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PROFLIGATE GUNNERS ALMOST SNATCH DEFEAT FROM JAWS OF VICTORY

Gunners: 17 (3) Dragons: 15 (3)



Did you know that the emergency exit signs at Murrayfield are bilingual? Next time, have a look, and you'll see that your exit is also votre sortie. But tonight's game saw most observers shamefacedly asking their neighbours to pardon their French on a regular basis, as the latest loose Edinburgh pass saw yet another home try go a begging, provoking snorts of frustration all round.

How can you spend virtually the entire game in the enemy half, break through the defensive line almost at will, yet still end up being relieved that you've managed to squeak home with a two point margin of victory? Edinburgh missed at least four dead cert try scoring opportunities in the first period alone, solely as a result of their own slackness. To win by such a small margin was an injustice in itself, but it was to the Gunners' credit that, despite not firing on all cylinders, they still ground out the win. In past years, this was exactly the sort of game that they tended to lose.

The game started well, with the Gunners camped in the Newport 22 for much of the first ten minutes, with Leonelli and Murray both showing up well in attack. Then the first missed chance. Off another excellent Leonelli run down the left, Paterson embarked upon a jinking cross field run that was reminiscent of that David Duckham effort in the classic Lions test against the All Blacks in 1973. On several occasions, the skipper seemed to be faced with gaps so wide that even this column's occasional metaphor involving migrating wildebeest and the Serengeti would not do them justice. Yet somehow he managed to get nailed at the right corner when a try was begging to be scored.

At last, on 16 minutes, Paterson knocked over a simple penalty after a Newport defender had killed off a dangerous home attack with an offside in front of the posts. But two minutes later, off their first attack of the match, Warlow kicked the Newporters back level with a penalty.

Webster, an early replacement for the injured Dewey, sparked an attack from deep. A typically astute Di Rollo pass released Paterson on the charge. Right winger offloaded to left wing Leonelli, who was caught just short of the line. With the Gunners pressing at the ensuing ruck, the hand of God was seen spiriting the ball back on the Newport side, allowing the visitors to clear the danger once again.

The Cordoba Kid was almost over again five minutes later after an extraordinarily skilful Mustchin grubber had made fully forty yards to set up an attacking Edinburgh lineout. And the Argentine ace then combined well with Webster on the half hour mark, but as the ball was spun across right where the Gunners had an overlap, an offensively poor pass by emergency inside centre Hugo eluded his man and another metaphorical open goal was missed.

The half ended 3-3. There was a real worry that, for all their pressure, Edinburgh might end up rueing their failure to turn excellent chances into points. Meanwhile, Newport's canny defending and a fairly large dollop of luck had kept them in the hunt, despite having being outplayed.

The second half carried on where we'd left off, with Hogg and Taylor combining well in the loose to surge deep into the enemy 22, only for Di Rollo to be left isolated in midfield, forced into holding on in the tackle. Taylor may not yet be back to his best, but he generally made good ground when he took the ball up tonight, and another super solo break off a tap penalty again saw him steam into a dangerous position on the hour. But where were the support runners?

Luscombe scored the sucker try five minutes later, Warlow's missed conversion the third relatively straightforward goal kick that drifted wide from the Newport stand off.

Then, at last, with ten minutes to go, Webster sparked yet another promising attack with a daring break from deep. Paterson took the ball on up the right wing and chipped ahead. Although Mossy looked to have been taken out after the chip, Leonelli alertly followed up for the try, converted by the captain.

The Gunners should perhaps have shut up shop at this stage, with a 10-8 lead and the clock ticking down. But several loose moments almost saw Newport hit back, and only a fine last ditch Leonelli tackle on the impressive Hinton forced a knock on.

Moving into injury time, Webster almost danced over the Newport line in traffic. The pack then had a few drives, before replacement scrum half Lawson switched play back to the narrow side, and Webbo slalomed through the defence for a deserved try in the corner, well converted by Paterson.

That conversion proved crucial, given that poor home defence then allowed Newport to snatch a late try on the whistle for a 17-15 defeat and the bonus point, just as the words "Newport were flattered by the nine point losing margin" were being written in the editorial notebook.

Wasps are travelling to Murrayfield for the Heineken first round game next weekend. On the positive side, the Gunners are creating plenty of chances, and the pack is looking solid. But they cannot afford to scorn scores next week the way they did tonight and hope to be successful. It's time to get serious.

MAN OF THE MATCH:

FRANK LEONELLI, who was incisive in attack and solid in defence, both on the wing and at full back. Webster can't have been far behind.

SCORERS:

Gunners: Paterson 2C 1P, Leonelli 1T, Webster 1T

Dragons: Warlow 1T 1P 1C, Luscombe 1T

BONUS POINTS:

Edinburgh could have wrapped up a four try bonus in the first half alone. Instead, they conceded the losing bonus unnecessarily.

TEAMS:

Edinburgh: Hugo; Paterson ©, Di Rollo, Dewey, Leonelli; Godman, Blair; Hewett, Hall, Smith, Kellock, Murray, Mustchin, Taylor, Hogg. Replacements: Kelly, Dickinson, Pringle, McDonald, Lawson, Hodge, Webster

Dragons: Hinton; Wyatt, Luscombe, Sweeney, Breeze; Warlow, Cooper; George, Brown, R. Thomas, Gough, Charteris, Hall, Forster (capt), Owen

Referee: lewis (IRFU)