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Boroughmuir: 19 (5) Edinburgh: 57 (22)

So terrifying was the capital collapse in the final quarter of last season that there may still be some among the Embra tifosi who are only now emerging from behind the sofa. It was a classic even by the Gunners’ standards and one hopes we will not see its like again. With an extra four matches in the Magners this season due to the welcome addition of the Italian clubs, strength in depth will be ever more important. It’s therefore good to report that there seemed to be some evidence of potential among the new faces on show at Meggetland last night, with the Gunners’ internationals held back from the fray en masse until later in the pre-season.

On a pleasant evening for rugby, enlivened by a nice rainbow as the rain fell around the break, the 60 minute match saw coach Moffat send out a squad made up largely of fringe players against a Boroughmuir side that was in no mood for unopposed rugby. Back from injury were Craig Hamilton and Ross Samson, with Ross Rennie also getting a half hour spell in the second half and emerging unscathed. Former Embra men Sean Crombie and Ali Warnock took the field for 'Muir. Overall, it was a useful outing and there were plenty of positives.

Four tries in the first period and five in the second was an illustration of the width that the Gunners put on the ball throughout. One would expect them to win quick ball against these opponents, which they managed to do in the first half in particular. As a result, the decent crowd for this low profile match were treated to some sparkling back play at times, with Scotland Sevens starlet Lee Jones and Tim Visser combining for five touchdowns from the wings.

The appointment of Roddy Grant as captain looks like an inspired move. He is still a youngster, but looked every bit the wise old head last night. His contribution in the loose was immense and was rewarded by two short range tries. Meanwhile, Stevie Turnbull and the returning Craig Hamilton looked strong in the boilerhouse. Another young leader in the squad, Greg Laidlaw, once again dictated the play well during his stint in the first half.

Edinburgh look to have strength in depth in most positions, and the rotation that will be necessary with the longer season should see a number of younger players develop into genuine contenders for starting places. There looks to be plenty of potential there. But there still seem to be vacancies for a dominating tighthead and an aggressive ball carrying back row, particularly with the close season departures of Ali ‘Hoggy’ Hogg and Dave ‘DC’ Callam. The pack did not dominate the ‘Muir eight as one might have expected, but it is too early to tell whether Jack Gilding will be able to put pressure on Geoff Cross for the 3 jersey. Meanwhile, Netani Talei may have scored a try, but he struggled to break the gain line consistently. Hopefully once he has settled into the side, he will be able to deliver the ‘go forward’ Edinburgh will need not only on nights like these, but on wet and windy evenings in South Wales where they need to put the ball up the jumper to sneak a win. New lock Esteban Lozada put in a decent shift in the second period and looks a sound addition. 

Inevitably, there was a fair bit of rust about the performance too, exacerbated by the number of new arrivals and the wholesale changes in personnel at the interval. That ‘Muir scored a try during each of the three periods of significant pressure they enjoyed during the match was a slight concern; the usual misplaced passes and fumbles so common at this time of year far less so.

Finally, the youngest Blair, Alex, took over as playmaker for the second period and impressed. Having put some sort of curse on Rory Hutton last season by hailing him as the saviour of Scottish rugby on the strength of one rather good match, I will avoid any superlatives about Micro Blair’s performance. Suffice it to say that he looked confident, his tactical kicking was sound and his distribution slick. With five minutes to go in the match, he put down a marker for the future with a lovely break from deep in the Embra 22. Off untidy ball under pressure, he scooted round a ruck and sped up the wing at pace. Good cover defence caught him in the enemy 22 and his pass to Visser did not go to hand. But there looks to be something special about him.

So, a good start. Next up, Bath on the 21st.



Edinburgh scorers:

Tries: Lee Jones (3), Roddy Grant (2), Tim Visser (2), David Blair, Netani Talei. Cons: David Blair (4)

Team first half:

T Brown; A Turnbull, J King, J Houston, L Jones; D Blair, G Laidlaw; J Gilding, A Kelly, C Phillips, C Hamilton, S Turnbull, S Newlands, S Dewar, R Grant

Team second half:

D Blair; L Jones, J King, J Murray (Melrose), T Visser; A Blair, R Samson; N Little, S Burnett (Heriot’s), J Gilding, E Lozada, G Gilchrist, D Denton, N Talei, R Rennie