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THE SHACKLES ARE ASSUREDLY OFF

Edinburgh Rugby: 45 (26) Benetton Treviso: 10 (3)



This morning, I was looking at a few of my elderly match reports from days of yore. What struck me was the ambition with which the Gunners played in attack.  The points against tally, of course, showed that they weren't so energetic when it came to defence. But it was a reminder of what we have been missing for some years.  It has not been for want of quality operators among the Brylcreme community. 

After last weekend's disappointing start to the Hodgey Era at the Sportsground, optimists among the Embra tifosi were hoping that the visit of Treviso this evening would see the veteran stand-off secure his maiden victory as head coach.  And they were proved right.  There was a sense that the shackles had been removed and the players were now free to express themselves.  There were some outstanding performances

It was really quite exciting.  There was a joy about the way Edinburgh went about their business and one could see the confidence returning to them in attack.

Rory Sutherland took the field first to mark the occasion of his 50th cap for the Embramen.  Better known for his trademark breenging skills, the big loosehead certainly showed astonishing skills with babe in hand.  He wasn't so handy with the ball on the first play of the game, mind, knocking on after a classic stand-off's break by Jason 'Stovies' Tovey had cut through the visiting defensive line with ease and made ground to the enemy 22. Worryingly, the Gunners' pack were smashed at the ensuing scrummage, allowing Treviso to clear from the scrum penalty and build some pressure themselves. In fact, over the piece, the scrummage did pretty well, even with a number of understudies deployed at different times.

But the Embramen turned over ball at a defensive ruck on their own 22, Damien Hoyland pounced, gathered and set sail for the Treviso line with the entire visiting back division trailing in his wake. He jinked inside to beat the full back for the opening Edinburgh try.  The Stovenator's fine conversion from wide out put Edinburgh 7-0 up after only five minutes.

Amd it got better still immediately afterwards.  Again The Stovenator took ball up, combining beautifully with Watson and Dean for last month's SCRUM Magazine award winner to cross on seven minutes and fifty seconds.  The extras stretched the lead to 14-0 and Treviso, already having lost Tommsso Allan, were in disarray.

The Embramen, by contrast, were showing up very well in attack.  There was real ambition about the way they were moving the ball and the pace at which they were doing it.  I could have sworn I even saw one of those fancy diamond formation things appearing in midfield a couple of times.  Hamish Watson was having a stormer.  Reassuringly, albeit against a fairly innocuous attack, they were looking rock solid and comfortable in defence.

'Big' Blair Kinghorn recovered his own garryowen and raced towards the line on 15 minutes, setting up more Edinburgh pressure in and around the red zone.  It was great to see Sean Kennedy shoving his forwards into contact, really bossing the breakdown and giving his half back partner quality ball.   But an uncharacteristic handling error from The Stovenator allowed Treviso to clear on this occasion.

Sutherland was a mite unlucky to be pinged at the tackle area after some lovely Treviso handling had seen them look dangerous as they looked to move the ball wide. Allan, returned after his HIA, duly got his side on the board with the three pointer on 21 minutes.  Struggling with injuries they may have been, but the Italian side were playing with some ambition themselves in what was shaping up to be an open game.

A lack of accuracy at an attacking lineout close in saw a good opportunity for Edinburgh go abegging on 24 minutes. They won a penalty from the scrummage, though, and knocked it to the corner for a second attempt.  This time, the maul rumbled, a couple of phases took the ball acros field before a lovely wee on-two between Damien Hoyland and Mike Allen saw the winger cross for his second of the night on 29 minutes for a 19-3 lead with a bonus before half time looming very much on.

It duly came on 32 minutes.  An unfortunate mishandling by the Italians in midfield was pounced on by the Embramen, Watson moving the ball quickly left before it was shifted back right.  A looping pass from Hoyland found Bradbury on the Treviso 10.  The big blindside pinned his ears back and rumbled goalward.  Though eventually tackled just short, his momentum took him over for the bonus point touchdown, superbly converted by The Stovenator for a 26-3 advantage at the half.  This was shaping up to be a big score with the visitors already blowing hard.

Treviso restarted well after the break, winning a scrummage penalty and kicking to the corner. Off the lineout, the maul meandered goalward and seemed to be halted, but second row Marco Fuser broke clear and touched down for a good try.  The score was built on a solid scrum platform, with Treviso putting pressure on the home front row.  Allan's conversion narrowed the gap to 26-10 on 44 minutes. The Gunners needed to recover the intensity they'd shown in the first period.

Normal service was resumed on 50 minutes, though.  Edinburgh built phases in the red zone.  Kennedy, having a great game, took a quick tap under the posts.  The Gunners worked an overlap and a beautifully weighted pass from The Stovenator put Tom Brown racing over for try number five.  The holder of the world record for the shortest place kick run up duly knocked over another difficult conversion to stretch the advantage to 33-10. Worryingly, Watson came off with a knock shortly afterwards.  But John Hardie, coming on as replacement, posed a different but equally unwelcome challenge to the wilting Italians.

Rasolea came on for Dean on 56 minutes.  What could he do against a tiring defence?  A beautiful dink behind the defence and brilliant gather by The Stovenator saw the Gunners drive just short of the line through Stuart 'Rambo' McInally.  But a knock on gave up a defensive scrummage for Treviso on 65 minutes.  With the game won and the usual barrage of replacements joining the fray, the match had lost momentum and handling errors by both sides were creeping in.

Then a sublime score on 70 minutes.  Off lineout ball close in, the pack drove close, then the ball was shipped to The Stovenator.  The first five-eighth saw Brown in space and placed the perfect bomb to the wing for the flying Schooldays to gather and race over for the sixth Edinburgh try, superbly converted by the Welshman for a 41-10 home lead going into the last ten minutes.  On an evening featuring many promising home performances, he was the deserved man of the match.

The match was rounded out by a mesmerising series of phases, Edinburgh exploring the park patiently, keeping the ball alive brilliantly with the clock well into the red zone.  Eventually, Hardie surged down the left wing and offloaded beautifully out of the tackle to the supporting Kinghorn, who sprinted over in the corner for a well-deserved score, rounding off an impressive performance by himself and this Edinburgh squad. 

Pick your cliche - one swallow doesn't make a summer, Rome wasn't built in a day etc.  But this was a step in the right direction.  It's something on which to build.