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THE COMMITMENTS

Edinburgh:46 (26) Scarlets:7 (0)



When I watched England defeat Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals last weekend, the word that kept springing to mind was 'commitment' - to their gameplan, to their team, to each other. 

And their famous victory over the All Blacks this morning was more of the same.  It was no accident that five-eighths Ford and Farrell were their top tacklers against the World champions.  Successful teams are built on universal commitment to do the unglamorous work that lays the platform for the fancy stuff that they played to score some super tries.  Whoever they play in the final will have to go some to beat them.

In more humble action at BT Murrayfield this evening, Edinburgh fielded plenty of firepower in the backs.  The once and future international Scott/Bennett combo was back in midfield, while to the power and pace of Duhan van der Merwe and The King Blairhorn was added the, erm, power and pace of debutant winger Eroni Sau.  So far this term, it's looked like the Gunners want to move the ball a bit more in attack.  The question was, would their pack and half-backs give them the front foot ball they needed to shine?

Although the Gunners had a disappointing outing last time around in Dublin, the unbeaten Scarlets had not won in Edinburgh for six years.  The Embramen had history on their side.  As things turned out, the visitors never looked like overcoming that burden.  The Gunners' total commitment delivered total domination.  

'The Sledgehammer' Sau was in action immediately from the kick off, pilfering ball at the breakdown of all places to set up a breakout that saw van der Merwe power down the wing, only to be bundled into touch by Dan Jones just outside the enemy 22. And some glorious continuity saw Duhan cross on 6 minutes.  Moving ball from deep, the home side attacked down the left wing.  Ally Miller rumbled forward at pace, then found the rampaging Scott who carried four Scarlets towards the line.  Though dragged down short, a couple of quickfire phases stretched the Scarlets' defence to open the space for their winger to score.

And Duhan scored his second in the corner on nine minutes.  This time it was Haining who broke through the defence off the restart and galloped forward, then Willemse took the ball on well.  Again, Edinburgh cleared the breakdowns quickly before 'Bing' Crosbie powered deep into the 22 to open space for 'Hank' Pyrgos to put his left winger over in a carbon copy move.  12-0 with the succesful coversion. 

The Gunners were looking dangerous in attack and defending soundly.  The Scarlets probed and probed, but Edinburgh committed few to the breakdown and trusted each other to stand strong through the phases to force the eventual Welsh error.  In attack, the pack were starting to dominate and the impressive Willemse scored a great try off the tail of a short range rumbling maul, scooting over untouched.  19-0 to the Embramen at the end of the first quarter

After such a quickfire start, the second quarter saw the spark go out of the match somewhat.  Llanelli had more ball but could do little with it.  The Gunners, by contrast, became a little loose in possession.  But as half-time approached, out of nowhere, Hardy looked to have scored a brilliant try for the Scarlets coming back down the shortside on 33 minutes.  Unfortunately for the scrum-half, the pass from Davies that released him was rightly adjudged forward.

The Gunners woke up on 35 minutes, mind.  This time, Miller and van der Merwe combined to attack from distance.  The quality of handling was outstanding as the Embramen took the ball on at speed, with Matt Scott once again prominent several times.  Bennett gave a half-dummy then crossed under the posts for the bonus point try.  Hickey stretched the advantage to 26-0 Edinburgh.

In a rare off note for the Embramen, Fraser McKenzie was rightly carded on 40 minutes for a silly shoulder charge on his own 22 when the defence had Scarlets' attack well under control.  Typical of the first period, though, the Gunners turned over the visitors' ball after they'd kicked the penalty to the corner. Pyrgos' dink into touch put the homesters a deserved 26-0 up at the interval. Edinburgh had been utterly dominant and, despite opening the second half short-handed, it was difficult to see the Welshmen turning this one around.

The men in red made multiple changes for the second period in the hope of sparking a revival. But it was business as usual, with Edinburgh not only looking comfortable in defence, but pinning the Scarlets in their own 22 for much of the power play.  Bad Boy Big Fraz returned to the fray with his side having conceded nothing during his absence.  The increasingly desperate Llanelli were starting to lose their discipline as they just could not break out of their own red zone.  'Denis' Hickey knocked over a penalty on 52 minutes to stretch the lead to 29-0, setting up a last half hour where the Gunners could simply wait for the Scarlets to make errors and pick them off.

After some good pressure in and around Edinburgh's five metre line, Mark Jones popped over for a Scarlets try on the hour - 29-7 Gunners moving in to the final quarter.  The Welshmen had had to work incredibly hard for the score, but it seemed to give them a little more belief.

The Gunners snuffed out all hope when Willemse broke off the back of an attacking maul, smashed through two tackles, twisted round to touch down and round off a very strong individual performance and my own personal man of the Match award.  To me, the hooker exemplified the foundations for this big win.  34-7 Edinburgh on 67 minutes.

Replacement Charlie Shiel's speculative dink behind the dfence saw the Scarlets back three make a complete horlicks of clearing their line, eventually Nicholas being tackled to ground having carried ball over his own tryline.  A guddle in handling attack gave Scarlets a defensive scrummage, but they were forced into touch, setting up another Edinburgh attacking lineout. 

On 75 minutes, with the referee playing advantage for Llanelli taking the jumper out in the air, van der Walt attacked the line, then fired a long pass wide for Man of the Match van der Merwe to cross in the corner for his hat-trick and a 41-7 advantage.

Easy as you like, The Sledgehammer pounded the final nail in the Scarlets' coffin on 79 minutes.  From ball moved quickly off teh breakdown on half-way, Bennett came round the corner at pace, then surged forward, pulled the defence in then released Eroni charging down his wing.  With no full back ahead, he outpaced the defence and cruised over for Edinburgh's seventh try in this shellacking.

Just as the foundations are being dug on the back pitches for Minifield to emerge, so the Gunners seem to be laying the groundwork for a successful 2019/20 season.  The win saw Edinburgh up to second in Conference B, just one point shy of Munster. Next weekend, away to Benetton Treviso, will be a different sort of challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.