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RUSTY GUNNERS EDGED OUT

Edinburgh Rugby 16 Ulster 17



Legendary rugby pundit, Sir Harry Lauder, wrote the perfect lines to sum up the lesson for the Gunners from this game: "Keep Right On To The End Of The Road." After Chris Paterson's penalty with three minutes on the clock, the capital team were never headed during the game. Until, that is, the 77th minute, when visiting stand-off Wallace dropped a neat goal to give Ulster a one point victory.

Any neutrals in the crowd might have felt that Ulster were the slightly better team on the day, and just about deserved their win. But Edinburgh will be disappointed not to have pinned the visitors in their own half for another few minutes to close out the game. With Ulster missing their Irish internationals, the chance to record a home victory over a side that will again be there or thereabouts at the end of the season was lost.

On a blistering hot day, when locals were glad of their Kooga "Evaporex" high wicking Edinburgh replica shirts, there was at times a feeling that many of the Gunners were still in pre-season mode; particularly those who had not played up to now. Immediately after Paterson's opener, Ali Hogg, who had an otherwise solid game, knocked the restart on under no pressure, leading to All Black Steinmetz's equalising dropped goal. Similarly, while the Gunners had the upper hand in the lineout, they struggled in the scrum against an Ulster pack that showed little signs of missing Robbie Kempson.

The early stages saw both sides making a number of unforced errors, but Marcus Di Rollo and Hugo showed up well in attack in the opening exchanges. And Paterson nudged the Gunners back in front with a penalty after ex-Borderer Campbell Feather came in from the side at the ruck following a dart from Di Rollo. Paterson struck a third penalty on 16 minutes, after an Ulsterman was rather harshly penalised when seemingly diving on a ball that had squirted out of a ruck. 9-3 Gunners.

A second Hogg spill from the restart set up an Ulster scrum on the home 22, and a cute grubber behind the defence saw Maxwell go over for the unconverted try in the corner, to cut the home lead to 9-8. Ulster overcame the binning of Neil Best for punching Jacobsen on the blindside of a scrum by going on the offensive during his absence. Indeed, the Gunners' defence had to be sharp on several occasions as they were put under pressure by the visitors.

Just before half-time, the home team had a let-off when visiting winger Bowe spilled the ball five metres from the tryline when a score seemed certain, to leave the Gunners hanging on to their lead.

When Hogg was high tackled by Best from the opening kick-off of the second period, earning a stern finger-wagging session from referee Owens, Paterson found a fine touch on halfway. The ball was recycled for Scott Murray to allow Blackadder to cruise serenely over from distance - or as serenely as it's possible to cruise when you're 6'3'' and 17 stone - for the try. Paterson's conversion gave the Gunners a 16-8 lead. And with the home 10 beginning to find some super touches, there was a sense that perhaps Edinburgh had weathered the storm.

The Gunners put together some good passages of play during the scoreless third quarter, with Blackadder, Hogg, and substitute Smith featuring prominently. Meanwhile, in the backs, Michael Pyke, the Canadian international, looked solid in defence and eager in attack, resembling a rather bigger - and slightly hairier - version of the injured Simon Webster.

But it was Ulster who scored next with a Wallace penalty on 64 minutes after Edinburgh were caught offside with Ulster pressing. And while the Gunners gave as good as they got in the final ten minutes, with Murray putting in what one felt could have been a match-winning try-saving tackle on the flying Scott Young, they could only come away with a bonus point for the narrow loss. The chances were there throughout the game, but little nudges at crucial times denied them.

So a disappointing start to the League campaign, but there are two weeks for the Gunners to regroup before they head along the M8 for the first Inter-City at Old Anniesland, on Saturday 18 September at 7.30 pm.

SCORERS:

Edinburgh: Paterson 3P 1C, Blackadder 1T

Ulster: Wallace: 2P 1DG, Steinmetz 1DG, Maxwell 1T

TEAMS:

 

EDINBURGH RUGBY: Lee (Pyke 40); Joiner, Di Rollo, Dey, Hugo: Paterson, Blair; Jacobsen, Hall, Brannigan (Smith 47), Kellock (Pringle 66), Murray, Blackadder ©, Cross (Callam 47), Hogg Replacements: Kelly, Smith, Pringle, Callam, Lawson, Godman, Pyke.

 

ULSTER: Cunningham, Bowe, Bell, Steinmetz, Maxwell, Wallace, Doak, McCormack, Shields, Moore, Mustchin, Frost, Ward ©, Best, Feather. Replacements: B Young, Brady, Longwell, Brown, Campbell, Mallon, S Young.

 

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)