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THERE HUGO AGAIN

Edinburgh Rugby: 40 Leinster Lions: 34



Super Shug Seals Welcome Win

There is a sportsman in the United States who is known to millions only by his first name - Michael. There can't be many Hugos down Meadowbank way anyway, but young Southwell is not too far off the same accolade as Michael Jordan, at least in the Edinburgh area. Can it be long before multinational sportswear manufacturers are knocking at the door with contracts for trendy "Air Shuggie" trainers?

In the meantime, a late penalty and a last touch kick from the Gunners' right wing, to go with his earlier try, made sure of a fine Edinburgh win at the end of a pulsating evening's rugby. Games between these two teams - whether at full strength or not - never fail to showcase attacking rugby of the highest class, and always produce nail-biting finishes; so far, at least, always in the Gunners' favour. Yet it could have been so different this evening, with the youngsters surging to a 27-6 half-time lead before going to sleep in the second half, while the Lion cubs battled back into the game, coming to within three points after 80 minutes.

There was still some glitter left on the Murrayfield turf from the Calcutta Cup game, and the Gunners' massed mascots' enthusiastic display preserved a little welcome razzamatazz. There will be a few youngsters who will remember their mini lap of honour round the hallowed turf for years to come.

Edinburgh began playing champagne rugby, with Monro slotting a penalty on two minutes after Leinster had been pinned in their 22 from the opening kick off. Shortly after, the returning international Mike Blair was bundled into touch by opposite number O'Meara within inches of the line after good work by Di Rollo in midfield. But the Gunners were not denied for long. From a rolling maul on the right side, Monro fired a super flat pass out, the ball went through the hands to Jackie Joiner, deftly offloading to Derrick Lee, whose fine angle and burst of pace took him clean through the cover to give the home team an 8-0 advantage.

It was all Edinburgh at this point, with the driving maul in good shape, the home defence looking solid, and Monro passing the ball sweetly. Although Contepomi pulled back a penalty on 13 minutes for Leinster, the Gunners were in control, and Dessie scored his second try on 18 minutes. A great rolling maul on half-way led to excellent interpassing between Blair, Strokosch and Cross, before the ball was spun to the other wing, where a slick one-two between Lee and Joiner put the former over, Monro goaling.

Again, Contepomi pulled a penalty back for the visitors, but Edinburgh were pressing soon after. Strokosch looked excellent with ball in hand, and as visiting skipper Dillon had predicted, the Gunners were throwing the ball from one side of the pitch to another. Both teams were running the ball from everywhere in what was proving to be a very open game.

The Gunners' third try arrived courtesy of Matt Dey. They strung together an impressive series of phases, with Lee coming close, before a clever inside pass from Monro put Dey through inside the 22. The inside centre still had much to do, but danced through the defence to score - 20-6.

Moving into injury time, the Gunners secured the bonus point off what initially seemed like an unpromising maul in the visitors' 22. The ball was spun across to Di Rollo, who released Hugo in traffic. The winger's injection of pace and power took him surging through the defence, and Monro's conversion gave the youngsters a comfortable 27-6 half-time lead.

Early in the second half, it was pretty much as you were, with the Gunners throwing the ball around with abandon. Gradually, however, Leinster began to claw their way back into the game, using Costello and Dillon more close in. Their more direct approach, coupled with some apparent home complacency, saw Ronan over for a try on 50 minutes. After Monro had pulled a penalty back to make the score 30-13, a cute O'Meara grubber behind the cover put Australian centre Warner in for the try - 30-20 with the Contepomi conversion. Shades of Donnybrook in September - but in reverse?

With the Gunners' lineout degenerating into a bit of a shambles, an improbable Leinster comeback was certainly on the cards when poor tackling allowed Norton over untouched for the try - 30-27.

But tonight's skipper, Nathan Hines, then took charge. He ordered Hugo to put a kickable penalty into the corner for a Gunners' lineout. A fairly bold move, given the problems the home pack were having in that department. The resulting possession may have been a bit scrappy, but when the ball was moved to the centre, who was there but the skipper himself, who sprinted over for the try that sealed the win, Monro's conversion giving the home team a 37-27 lead. Leinster roared back, and only fine defensive play by Joiner stopped a try. The score wasn't long in coming, though, and Dillon rumbled over for a well-deserved touchdown, and a bonus point for the visitors, on 80 minutes.

The Gunners defended stoutly during the ten minutes of injury time, and a Hugo penalty made sure of what was a fine win in a game that was perhaps a little closer than it should have been, given the home team's first-half dominance. There were excellent performances throughout the team, with Strokosch, Monro, Dey, and Hugo catching the eye, along with the usual suspects. The handling was superb, and some of the back play was a joy to watch as the hard work that the squad have been putting in began to bear fruit.

The win will give the youngsters confidence as they prepare to travel to Stradey Park to face the Scarlets. As always, if you're going to make the trip to cheer the boys on, call Ann at Edinburgh Rugby about tickets on 0131 346 5252.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Derrick Lee for a two try performance full of pace and verve. Matt Willliams will doubtless have been impressed.

Scorers:
Edinburgh: Monro 2P 3C, Lee 2T Dey 1T, Hines 1T, Hugo 1T 1P
Leinster: Contepomi 2P 4C, Ronan 1T, Dillon 1T, Warner 1T, Norton 1T

Edinburgh Rugby: Lee; Southwell, Di Rollo, Dey, Joiner; Monro, Blair; Smith, Hall, Brannigan, Hines (Captain), Kellock, Strokosh, Cross, Dall Replacements: Kelly,McGee, Pike, Harrison, Lawson, Clapperton, Sharman

Leinster Lions: Norton; McWeeney, Warner, Contepomi, Burke; Leek, O'Meara; Coyle, (Gavin) Hickie, Brophy, Potts, Gissing, Dillon (Captain), Ronan, Costello Replacements: Moran, Blaney, Kearney, Crawford, O'Riordan, Downey, Brown

Referee: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)