 10 (5)



When a guy scores a spectacular try hat-trick, it seems a bit churlish to quibble about him being named man of the match.  Particularly when that individual has the chutzpah to use as the theme tune for his personal season's highlight package on YouTube LMFAO's (who they?) "I'm Sexy And I Know It." But Tim Visser was not the only Embra man playing sexy rugby at a windswept Murrayfield this evening in front of the biggest home crowd of the season.  They were all at it.

Even Ross Ford was putting in the odd show-and-go on a night when visiting Aironi bought pretty much every dummy that came their way.  But from where I was sitting, the real star for the home side was James King at second five-eighth.  During the first period, when the Gunners were playing into a northerly gale, he often popped up at first receiver, setting in motion a number of dangerous home forays from their own 22.  In defence he was a rock, putting in massive hits at crucial times. The backs both as a unit and individually put in a strong performance and the competition for places in this squad was evident in the zip and determination that both Phil Godman and Chris Leck brought to the side when they joined the fray in the second period.

The Edinburgh pack were totally dominant.  Italian forwards have a reputation for scrummaging, but the Gunners seemed to be able to smash the enemy set-piece at will and they were equally dominant at the breakdown.  Aironi simply could not live with the pace of the Edinburgh attack and this match was over when Nick de Luca crossed for the bonus point try on 31 minutes.

Life was made easier for the home side by their visitors, who even during the warm-up did not really look up for the fight at all.  Gaping holes were easy to find in the Italian defence and Edinburgh duly profited.  At times their attempts to execute even basic skills under no pressure were woeful, while their fielding of the high ball was abject throughout.  Only in the last five minutes did they play any decent rugby, with late replacement scrum half Tyson Keats a far more lively customer than his predecessor, the histrionic Tebaldi.

After five minutes, Laidlaw's long penalty effort into the strong wind fell short.  The Gunner chase, possibly anticipating the miss, was there in time to gather an Aironi guddle.  The ball was shipped quickly left for Dave 'Big Hair' Denton to crash over for the opener, Laidlaw converting the young economist's score.

The second home try came on 13 minutes.  Off a lineout on their own 10 metre line, the ball was moved to de Luca, who cut inside and powered over open prairie, picking out Visser surging along the left wing.  The Flying Dutchman notched his personal opener, goaled by Laidlaw.

With Aironi really struggling, a super King inside pass off attacking scrum ball found Visser running a great line.  Timbo surged over untouched for the try from the 22, Laidlaw's conversion making the score 21-0.  Yet although Edinburgh were attacking at will, it was Aironi who were next on the scoreboard.  Biagi charged down a clearance at an Edinburgh defensive lineout and touched down.  But the conversion failed and the Italians were 21-5 down.

On the half hour, the lively Lee Jones again countered from deep with King taking the ball on.  Tebaldi was penalised and carded for an offence at the breakdown.  Laidlaw knocked the penalty over.

And the Gunners made the power play count immediately after, notching the bonus point after de Luca sailed through heavy traffic on the left.  Laidlaw's conversion made the score at the break 31-5 Edinburgh.  Game very much over.

Aironi enjoyed a little more field position in the early exchanges of the second half.  They were playing a tighter game through the forwards against the wind, but still could not get much traction.  It was not long before Edinburgh returned to the driving seat, Jones and Visser combining well on the left before great skill by Paterson saw Mossy catch and kick the ball into the enemy in-goal area, but Toniolatti's boot in his face was his only reward.

The fifth try was not long in coming, when the pack smashed yet another Italian scrummage on 52 minutes.  A perfectly weighted Leonard chip behind the defence sat up perfectly for Visser's hat trick score, converted by Laidlaw.  38-5 and coach Bradley sensibly rang the changes - the entire front row being replaced; Leck coming on for Laidlaw; and Godman on for King, with Leonard moving to second five-eighth to accommodate him.

It was only a cameo quarter or so from Leck, but he put in quite the best display of his short spell in the capital.  With Godman also keen to impress, the next try was a real beauty.  After some forward probes in the Aironi 22, the mercurial playmaker sent an inch-perfect bomb to the other wing.  Lee Jones raced unmarked into the corner to catch and touch down.  It was just reward for the winger, who had looked dangerous all night.

There were times in the closing quarter when one felt that Edinburgh's play was just a bit too frantic.  A little more patience might have yielded more scores.  As it was, though, their seventh and final try arrived on 70 minutes.  Paterson sparked a counter attack on halfway then Visser took the ball on.  He had the look of a man who was determined to score no matter what and one felt the chance had gone when he was tackled on the 22.  But Leonard gathered and created the opening for Leck, which the nippy scrum half accepted to scoot over, Godman converting.

With the half century having been reached, Edinburgh took the foot off the gas big time.  But credit to Aironi, who kept huffing and puffing and were eventually rewarded with a try for Ferrarini, somewhere under a mass of bodies after some close-in drives.

Edinburgh are, tonight at any rate, the top try scorers in the league, with 22.  Yet they have only one try bonus point, whereas Cardiff have four.  And they have, however, shipped 24 - second poorest only to Aironi's 28.  The win saw the Gunners heading in the right direction in the league, up to ninth, two adrfift of Ulster in eighth and seven points behind Glasgow, who are currently sitting in the final play off position.

It's back to the Heineken next week for Edinburgh's biggest match since the quarter final season in 2003/2004.  That year they won in Swansea on an absolutely foul night.  They have won in Cardiff before and can do it again.  The Blues rested many of their key names this week, hence their horsing by Leinster tonight.  But Embra look pretty frisky themselves and it's shaping up to be a great match.

MAN OF THE MATCH: The hat trick hero, TIM VISSER

SCORERS:

Edinburgh: Laidlaw 1P 5C, Godman 1C, Visser 3T, Denton 1T, de Luca 1T, Jones 1T, Leck 1T

Aironi: Biagi 1T, Ferrarini 1T

TEAMS:

Edinburgh: Chris Paterson, Lee Jones, Nick De Luca, James King, Tim Visser, Harry Leonard, Greig Laidlaw (capt), Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Esteban Lozada, Grant Gilchrist, Sean Cox, Roddy Grant, David Denton. Replacements: Steven Lawrie, Kyle Traynor, Lewis Niven, Netani Talei, Ross Rennie, Chris Leck, Tom Brown, Phil Godman

Aironi Rugby: Trevisan, Sinoti, Pratichetti, Pizarro, Venditti, Olivier, Tebaldi, A. De Marchi, Santamaria, Staibano, Geldenhuys, Biagi, Cattina, Ferrarini, Sole. Replacements: D'Apice, Perugini, Romano, Bortolami, Viljoen, Keats, G. Pavan, Toniolatti.

Referee: 'Mary-Beth' Lacey (IRFU)