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THE BLAIR PITCH PROJECT

Edinburgh:66 (33) Club Athlétique Brive Corrèze Limousin : 3(3)



Edinburgh is home to many annual cultural phenomena.  The most precious of these manifestations is, of course, the rare appearance of @NewTownFlaneur . For a few short weeks, he/she/they brighten our lives with photographic evidence of the everyday lives of New Town residents – their obscenely large 4x4 vehicles, their Waitrose deliveries and, above all, their penchant for wearing red trousers.  These are people whose extravagant rewards must be the result of great talent, who live life with flamboyance and who, frankly, couldn’t care less what observers think of their eccentric attire.

 

The red trouser is a powerful symbol of the proud resident of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site.

 

The House of Bruar have a sale on at the moment and I duly purchased and proudly wore a pair of red trews to the DAM Health Stadium yesterday evening.  The Gunners are not short of grunt up front, as they showed once again against visiting Club Athlétique Brive Corrèze Limousin in the European Challenge Cup last night. But Mike Blair has them playing with panache and elan in attack. One feels the same joy when watching them as one would on spying a comfortably off elderly gentleman perambulating through the New Town with the aid of his red trousers.

The red trouser exemplifies our capital city and, one hopes, will become an emblem of the Blair Pitch Project for many year so come.

In front of a record crowd for Minifield, the Gunners delivered a shellacking, a tonking, a total destruction of visiting Brive that took them to second in Pool C and pretty much guarantees progression to the knock out stages with a match to spare.  Think Saracens v Bath; think Leinster v Montpellier; think Brora Rangers v Heart of Midlothian. To quote the great Bjørge Lillelien, ‘your boys took a hell of a beating’.

While some might say that Brive weren’t up for it, that didn’t seem to be the case.  They edged scrum and lineout, while in full back Laranjeira they had an effective playmaker as well as the scorer of their only points on a cold and windy evening on the back pitches, a solitary early penalty.  They competed gallantly but never had the answer to the home attack.

Freddy Owsley secured the player of the match prize for two tries in a handy debut performance that confirmed without any doubt that this guy has got serious wheels.  There’s a real rough diamond here and one looks forward to seeing how he develops.

As ever, though, the award could easily have gone to a number of players. Emiliano, "The Boff" Boffelli once again showed his international class.  Imperious under the high ball, his place kicking into a nasty wind in the first half was nothing short of astounding and was key in building an unassailable lead early. Blairhorn put in another regal performance at second fiveheighth.  Like an out of position Serge Blanco, The King glides at pace through defences, while he took the ball to the line and put his outside backs into gaps beautifully.  The ‘beauty and the beast’ centre partnership of Mark Bennett’s fancy moves and twinkling toes, combined with North Berwick’s Cammy Hutchison’s ability to punch over the gainline and stay on his feet, were another key factor in the 10 try win.

Up front, WP Nel came on as a replacement and, naturally, forced a few scrum penalties.  Jamie Ritchie was his usual immensely irritating adversary and, with Hamish Watson, won a number of important turnovers in defence, in several cases leading to long range Edinburgh tries as the Gunners attacked in the transition.  The only pity was that Mesu Kunavula didn’t bag the try that his fine performance deserved, not least as two sparkling offloads put others away for touchdowns.

For me, there were two aspects of the home performance that were most encouraging, in addition to their style of play. Firstly, they did not yield anything in defence, even after emptying the bench early in the second period, the match won.  Secondly, they didn’t ease off in attack either.  It’s also a lot of fun.  That will serve them well when they meet tougher sides; it will also help them avoid the sort of slip up that we saw last week against London Irish.

Rather than the traditional narrative, I thought it better to describe each Edinburgh score in turn.  Their response to Brive’s early penalty was:

1 With the Gunners playing into a strong wind in the first period, debutant Glen Young barrels over from short range following Schoeman and Gilchrist drives.

2 On 24 minutes, Young makes it a brace, charging down a box kick on half way, gathering and outpacing the defence as he gallops for the score.

3 ‘Chico’ Shiel puts Schoeman charging clean through the defence on halfway.  The ball is worked right and Kunavula’s superb offload puts Ritchie over on 28 minutes.

4 On 33 minutes, Watson and then The Boff run straight and commit defenders in textbook fashion before the Argentine maestro puts the returning ‘Mr’ Darcy Graham over in the corner and the strains of the "Infernal Galop " from Act II, Scene 2 of Jacques Offenbach's 1858 operetta Orpheus in the Underworld leads to much delighted stomping of feet in the premium seats of the main stand. #Swoon

5 Edinburgh win breakdown ball on their own five metre line then ship the ball across the posts.  Freddy combines two of his previous sporting careers, namely football and athletics, to kick the ball on from half way, leave the defence for dead and touch down under the posts on 37 minutes.  33-3 Edinburgh at the break.

6 A simple move with the ball passed along the line sees Kunavula offload to Owsley, putting the winger in space to accelerate away for his brace on 41 minutes.

7 On 52 minutes, this time it is Owsley turning creator, stepping inside cleverly to commit the defence, then putting Muncaster away on the wing.  There is plenty still to do, but the young back rower overcomes a blatant shoulder charge to dot the ball down, Ashman-esque, in the corner.

8 After some more prosaic, agricultural close in drives on 66 minutes, Shiel whips the ball out to The Mish, who jogs across in the corner.

9 After WP and Big Dave Cherry crash the ball up, Shiel finds Bennett for the centre to barge over for his try.

10 Finally, in the dying seconds, Brive give away a breakdown penalty on their own line.  Henry Pyrgos taps quickly and nips through a retreating defence for the Gunners tenth and final try of the evening.

Fin.