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Edinburgh: 27 (14) Llanelli: 17 (12)

It has been some time coming, but tonight Murrayfield saw Andy Robinson's first win as Edinburgh coach.  Perhaps appropriately, it was delivered in large measure by another outstanding openside, Ross Rennie. 

In a see-saw match that showcased the good, the bad, and indeed the ugly of Edinburgh's rugby personality, Rennie was quality throughout as he turned in a textbook display of the 7's skills in attack and defence.   Time and again, the youngster made telling breaks in openfield; time and again, he snuffed out a visiting attack, or won turnover ball at the breakdown.

He outshone his opposite number, Ireland's Simon Easterby, completely.  Indeed, the visiting skipper's only contributions of note this evening were managing to get away with three or four punches during the course of one maul, and chirping regularly at his compatriot, referee George Clancy.  The West Walian budgerigar would, one felt, have been better paying rather more attention to Rennie.  For it was largely at the fringes that this game was won and lost.

Edinburgh recovered from a desperate start, dropping the opening kick off, to record the first points of the game - a Blair Minor penalty for offside.  But they were under the cosh for the first quarter.  Llanelli kept play in the home half, and cranked up the pressure on 10 minutes.  Sound Edinburgh defence on the goaline and slightly less sound last ditch tackles on several occasions kept the visitors scoreless.  But it was little surprise whan Kiwi centre Regan King crossed for his first try on 15 minutes.  A fairly straightforward missed tackle in midfield was to blame, Priestland missing the equally straightforward conversion attempt.

The visitors came close again shortly afterwards, then Priestland missed a long penalty effort on 20 minutes.  Then a bit of Rennie genius saw the openside break well out of his own 22, with Blair Major and Dave "DC" Callam taking the ball on well.  Although the ball was lost in contact, there was a hint of what Edinburgh could do.

The livening up process continued five minutes later.  Houston was just tap tackled in space, then Blair Major nipped inside the enemy 22.  Blair Minor rewarded the inevitable Llanelli infringement at the breakdown with his second penalty to retake the lead.

Edinburgh's adventure was rewarded a second time immediately after the restart.  A monumentally crass Priestland kick off headed straight into home winger Andy Maxwell's arms.  The visiting 10 had apparently not felt the need to tell his colleagues of his cunning last second switch of direction.  The result was that the Ulsterman - who had a fairly mixed day in defence on the whole - scampered up the left wing, beating the cover with little difficulty, for the gift score.  Although unconverted, Edinburgh were 11-5 up and handily placed.  Particularly given that Llanelli were the better team on the run of play thus far.

Edinburgh were now playing some great stuff, sparked by Rennie.  Then good work by Jacobsen, Gissing, and Roly Reid saw Llanelli concede another easy penalty, goaled by Blair Minor.  As too often in the history of this side, though, Edinburgh eased off with half time approaching.  That allowed King to take a poor pass quite beautifully and go over for his brace, Priestley at last converting, for a 14-12 home lead at the interval.

Although Edinburgh started the second period well, it was Llanelli who drew first blood.  Firstly, their maul eventually made ground up the middle.  The ball was spun right and a well-judged Priestley chip exposed Maxwell.  King again nipped over for another good try, his hat trick.  Priestley missed the conversion.

Edinburgh kept attacking, though, and only a marginal forward pass from Blair Major stopped Andy Turnbull from haring over from distance on 55 minutes.  Replacement stand-off Phil Godman rewarded pressure with points shortly afterwards, two quickfire penalties recapturing the lead on the hour.

Then another Rennie break from the home 22 saw the Gunners making great ground.  The ball was illegally slowed at the breakdown, and Iestyn Thomas was carded as referee Clancy decided that enough was enough.  Godman's kick hit the post.

But Edinburgh were not to be denied for long.  A fine burst from replacement centre Matt Dey saw him power through the midfield deep into the enemy 22.  It looked like he might just make it, but instead he offloaded to the supporting De Luca.  The lively centre, who had looked dangerous all night, barrelled over for the try, confirmed by tonight's TMO.  Godman knocked over the easy conversion for a 27-17 lead with ten minutes on the clock.

More mature sides would have stuffed the ball up Ben Gissing's jersey at this juncture and run the clock down in Llanelli territory.  Edinburgh did do a bit of that.  But at times their adventurous instincts got the better of them, and they could easily have conceded at least a losing bonus point at times, notably when Godman's dropped goal effort was half charged down.  One felt, for example, that the penalty awarded on 78 minutes should have seen Godman lining up a pot at goal, rather than knocking the ball into touch in the 22.  Nevertheless, although Llanelli tried to run from their goaline on several occasions, they never really looked like scoring again.

So Edinburgh took the scalp of the second-placed side in the league in a performance that was encouraging in many ways, but left significant room for improvement in others. 

Although the lineout clearly needs work, one was again impressed by Ben Gissing in the middle, and Ross Ford's performance in the loose was excellent.  The back row combination worked well, and Roly Reid gave a few hints of what he is capable of with ball in hand. 

Phil Godman undoubtedly added a little more incisiveness to the Edinburgh attack when he came on, although David Blair had by no means a poor game.  Big Brother Blair's sniping at the fringes was another positive feature of the home side's play, and he caught the defence napping on numerous occasions.  Meanwhile Hugo was immensely safe in defence and his tactical kicking sounder than it has been of late.

Next up, Ulster at Ravenhill on St Andrew's Night.  A difficult one to call, given that Ulster have lost a coach and lie four points behind Edinburgh in the league.  A bit more accuracy and cool heads could see a rare away win.


Edinburgh: Blair M 3P, Godman 2P 1C, Maxwell 1T, De Luca 1T

Llanelli: Priestland 1C, King 3T

Edinburgh: Hugo, Turnbull, De Luca, Houston, Maxwell, D Blair, M Blair, captain, Jacobsen, Ford, Smith, Mustchin, Gissing, Reid, Callam, Rennie.
Replacements - Kelly, Allori, Pringle, Cross, Meyer, Godman, Dey.

Llanelli:  D Evans, Daniel, King, J Davies, Garan Evans, Priestland, L Davies, John, Hayter, Douglas, Cooper, Macleod, Bater, N Thomas, Easterby, captain.
Replacements - I Thomas, D George, Reed, G Thomas, Cattle, Gavin Evans, D Jones.

Referee - Clancy (IRU).