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THREE TRY EMBRA DOWN USAP

Edinburgh Rugby: 27 (13) USA Perpignan: 16 (6)



Edinburgh moved into second place in Pool 6 at Murrayfield this evening with this excellent win over visiting USA Perpignan in front of 5,000 souls.  Munster's win over Gloucester means that the Irishmen have secured a quarter final berth with one round still to go, but the Embramen could yet finish runners up, enjoying as they do a three point advantage over Gloucester in third.  They might even manage to prolong their European interest if they can come away from Thomond with a win and move in to the Amlin.  It would represent a decent return from a season that started poorly, with victories secured over each of their pool opponents, one of which was away from home.  As ever, though, as soon as you lose a home tie in this competition, you're always struggling.  We might have been in for another Heineken adventure had the Embramen put away an eminently beatable Gloucester side at Murrayfield in the middle match.

I'm not a huge fan of stats in rugby.  Often, they restate the blindingly obvious.  Who'd guess that Dan Parks currently has kicked more ball than anyone else in the tournament so far?  Or that he's notched the most dropped goals?  Well, who wouldn't?  But there are some surprising quirks.  Jonny Wilkinson has apparently missed more kicks at goal than anyone else.  And it's interesting to see that Cornell du Preez was the top tackler, on 75, prior to round five.  He may not have won his usual MoTM this evening - that honour went to back row colleague Dave Denton.  But he has added a great deal to this side in defence and attack - he scored a try this evening - in the context of a squad that have undoubtedly turned a corner.  People are no longer waltzing through the Embra defence in the embarrassing fashion they were earlier in the season.  There is a real bite about the Gunners' tackling now and the pack are beginning to dominate the physical confrontation.  Quite a handy place to be when playing most French clubs.

They thoroughly deserved tonight's victory.  They outscored the enemy three tries to one and even the latter was at a stage in the match when USAP were chasing a match that had got away from them.  As well as du Preez' effort, both wingers, Tom 'Schooldays' Brown and this season's hit man 'Deadly' Dougie Fife, crossed for tries.  So prolific is Fife becoming that one feels he must have some Dutch ancesgtry somewhere.

The Embramen were up early, Laidlaw's penalty on 11 minutes followed soon after by Brown.  'Schooldays' alertly picked up turnover ball around halfway following a Cuthbert run and sprinted over from distance.  He's seemed to be out of favour a bit this season for some reason.  However, the best way to respond in that situation is to get stuck in.  The graduate of the legendary Law Primary rugby nursery has done just that and seems to be getting a bit of gametime as a result.

USAP's Welsh international James Hook pulled a couple of penalties back before the break, but Laidlaw's second effort made it 13-6.  Fair reward for a good performance.

And though Hook narrowed the gap further with his third three pointer shortly after the break, a card for visiting hooker Guirado for a maul offence proved decisive.  First, du Preez smashed over for the converted try with over half an hour still to run.

Then Fife crossed on 56 minutes, a rather shorter-range effort than that of his wing twin.  A guddle by his opposite number in defence of a Bezuidenhout grubber gave him a simple touchdown.  27-9 up and game over.  The only question was whether the Embramen would kick on for the bonus or USAP might make the losing margin slightly more respectable.

In the end, it was a late consolation for Delonca that proved the only other score as Edinburgh took the win and moved up to 12 ponts with one round left to go.

There is a fair bit of uncertainty at the moment about what European competition is going to look like next season and beyond.  Your guess is as good as mine.  Different actors have different motivations.  Some have simply been living beyond their means for years and need the cash desperately.  Others think they're fabulous and should not have to dirty their hands with trips to the Sportsground in Galway or the Stadio Monigo in Treviso.  Meanwhile, professional rugby in Wales seems to be imploding totally, sad to say.  For myself, I think all the shenanigans are going to lead to something not too different to what we have today, perhaps with a bit more pre-qualification for the Celtic sides - no bad thing, in my view.  Yes, there will be face-saving noises and declarations of a brave new dawn.  But what these guys need to remember is that it is what happens out on the park that gives this competition its appeal - the clash of very different rugby cultures, the lack of foregone conclusions, the quality of the rugby on show.  It would be a shame if all that were thrown away, particularly as it looks like the Gunners may just be getting the hang of it.