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SENSATIONAL EMBRA SCORCH THE SCOREBOARD

Edinburgh Rugby: 48 (20) Racing Metro: 47 (31)



I've seen these guys do some pretty groovy things over the years.  I'm sure you have too.  Whether it was the incredible Brendan 'Chainsaw' Laney penalty from halfway at Donnybrook that broke Leinster hearts following ten Embra points on the very stroke of no-side; or hammering USAP Perpignan in the year they went to the Heineken final; or that famous victory over Toulouse at Meadowbank.  But all that and more pales in significance compared to the astonishing scenes at Murrayfield this evening.

After sprinting to a 17-3 lead over the visitors in only seven - count 'em - minutes, the Gunners somehow managed to fall a massive 24 points off the pace on 51 minutes. Yet they picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and refused to be beaten.  Four converted tries and a missed Racing dropped goal effort later and the Embra men were trotting off the field having won this basketball game 48-47.

I am so proud of these guys I, well, I think I might shed a tear.  I feel quite emotional about the whole thing. 

The victory leaves Edinburgh topping the pool on nine points, one ahead of Cardiff Blues, who they play next in a December double header.  With Metro some way behind on three points and London Irish on two losing bonus points, these two matches may well decide the pool.  The 9th and 16th December are going to be massive dates for this club.

They outscored Racing six tries to a mere five and were almost literally the last men standing at the end.  There was a point in the second period, when Racing had opened up a gap so large that even three converted tries would not have closed it, that one wondered whether the stuffing had been knocked out of the home side.  I must admit that I myself was thinking that they'd competed well, but their loss of focus at key moments had been their undoing.

Yet around the hour the 5,200 crowd could almost see the Edinburgh players saying to themselves 'no - we're not giving this one up'.  Whether it was Nick de Luca counter-rucking himself to a standstill, or Allan 'Chunk' Jacobsen's fiercely determined running, or the razor sharp bursts of wing twins Tim Visser and Lee Jones, something special seemed to be happening.  While the Gunners were under pressure in the set piece and lineout and their defence was, at times, lamentable, it was their mental strength that won them this match.

Greig Laidlaw didn't miss a place kick all night, notching six generally difficult conversions and two penalties to go with his first half try.  The little general did the business at half back - whether in the 9 slot in the first period or the 10 slot in the second - and was a worthy Man of the Match.  Plenty of others played a blinder too, though, and Mick Bradley's use of the bench was masterful.  When Tom Brown came on for the impressive Jim Thompson on 46 minutes with the game seemingly over, many would have thought that this was Bradley giving the youngster a decent stretch against quality opposition with the game lost.  I did.  If so, no-one told this kid, whose elusive running proved crucial in the fightback.

As the match entered the final stages, the Edinburgh back row waxed strong, with Roddy having a fine spell and both Stuart 'Rambo' McInally and Netani Talei taking the ball up superbly as the heavier Racing pack visibly wilted.

Things could not have got off to a better start.  Jones took a long enemy clearance from the opening kick-off and switched the ball crossfield.  Leonard released Visser who ran through two tackles then chipped over the advancing cover.  The Flying Dutchman beat the defence to get enough downward pressure for the opening try in the corner, Laidlaw converting from wide out.  Not for the first time, though,  the Gunners lost concentration and knocked on the restart.  At the scrummage, Chunk was correctly penalised twice in a row and Racing were on the board with a Wisniewski penalty. Racing weren't much better at the restart, themselves giving away a penalty, which Laidlaw nailed.

Then off nothing ball in midfield, good hands by de Luca put Dr Geoff Cross, The Planet's Poshest Prop, away on a charge.  The medically qualified man mountain drew his man and fed Visser, who again kicked ahead.  While 'Timbo' appeared to be taken out way after the ball had gone, Laidlaw was on hand to gather and scoot around under the posts for the touchdown, goaled by himself for try number two and a handy lead.  We were already in classic French emotional-meltdown-under-a-bit-of-pressure territory, surely?

Unfortunately not.  First Saubade and then Imhoff scored two lovely tries.  Good hands and great acceleration through the gaps conjured up the scores, both converted to tie things up on 14 minutes.  As the half went on, some of the French offloading in the tackle area was really hurting the Gunners and Racing always looked likely to score again.  This they duly did on 21 minutes, when full back Wisniewski himself crossed for converted try number three.

