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Edinburgh Rugby: 29 (3) Zebre: 0 (0)

Many readers will be familiar with the fictional Welsh village of Pontypandy, home to the world's most accident-prone child, Norman Price.  Each episode sees the scourge of fire and rescue services everywhere discover yet another innovative way of putting life and limb in danger.  Happily, catastrophe is always averted when Fireman Sam comes to the rescue in the nick of time.  His coolness under pressure, coupled with an encyclopaedic knowledge of fire and rescue techniques, saves the day.

The Gunners have struggled in attack this season in large measure due to the absence of a playmaker at 10.  Phil Burleigh, as a classic second five-eighth, has stepped in to the breach and performed very well at times.  But there has been no-one who can really boss the game, who knows when to kick and when to pass - and executes consistently well.  The signing of Duncan Weir from next season has been a huge step in the right direction. However, the Embramen needed help at the business end of this season if they were to secure a top 6 finish.  Jason Tovey looks like the right man for the job and he deservedly secured tonight's Man of the Match award after an assured performance, steering his new club to a bonus point win.  

Working off a generally solid forward platform, he wasn't flash.  But he was assured, unhurried and competent.  And it was the little touches that made the difference, such as his half break and offload to Stuart 'Rambo' McInally, putting the replacement hooker charging in to the enemy red zone to set up a try for SHC.  Pre-match suggestions of a certain ropiness in defence were belied when a massive Italian ballcarrier targeted the 10 in the early exhanges.  The Tovenator cut him down in textbook fashion.

The least said about a turgid first half, the better.  The visitors started brightly, in fact, and spent much of the first 10 minutes in Edinburgh territory.  As was to prove typical of their evening, though, while they sometimes managed to break the first tackle, poor support play and good scramble defence snuffed out any danger.  And it was Edinburgh who were first on the board, Tovey knocking over a penalty after the Gunners' first real period of pressure.

Gradually they gained the upper hand, but one felt they needed to trust their backs more.  On several occasions they spurned big overlaps in favour of close-in drives, while the ball needed to be cleared from the breakdown much, much quicker.  Mike Allen did cross on minutes after good work from Tovey and Burleigh, but the final offload did go forward so the score was not given.

On the stroke of half time, Zebre thought they had a try of their own, but the fiesty Fabiani's effort counted for nothing as referee Hodges picked up obstruction that had opened the gap for him to scoot through.  3-0 Embra at the break and most observers were hoping that something interesting would happen in teh second period.

McInally came on in place of Ford after the break, with SHC replacing Kennedy with a half hour left to run.  The changes seemed to add pace and dynamism to the Gunners in attack and they took advantage shortly after.  Their first try had an element of good fortune, coming as it did after Haimona had sent a hopeless garryowen steepling upwards.  The ball came the Gunners' way and SHC hacked forward for the speedy Hoyland to chase.  The winger beat the defence for pace and gathered his own kick to cross, Tovey's conversion putting the home side a handy 10-0 up on 54 minutes.

He was on the board again after only another five minutes.  This time, it was following what has become the common sight of Cornell du Preez offloading in the corner to Hoyland. Tovey's fine conversion stretched the lead to 17-0 on the hour and it was time to push on for the bonus.

The visitors were tiring and losing their discipline.  On 69 minutes, SHC crossed following good work from Tovey and Rambo for three tries and a 24-0 advantage with the conversion.  In matches like these, there is a certain inevitability about the bonus try.  Sure enough, after exerting huge pressure in the enemy red zone as the clock ticked down, eventually Toolis (A), lurking on the wing, dived some distance over for the crucial fourth touchdown to secure five points from the evening. 

At the time of writing, the win puts the Embramen in fifth on 52 points, ahead of Munster on points difference, albeit the Irish province have a game in hand.  Ulster are only three points ahead and with the Ospreys pretty much out of contention, it looks likely to be two out of these three clubs who will finish in fifth and sixth places at the end of the season. The Gunners' match against Munster in Cork is looking like the decider.  First, though, there is the small matter of travelling to Dublin to face a Leinster side gunning for a home semi-final slot.  It goes without saying that the Embramen will need to up their game substantially from tonight to be competitive.