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TITTERRELL YE NOT

Edinburgh Rugby: 3 (3) Northampton Saints: 54 (12)



That's possibly the most inventive headline I'm going to come up with all season and I've blown it already.  It's downhill all the way from here. 

Having gone on at length last week about the danger of Embra being 'undercooked' as a result of having only two pre-season matches, it seems fitting to give an honourable mention this week to Andy Titterrell.  Judging by his Twitter feed, the boy thinks of nothing but food. Prawn lettuce wraps (using romaine lettuce, natch), 'food', fast snacks, more snacks, peanut butter (crunchy), pumpkin seeds, golden linseed, syrup, cookies (protein) have all been covered in 140 characters or less.  And that's just the last week.  If you're feeling a bit peckish during a regular season match, just give him a shout and Embra's answer to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall'll rustle up a quick snack for you.

It's a shame that those present did not seem capable of moving from contemplating the evening's menu to giving a strong Northampton side the attention they deserved.  As a result, they suffered a spectacular horsing in front of a surprisingly large pre-season crowd, many of whom would have been asking themselves whether they might not have been better taking a chance on that minor French Dadaist theatre company's reworking of Jean-Paul Sartre's 'Les Jeux Sont Fait' featuring in the Fringe.  A missed opportunity to wow some newbies and encourage them to come back for more.

Tonight's encounter at HQ, on a beautifully relaid surface that you could eat your dinner off, saw more of the insipid fare that was on display last week at Kingston Park.  The internationals were again rested and there was a total lack of cohesiveness about the Embra work that will have alarm bells ringing.  A fair bit left to do before Munster visit next weekend, to put it mildly.  At least no-one will be complacent after a match where the Embra men shipped two tries in the first period and a whopping six in the second.

Northampton played some great rugby and were a pleasure to watch - if that's possible with your head in your hands.  They were dominant in lineout and scrummage, while their work at the breakdown was quick and accurate.  The quality and speed of ball secured gave Foden and their impressive centres plenty of space to work with and they duly made hay, playing the sort of wide game that is so characteristic of the Gunners when they have got their act together.

Edinburgh failed to secure a great deal of field position all night.  Even when they did, they looked like rabbits in the headlights at key moments, when calm heads would have unlocked the enemy defence.  They played as if they had never met each other.  There is an element of truth there, given that five of the starting pack and four backs were new arrivals.  In addition, Stevie Turnbull was making his first appearance after a long lay off.  To me, though, that suggests that two pre-season matches were simply not enough to get these guys on the same wavelength, let alone tuned into the Embra Way.  The understanding will come in time and there were some promising displays amid the gloom.  But the disappointing pre-season sessions have left whatever XV turns out next weekend against Munster with an awful lot to do from a standing start if they are to get the Rabo campaign off with a win.

In addition to the set piece weakness, one was concerned by the lack of zip about the forwards' play generally.  On the rare occasion where the ball carrier made a line break, the support was far too late in coming.  Contrast that with the Saints' excellent continuity play all evening.  It was unfortunate that 'Dima' Basilaia retired injured in the first period, as the big Georgian smashed over the gain line pretty much every time he took the ball up.  Roddy did some quality openside work during his time on the park in a starting back row that looked a reasonable unit.  But there were few other highlights in a performance that was several orders of magnitude below par.

The story in the backs was primarily about unforced errors.  King's appearance outside Hunter, his sin-binning apart, seemed to bring a little more playmaking nous to Edinburgh's attacking play, and coincided with their best (I use that term very loosely) attacking spell.  Sep Visser was dangerous on the wing, while Tom Brown looks like a vetaran with fifty caps under his belt rather than just one.  He is growing in stature almost as one watches.  Both Ress and Leck looked eager in attack, albeit perhaps their service was not quite quick enough.

Results don't matter in pre-season, but performances do.  It's been a disappointing ten days on the park in that respect.  There needs to be a significant step up next Saturday, when results will start to matter a great deal.

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT GEORGIA (#2): OK, Dima fans, did you know that Georgia boasts the highest settlement in Europe? The village of Ushguli, at 2200m, is home to about 200 people and is located in the Upper Svaneti region, at the foot of Mt. Shkhara (5068m) – itself one of the highest summits of the Caucasus. Dotted with medieval Svanetian watchtowers, Ushguli is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.