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NORMAL SERVICE HAS BEEN RESUMED

Edinburgh Rugby: 35 (12) Cardiff Blues:16 (13)



In recent weeks, those of a red and black persuasion have become as grumpy as Jeremy Paxman after yet another Oxbridge college has been tanked in "University Challenge." The descriptions "good" or even "fair to middling" would not be the first that one would associate with the Gunners' disappointing early season form. But today's home game at Murrayfield saw Edinburgh come out comfortable victors over the visiting Blues in what was really a must-win game for them.

The rub of the green has not been with the capital men so far this year. And it was not with them this afternoon either, with referee McDowell's eccentric whistling doing the Gunners no favours throughout the contest. Such was the exasperation the Irishmen caused among home fans that the city's average blood pressure levels frequently reached dangerous levels during the game. But to the Gunners' credit, they used their feelings of injustice as a spur when Cardiff were awarded a penalty try late in the first half to confine the visitors to a solitary MacLeod penalty for the remainder. Meanwhile, Edinburgh racked up two tries and 26 points to notch their first win of the season.

Playing with the stiff southerly breeze, Chris Paterson slotted the first of his seven penalties on two minutes after advantage had been played to allow a Laney attempted dropped goal. Mossy was in action at the other end of the field five minutes later with a great try-saving tackle on the dangerous Shanklin. But an Edinburgh offside allowed MacLeod to boot the leveller, before the Gunners winger regained the lead with his second penalty on ten minutes.

Shanklin and left wing Morgan looked sharp in the opening quarter, while Edinburgh's handling, by contrast, seemed still to be shaky. But the Gunners put some phases together at the end of the quarter, with Blackadder and today's openside Hogg featuring well in the loose. Their efforts were rewarded with another Paterson penalty to take the score to 9-3.

The Gunners were gradually getting the upper hand as the half wore on, and first Dougie Hall then Jackie Joiner came close after an excellent Kellock steal in a Cardiff defensive lineout. There were signs that the old magic was beginning to come back, as the home team put in the phases and spun the ball from wing to wing.

Then what might have been a hammer blow. From Edinburgh pressure in the Cardiff half with five minutes to go, the ball was hacked on by a Cardiff boot. As Lee and the pacy Dewdeny chased some way behind, Lee clearly nudged the Blues' scrum half ten metres out and the danger was seemingly cleared. But referee MacDowell awarded the penalty try. The laws say that the officials can only do so when they are sure that the try would otherwise have been scored. Yet it would have taken a bravura performance from the likes of Alan Dershowitz to convince a jury that this was so in this case. But the try stood, and the Gunners were 10-9 down.

There was further muttering around the ground when the ball popped out of a Cardiff ruck, a Blues foot clearly drew it back in, Blackadder pounced, but was adjudged to have infringed, MacLeod kicking Cardiff to a four point lead. Yet these setbacks simply galvanised the Gunners, and, after some ironic applause for the penalty decision, Paterson slotted the kick that cut the lead to a point as the half came to a close. Yet it was probably a fair reflection of the run of play, with the Blues just that little bit more incisive, while the Gunners seemed somewhat ponderous in attack, facing a Cardiff defence that came up incredibly quickly.

The second period saw the home pack lift their game, with Hall looking particularly dynamic, and it was only a matter of time before a Cardiff back row - in this case Mark Lewis - was carded for another maul infringement as the home maul got into the groove. Paterson took advantage of the power play with two penalties, sandwiched by another MacLeod penalty, to nudge Edinburgh to a precarious 18-16 lead. Shades of Ulster on opening day, and Glasgow a fortnight later?

Thankfully, it was not to be. Going into the final quarter, superb Gunners defence repelled waves of Cardiff attacks deep inside their 22. Indeed, it was something of a surprise that MacLeod did not try for the snap dropped goal. Instead, the increasingly impressive Hugo stepped inside to give himself an angle on his own line and boomed a huge clearing punt to beyond halfway.

Another Kellock steal at the succeeding lineout set up the driving maul, and the ball was spun to Hugo on the other wing. The winger shugged off the challenge of two defenders to nip up the wing, fed the linking Hall, who put Lee in space down the wing. Dessie crossed in the corner, but had the presence of mind to dot down under the posts, to give Paterson the easy conversion.

After another Mossy penalty with ten minutes on the clock, Murrayfield was treated to a Canuck cameo, as Canada's top rated winger, Mike Pyke, intercepted an enemy pass on his own 22 and raced untouched for the converted try. He followed that up with an extraordinary interception of a desperate Cardiff quick lineout, and generally tackled his socks off as the Gunners made sure of their 35-16 win.

There remain many rough edges, and much work is required to get back to last season's levels of performance. But this was a good win.

Next up are two tough away games in Leinster on Sunday 10th, and then Connacht on Saturday 16th. Both are good trips, and you owe it to yourself to go. As always, get in touch with Edinburgh Rugby on 0131 346 5252 about tickets.

MAN OF THE MATCH

CHRIS PATERSON for a fine kicking performance, solid defence, and liveliness in attack. Dougie Hall, Ali Kellock, Jackie Joiner, and David Callam also caught the eye.

SUPPORTERS' CLUB MAN OF THE MATCH - Todd Blackadder.

SCORERS:

EDINBURGH RUGBY: Paterson 7P 2C, Lee 1T, Pyke 1T

CARDIFF: Macleod 3P 1C, Penalty Try

TEAMS:

EDINBURGH RUGBY: Lee, Hugo, Di Rollo, Joiner, Paterson; Laney, Blair, Jacobsen, Hall, Smith, Hines, Kellock, Blackadder (c), Hogg, Callam. Replacements: Kelly, Brannigan, Pringle, Cross, Lawson, Godman, Pyke.

BLUES: Williams, Tuilagi, James, Shanklin, Morgan; Macleod, Dewdney, Jenkins, Williams, Lewis, Jones, Quinnell, Lewis, Williams (c), Schubert.

Referee: S McDowell (IRFU)

MB