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LANGUID GUNNERS DISPATCH AIRONI

Edinburgh Rugby: 32 (24) Aironi: 15 (8)



It is - or at least was - proposed that next year there will be a pitchside standing/seating area at Murrayfield for members of the Embra tifosi to congregate in and aim waspish remarks at the enemy from close range. Perhaps we can all 'do a Robbo' from time to time and sprint down to the paddock to vent our spleens before retreating to our seats for a slightly better view.  Very therapeutic.  For much of this season, one has felt that the SRU would have been better advised to provide patrons with a row of sofas, behind which alarmed observers could hide from the latest disaster to befall the side on the park.  It's been pretty grim stuff.  And desperately sad, too, as pretty much the same group of players performed so well under the Robinson regime. 

They are capable of so much more than this.  And that's why I'll be back next year.  I hope you will be too.  It wouldn't be the same without you.

Tonight's clash with visiting Aironi was yet another disaster waiting to happen and there was much crossing of fingers under the home travel rugs as this match kicked off.  Having just squeaked the away fixture 10-9 earlier in the season, a catastrophic home defeat was perfectly possible.

As it happened, though, the Gunners had pretty much won the match by half time and did all they needed to to wrap up the bonus point in the second period.  If I was being picky, I'd suggest that they really should have put at least another couple of scores on these guys.  And so they should have done, for while Aironi weren't bad, they weren't that great either.  In winger Danwel Dimas they had a strike runner whose appetite for the counter attack was as impressive as his hairstyle, while their pack had the home scrummage under severe pressure throughout.  Yet while they spread the ball a bit, they rarely looked particularly dangerous; two tries slightly overstates their offensive threat.

With nothing left to play for this term, it has been good to see coach Scrivener giving some youngsters who will have to become key figures next season some extended game time.  Foremost amongst those on Friday night was Dave 'Big Hair' Denton, who put in another massive shift in a back row whose balance led to Embra winning quick ball much of the evening, giving their backs plenty to work with.  The sight of Fraser McKenzie surging over in the corner for the first touchdown of the evening, though, was bitter-sweet.  The product of the legendary McKane Park nursery is now confirmed as heading down to Sale next season.  A good move for him no doubt, but frustrating for Embra fans to see yet another youngster whose best years are not far off about to spend them somewhere else.

Sadly, until there is some clarity as to how the SRU see the professional teams, this sort of thing will remain depressingly familiar.  If anything, things are getting worse.  There is so much uncertainty as to what Edinburgh Rugby will look like in three years time - or whether it will exist at all - that one cannot blame these young men for moving elsewhere.  Nor, frankly, can one blame the spectators.  While the Italian sides are in the same sort of league as Connacht in terms of their limited pulling power, it was nevertheless desperately disappointing to see only 1,500 people or thereabouts turning up for this match.

More positively, Mike Blair and Greig Laidlaw's Elissalde-Michalak impersonation at half back was fascinating and worked very well.  When they clicked, there was a zip and elan about the Edinburgh back play that we have rarely seen this term.  Another forthcoming departee, Scott MacLeod, put in a fine performance at lock.  Special mention, too, to the evergreen Chris Paterson, who took his try wonderfully well and put in yet another outstanding try-saving tackle during his time on the park.  There is no way he will not be on the 'plane to New Zealand for the World Cup.  In becoming the holder of the record for the most Magners tries in a season, Tim Visser looked characteristically dangerous all night.  He must have been practising a bit of defence, too, as he put in a fine try saving stop of his own.

McKenzie got Edinburgh on the board early, powering through several ineffectual tackles to go over in the left corner for a try on three minutes, Laidlaw nailing the difficult conversion.  Greig's first penalty of the evening, on 11 minutes, pushed the lead to 10-0 and the Gunners were cruising.

The little general was carded five minutes later for a deliberate knock-on with Aironi in an attacking position, Marshall knocking over the penalty.  While that undoubtedly cramped Embra's style, the Italians could not take further advantage during the power play.

As Laidlaw returned to the fray, Embra lock Esteban Lozada and the visitors' Marco Bortolami left it, carded for a bit of a disagreement at the tail end of a lineout.  It didn't seem serious enough to warrant the bin for either gentleman, but Embra took advantage, with first Blair then Visser crossing for two good scores, both converted by Laidlaw. 

Demas' unconverted riposte, just on the stroke of half time, left the score at the break a comfortable 24-8 to the Gunners. 

The match lost its shape a bit early in the second period, but Chris Paterson duly secured the bonus point try on the hour.  With dangerman Visser on his outside, he saw the gap and used his pace to scoot clean through the defence for the touchdown.  Although Nick Williams scored the visitors' second try shortly afterwards, Laidlaw made sure of the victory with another penalty in the last ten minutes to leave the final score 32-15 Edinburgh.  A good day in the office.

MAN OF THE MATCH: DAVE DENTON.  Big man. Big hair. Big impact.

Scorers:

Edinburgh: Tries: McKenzie, Blair, Visser, Paterson; Cons Laidlaw (3); pens Laidlaw (2).

Aironi: Tries Demas, Williams; Con Marshall; Pen Marshall.

Teams:

Edinburgh: Jim Thompson, Simon Webster, Ben Cairns, James King, Tim Visser, Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair, Kyle Traynor, Andrew Kelly, Geoff Cross, Scott MacLeod, Esteban Lozada, Fraser McKenzie, Roddy Grant, David Denton. Replacements used: Alun Walker, Lewis Niven, David Young, Steven Turnbull, Stuart McInally, Nick De Luca, Lee Jones, Chris Paterson.

Aironi: Giulio Rubini, Kaine Robertson, Gilberto Pavan, Matteo Pratichetti, Danwel Demas, James Marshall, Pablo Canavosio, Salvatore Perugini, Fabio Ongaro, Ulyses Gamboa, Marco Bortolami, Quintin Geldenhuys, Nicola Cattina, Gareth Krause, Nick Williams. Replacements used: Luigi Ferraro, Fabio Staibano, Alberto De Marchi, George Biagi, Jaco Erasmus, Giorgio Bronzini, Gabriel Pizarro, Riccardo Bocchino

Referee: Lacey (IRFU)