And the bonus wasn't much longer in coming, Chavancy this time crossing, Wisniewski adding the extras.  31-17 up with Edinburgh under the cosh and at times losing their discipline a little.  Nallet, still a class act, was popping up all over the place - proving rather more effective than the much vaunted Chabal, who did not bring much to the party beyond big hair.

As the half came to a close, Visser was still looking dangerous, but the ball was just rolling just that little too far. There were acres of space behind the defensive line, though, and it looks like an area to exploit in Paris in January. Laidlaw's penalty on the stroke of half time took the score to 31-20 Racing.  Frankly, they deserved it.  They had looked fabulous once they had got into their stride and the Gunners were struggling to live with them.

Bradley made the tactical switch to shift Laidlaw to stand-off and bring Blair on at 9 over the break.  But the task became yet more difficult over the next five minutes as slack play gifted Racing a penalty at the restart, then a guddle in midfield off Edinburgh scrum ball saw the ball hacked into Edinburgh territory, bounce awkwardly and somehow land in the grateful arms of Chavancy again who cruised over for the converted try.  Wisniewski knocked over another penalty on 51 minutes, leaving Edinburgh 24 points down.  Get out of that one lads.

At first, the Embra effort was pretty laboured stuff.  Lots of pootling around in the middle of the park, getting no go forward.  Then Jacobsen struck on the hour.  The Man With The Film Star Looks made a super barging run into the enemy 22.  The ball was spun wide right, Rambo surged on, feeding Talei, who barreled over for the third home try of the night, converted by Laidlaw.

Though Wisniewski knocked over another penalty shortly afterwards after more boneheadedness at the restart - the last Racing points of the evening, in fact - Embra struck again on 66 minutes.  A Rambo breenge saw the young star offload to Laidlaw, who found the speeding Tom 'Schooldays' Brown, the replacement full back surging over for the try in the corner, converted by Laidlaw. 

Two minutes later, the touch judge flagged and after some debate, referee Lacey carded Orlandi for what appeared to have been a punch.  Visser was almost through shortly afterwards but was pinged for holding on.  Yet Racing could not clear their lines and again Chunk and Brown were catalysts in a move that saw Roddy cross in the corner off King's break on 72 minutes and make the conversion a bit easier - not that Laidlaw needed it.  The half back's kicking boots were white hot tonight.  41-47 down and maybe the guys could do this yet.

The knackered Frenchmen were now looking more like Mini Metro and they were penalised at the restart, backchat moving the penalty ten yards on.  Laidlaw knocked the ball into touch on the enemy 22.  Embra spun the ball wide off the lineout and Visser was over for his second, Laidlaw's nerveless conversion from the corner putting the Gunners in front with five minutes left.

But the drama was not yet over.  It looked like the pack were killing the game with repeated pick and drives around halfway to run the clock down.  But a lack of accuracy gave away a penalty, which Racing kicked to the 22.  They worked their way in front of the posts, setting up a dropped goal chance for the otherwise impressive Juan Martin Hernandez.  Happily, the Argentine playmaker's effort was not in the same league as the contestants in the statutory half-time kicking competion, his coyote ugly effort squirting under the posts, sealing a win for Edinburgh that any number of superlatives would not do justice to. 

Amazing, just amazing.  Both sides contributed handsomely to a wonderfully entertaining match.  Lots of fancy stuff in there.  But lots of guts too.  And in the end, it was Edinburgh's steely determination that won it.  They owe it to themselves to kick on from here.  If they can come back from the dead tonight, they have the ability to win this group. 

It's up to you lads - do you want it enough?  On the evidence of tonight's match, I think you do.

MAN OF THE MATCH: GREIG LAIDLAW.

SCORERS:

Edinburgh: Laidlaw 1T, 2P, 6C, Visser 2T, Brown 1T, Talei 1T, Grant 1T

Racing Metro: Wisniewski 1T 3P 5C, Chavancy 2T, Saubade 1T, Imhoff 1T,

TEAMS:

Edinburgh: Thompson, Jones, De Luca, Scott, Visser, Leonard, Laidlaw, Jacobsen, Ford, Cross, Lozada, Gilchrist, Talei, Grant, McInally.

Racing Metro 92: Wisniewski, Saubade, Chavancy, Bousses, Jose Imhoff, Hernandez, Loree, Tuugahala, Noirot, Coetzee, Ghezal, Nallet, Leo'o, Le Roux, Chabal.

Referee: Lacey (IRFU)