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Edinburgh: 17 (7) Leicester: 12 (9)

He may be a bit titchy, he may have a reputation - deserved or otherwise - for being grumpy on occasion, but Andy Robinson certainly knows a thing or two about coaching.  Having won the Heineken with Bath and the World Cup with England, he also knows a bit about developing a winning mindset.  One feels that he is helping this young Edinburgh squad to cross a mental Rubicon, the other side of which is consistent high performance at this level. 

The traditional Edinburgh failings were evident earlier in their Heineken campaign, when they lost a home game against Toulouse that they should have won.  Had it been played today, they would have won.  That ended their realistic qualification hopes for another year.  One feels that things will be different next season.  Meanwhile, a Magners title is possible this season if they can remain focussed on winning each game as it comes.

Edinburgh were immense in the Murrayfield icebowl this afternoon.  The thick carpet of frost on the surface brought tears to the eyes of older observers among the 5,850 strong crowd, bringing back happy memories of matches of yesteryear, no doubt played with the aid of teams of huskies amid ten foot snowdrifts.  As enormous clouds of steam emerged from each scrummage, it was clear that the intense cold of the afternoon was not conducive to running rugby.  Yet Edinburgh were gloriously ambitious, their adventure richly rewarded.

It is customary in these parts to be magnanimous in victory, giving credit to the enemy even where it is not strictly due.  It seems a little unsporting and, worse still, slightly Australian to do otherwise.  Nevertheless, the truth is that Leicester did not deserve even their losing bonus point.  After Leinster had defeated Toulouse earlier in the day, they still had a chance of qualification if they secured a bonus point win over the home side.  One would have thought that they would have looked to move the ball from time to time.  Certainly, in Varndell and Geordan Murphy, they had a pair of adventurous, pacy threequarters, who might have done some damage given the chance.  But despite Murphy's gallant efforts to look for the ball, it rarely made it beyond Andy Goode's efficient right boot.  The Leicester kicking game was, to put it kindly, utterly incomprehensible.

In truth, it was Edinburgh who played all the rugby, Edinburgh who scored the tries, and Edinburgh who were worthy winners.

Although under pressure in the scrummage, the home lineout was solid.  The pack fronted up to the Leicester eight, defending their rolling maul efficiently, while knocking down the enemy runners all day.  Ross Rennie again impressed at the breakdown, while Roland Reid's ball carrying punched some useful holes in the visiting defence.  With some decent ball, Edinburgh's backs looked dangerous at times, although the cold conditions meant that good work was often negated by handling errors. 

Andy Goode opened the scoring on three minutes with a simple penalty.  The Leicester 10 doubled the lead five minutes later after Edinburgh were penalised at a scrummage in their 22.  Leicester were looking ominous.  With Goode's punting keeping the game in Edinburgh's half, and referee Fitzgibbon taking a charitable view of Chuter's lineout throwing, Leicester had the upper hand in the first quarter.

And yet there were glimpses of Edinburgh's potential.  A super Webster counter off a Goode grubber in the Edinburgh 22 saw the game's most impressive winger making it to the Leicester 10.  But Edinburgh could not take advantage. 

That was the story of much of the half. On 27 minutes, Rennie's great break from the halfway line saw the openside surge into Leicester's 22, but cold hands knocked on. Shortly after, Ford nearly made it over the line.  Desperate Leicester infringing gave away a penalty five metres out.  But the touch judge had spotted a fairly spectacular off the ball dust up in the middle of the park.  Gissing was adjudged to be the guilty party and was carded on the half hour.  The penalty was reversed - was this to be the point where Leicester kicked on?

They tried to take on Edinburgh's seven man pack, but the Gunners stymied a series of mauls in their 22, before Rennie brilliantly turned over ball to relieve the pressure.  Indeed, it was Leicester who were now under pressure, Godman knocking a long range penalty into touch in their 22.  From the lineout, Blair made a half break, then gave to his stand off.  Ten metres out, the wee maestro saw a gap and skipped through the defence for a great try under the posts, converted by himself.  The crowd greeted the score with rapturous acclaim. 

But a series of Edinburgh misjudgements as the game clock ticked down allowed Goode to retake the lead with a penalty for a scrummage offence.  7-9 to Leicester at the half, and all to play for.

The second half kicked off with Edinburgh back to full strength, Hamilton having replaced Gissing, and the haar streaming in to the stadium.  The Gunners took the initiative immediately, a flowing move seeing Hugo just held up over the Leicester line. 

Every time one sees de Luca, he looks better and better.  He is rightly getting rave reviews, and his selection for the national training squad was little surprise.  But his inside partner, John Houston, has proved to be the perfect foil.  He has the same ability to get over the gain line as Rob Dewey had.  But he can pass too.  As the third quarter progressed, so the young Edinburgh centre pairing waxed strong.    

But it was Roly Reid who sparked the next home score.  The speedy blindside's superb driving run punched a massive hole in the Leicester defence.  Chuter's cynical infringement at the breakdown deprived Edinburgh of quick ball deep in the 22 with the defence disorganised.  The hooker was rightly carded and Godman's penalty regained the lead.

Edinburgh persist in losing focus after scoring, though.  They did it again, and Goode took advantage with his fourth and final penalty on 49 minutes - 12-10 Leicester.

With half an hour left, Leicester persisted in playing a tight game.  But their pack just could not maul their way over the Edinburgh line.  The Gunners forwards defended the Midlands maul well in their 22.  On the hour, a rare Leicester back move broke down in the Edinburgh 22.  The ball was snaffled by Reid and hacked clear.  de Luca gathered brilliantly around the Edinburgh 10 and the ball was taken on at pace, forwards and backs offloading superbly before Mustchin and Rennie took the ball into the enemy 22.  Cairns nearly jinked over before Ford rumbled through for a fine team try, converted by Godman.  17-12 Edinburgh, and the momentum very much with the hosts.

One felt that both teams' tactics were wrong pretty much throughout the final quarter.  Goode persisted in kicking away possession, while Edinburgh were perhaps trying to play a little too much rugby, rather than run the clock down.  That said, both Hugo and Godman punted well to keep the game in Leicester territory for much of the time. 

In the final ten minutes or so, Edinburgh were penalised three times in kickable positions; three times, Leicester kicked for touch; three times their pack were repulsed.  The home crowd were willing the Gunners to hold out.  And even when the visitors did try to move the ball, Edinburgh's defence remained sound. The game ended with Leicester desperately running the ball from their own 22, the game clock long since dead. A final visiting knock on saw Edinburgh take yet another illustrious scalp in the Heineken.  
MAN OF THE MATCH: Phil "The Golden Boot" Godman.


Edinburgh: Godman 1T 1P 2C, Ford 1T

Leicester: Goode 4P

Edinburgh: Hugo, Cairns, De Luca, Houston, Webster, Godman, M Blair, Jacobsen, Ford, Kerr, Mustchin, Gissing, Reid, Rennie, Hogg. Replacements: Kelly, Allori, Hamilton, MacDonald, Meyer, D Blair, MacRae.

Leicester: G Murphy, J Murphy, O Smith, Mauger, Varndell, Goode, Laussucq, Ayerza, Chuter, White, L Deacon, Kay, B Deacon, Croft, Corry. Replacements: Kayser, Moreno, Wentzel, Crane, F Murphy, Humphreys, Hipkiss.

Referee: Fitzgibbon (IRFU)