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NETHERDALE DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN

Reivers: 10 (3) Edinburgh: 3 (3)



There is something that feels right about professional rugby at Netherdale.  It may be a few years of watching the combined Edinburgh Reivers side playing there.  Perhaps it is the chance to stand almost literally at the touchline, directing choice remarks at officials and the opposition.  Most of all, though, it is the passion and commitment both of the home squad and those locals who turn out to support them. 

There is the seed of something significant in Gala, given enough time and resource.  With luck, the latest - and hopefully last - SRU review of the professional teams will give them the guaranteed future that they need to grow.

The Reivers have bested tonight's visitors frequently here in the past.  Yet on previous occasions, they turned the game into a forward battle, packing the bench with back row men and sticking it to the capital pack.  Tonight's victory was surprising in two respects.  Firstly, the Reivers put a great deal of width on the ball, with Edinburgh the side that tried to dominate up front.  Secondly, and most surprising of all, Stuart Moffat had a good game at full-back. 

With man of the match Cusiter pulling the strings, veteran Townsend showing some neat touches, and both Kelly Brown and Andy Miller outstanding, this was a win that was heartily deserved.

Once again, Edinburgh's inconsistent mindset cost them dearly.  They lacked focus and precision throughout.  Even veteran stand-off Duncan "Hodgey" Hodge, so often a paragon who is beyond any criticism, had a nightmare.  It was little surprise to hear dark mutterings from coach Howells about whether it would really be such a good idea to try to hang on to certain players in the current round of contractual negotiations. 

Furthermore, they lost their discipline at times without any justification.  Granted, referee Paterson's decision to card Mustchin for a ruck offence was extraordinary.  But it was unimpeachable compared to his bizarre carding of Jones a minute before for offside.  Those two aberrations apart, one felt that Paterson's whistling compared favourably with many of the Celtic officials who visit these parts on a regular basis.

The Edinburgh lineout was poor, and their scrummage shaky.  Even when the ball did make it to the backs, things tended to go wrong in midfield.  It may seem like sour grapes, given his contractual situation - and probably is in part - but Rob Dewey was at the heart of much that went wrong.  He is an immense talent who one hopes will become a fixture in the Scotland side for years to come.  As always, he got over the gain line most times he took the ball up.   But he would probably admit himself to being not the greatest passer or offloader in the game.  With the Reivers double and sometimes triple teaming him, he generally went to ground, the ball disappearing under himself and three tacklers.  By the time the pack had cleared the ruck, the already solid Reiver defence had had plenty of time to regroup.  If the rumours that Edinburgh Rugby are talking to kiwi five-eighth Luke McAllister are true, one feels that the capital midfield will have a far more threatening look about it next season.

Yet Edinburgh had started the stronger of the two sides in the Border drizzle.  They were on top in the first 20 minutes, although only had a Hodge penalty to show for it.  Both sides were looking to run the ball, but handling was difficult in the greasy conditions, and there were errors aplenty.

Edinburgh dodged the bullet three times in the opening period; the otherwise promising talent that is Garry Law missing three simple penalties that brought to mind Jason Spice's abject performance for the Ospreys earlier in the month.  Yet Edinburgh indiscipline, in the form of a Strokosch punch that forced referee Paterson to reverse an Edinburgh penalty allowed Steve Jones to tie the scores three apiece at the half.  Although not really threatening to score a try, the Reivers were now dominating territorially.

They made up for lost time almost immediately after the restart. Bruce Douglas motored diagonally right towards the corner before a positively Toony-esque flip saw Ford breenge into the cover the other way.  The ball was shipped quickly left for Law to nip over in the left corner off a Rennie offload.  Jones converted well from wide out.

After the sin-binning controversies, Edinburgh began to gain the upper hand.  But too often some good approach work was let down by handling errors.  Late on, it looked like Edinburgh might get back on level terms.  A super Di Rollo burst saw the centre surge deep into the 22, brilliantly tackled only a couple of yards short.  But the subsequent pick and drives got nowhere, and when the ball was eventually spun to the wing, the Reiver defence was up to the task. 
 
So Edinburgh returned up the A68 empty handed once again.  There are no easy games in this league nowadays.  Nevertheless, contenders do not fail to pick up wins when visiting the two bottom sides in the competition, as Edinburgh have done this year.  
 

Border Reivers: Moffatt, Flockhart, MacDougall, Rennie, Law, Townsend, C. Cusiter, Kerr, Ford, Douglas, Dalziel, Palepoi, Newlands, Brown, Miller, Daniel. Replacements: Daniel , Jones, Scott, Kalman, Chrystie, Vernon, Forrest.

Edinburgh: Cairns, Dey, Di Rollo, Dewey, Lopez Fleming, Hodge, Senio, Jacobsen, Hall, G. Cross, Mustchin, Murray, Strokosch, Callam, Hogg. Replacements: Warnock, Godman, Laidlaw, Rennie, Kelly, Hewett, Bentley.

Referee:  Paterson (SRU)