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RUSTY GUNNERS SQUEAK HOME OVER LLANELLI

Edinburgh: 24 (13) Scarlets: 20 (10)



Embra mascot, lovable stag Flinty, is just back from the dry cleaner.  His fur luxuriant, he's looking frisky.  And the Gunners themselves looked like they were going to take visiting Llanelli to the cleaners at various times this evening.  At other times, though, they looked like they were doing their best to keep the out-of-form Welshmen in the game.  Indeed, the gift wrapped Fenby try late on almost handed this match to the Scarlets on a plate.

Happliy, Llanelli's dismal record in Edinburgh continues.  Edinburgh have now won six of the last seven meetings between the sides at all venues and will be kicking themselves that they did not put these guys away.  At times, the quality of handling and the pace of their game were too much for Llanelli to live with.  But one or two final passes didn't stick and the odd wrong option was taken.  The injury hit Embra back division also proved to be alarmingly porous, with Scarlet imports King and Lyons both making clean breaks far too often for comfort.

There were plenty of individual standouts.  From John Houston's powerful running in the centre, seemingly never failing to get over the gainline all night, to the impressive Turnbull-MacLeod axis in the boilerhouse.    And the front row, despite missing Ross Ford and Allan 'Chunk' Jacobsen in the starting XV, waxed strong in tight and loose, Traynor's ball carrying and 'Ned' Kelly's lineout work were particular highlights.  Even those who were playing out of position had their moments, Mark Robertson a buccaneering presence on the counter from his unaccustomed berth of full back.

But it was fitting individual quality into a coherent whole that was too often the problem.

On a night when both sides looked to run the ball from the off, it was the Scarlets who were on the board first.  A great Roberts clean break from the opening kick off saw them surge deep into the home 22, good pressure delivering a penalty, converted by Priestland after only three minutes.  And it was the visitors who had the better of the opening exchanges.

Yet Edinburgh scored from their first concerted attacking play, Godman knocking over a simple penalty on 11 minutes.  The mercurial midfield mini-maestro doubled the lead shortly afterwards, following a fine counter sparked by Tim Visser.  Embra were beginning to come into the match, with MacDonald prominent in the loose.

The Gunners' eagerness to run was rewarded on 26 minutes.  A huge Robertson garryowen was guddled by the defence.  Roddy Grant took the ball on around the enemy ten metre line.  While one felt that a pass to Visser in space was the best option, Roddy had other ideas.  He scooted around and through the defence on a circuitous route towards the tryline, crossing for a fine solo score, goaled by Godman for a handy 13-3 lead.

Even with only half an hour on the clock, the Scarlets pack looked to be struggling to cope with the sheer pace of the match.  Yet it was veteran prop Phil John who was next on the scoresheet, rumbling over after good work by Lyons, the makeshift Embra defence having gone AWOL.  Priestland's conversion took the score at the break to 13-10, despite Edinburgh pounding at the Scarlets line just before the half was over.  On the run of play, the Gunners should have been further ahead.  Should they have played a tighter game before going wide?  Certainly both their scrummage and lineout were in control.

That sort of talk seemed a bit academic immediately after the restart.  In a carbon copy of the start of the match, Mike Blair found a gap in the wreckage after the kick off was fielded and hared through a gap.  His kick on beat the defence and the ball found Visser, the Dutchman crossing in the corner.  An exchange of penalties between the stand offs saw the score 21-13 Edinburgh on 50 minutes.

Slowly, Edinburgh turned the screw and looked increasingly comfortable, particularly after a fine long range dropped goal from Godman put them 24-13 up on the hour.  But Llanelli were still finding holes in the midfield defence.  While a top side would have punished these Embra slips, the Scarlets failed to make much of their opportunities until the 67th minute.  An appallingly bad series of missed tackles saw Lyons create a try for Fenby, converted by Newton, to narrow the gap to four points with over ten minutes left on the clock.  Though the score may have been fortunate, it was well taken and Fenby had looked dangeorous with ball in hand all night.

With Greig Laidlaw on the park, one expected him to take control and kill the game.  This Edinburgh managed to do, albeit there were one or two scares on the way.  And so a match where, at one stage, a try bonus point seemed very much on ended up being a slightly fortunate victory.   There was a fair bit of rust out there and one hopes that this near miss will be a wake up call.  A playoff place remains a possibibility, but they cannot afford to slip up in Galway next Friday evening.

 

MAN OF THE MATCH: RODDY GRANT, who shone in an outstanding collective performance by Edinburgh's trio of opensides in the back row.

SCORERS:

Edinburgh: Godman 3P 1DG 1C, Grant 1T Visser 1T

Scarlets: Priestland 2P 1C, Newton 1C, John 1T, Fenby 1T

TEAMS:

Edinburgh: Robertson, Webster, Thompson, Houston, Visser, Godman, M. Blair, Traynor, Kelly, G. Cross, MacLeod, S. Turnbull, MacDonald, Rennie, R. Grant. Replacements: D. Blair for Godman (64), Laidlaw for M. Blair (64), Jacobsen for Traynor (54), Ford for Kelly (54), MacKenzie for S. Turnbull (67), Newlands for MacDonald (66). Not Used: Brown.

Scarlets: Evans, L. Williams, King, J. Davies, Fenby, Priestland, Roberts, John, Owens, R. Thomas, Welch, Day, Turnbull, Pugh, Lyons. Replacements: Maule for L. Williams (66), Newton for Priestland (53), Knoyle for Roberts (60), Rees for Owens (37), Manu for R. Thomas (54), Reed for Day (54), McCusker for Pugh (60).

Att: 2,762

Ref: Fitzgibbon (IRFU).