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Edinburgh: 12 (9) Munster: 7 (0)

I don't know about you, but I'm tremendously proud of these guys.  Last week, Embra got their Heineken campaign back on track with a win over Ulster that was calm, disciplined and clinical.  This evening, they have done the same for their Magners effort with a near identical performance.  From the first minute, when Paterson knocked over his opening penalty, to the last, Embra were ahead throughout the match.  And while they probably should have scored a few more during their lengthy periods of control, particularly in the first half, the Gunners always looked comfortable.

The victory was built on sound defence in a match that was never going to be a high scoring affair.  The stats alone might suggest that Munster were doing all the pressing: one visiting try and two near misses denied by the TMO - one looked pretty close, the other was never a try in a million years, although it took Mr Ramage about the same length of time to confirm it. But it was Edinburgh who had the lion's share of the possession and looked the more incisive in attack.  The pack may have been under pressure in the scrummage, but they were marvellously physical at the breakdown and more than comfortable in the lineout.  Scott Newlands did indeed inject some 'go-forward' as advertised and the home eight as a whole did not take one step backwards in the forward confrontations.

This column once likened veteran stand-off Duncan 'Hodgey' Hodge to an American baseball 'reliever'; the pitcher who comes on when his side is ahead late in the game to close out the win.  There is a bit of that about Greig Laidlaw these days.  This is the second match in a row where the increasingly impressive scrum half has come on late on, told his pack and the referee what he wants, and steered his side home.  A number of leaders have emerged in this squad of late and he is one of them.

Time was when watching Munster was like watching paint that never dries.  Last year, they imported an impressive back division and unearthed the excellent Keith Earls to develop a dangerous running game.  Yet there was none of that nonsense tonight.  Instead it was back to bosh, bosh, bosh up the middle and suffocating the enemy ball at the breakdown.  But it wasn't enough.  Ronan O'Gara looks horribly out of form at 10 - not only did he fail to release his backs, but he missed all three of his penalty efforts.  Both Mafi and Earls had their moments, but the visitors' back play lacked a cutting edge.  Matters went downhill after Stringer came on in the second period.  He is a feisty little character, well suited to matches like these, but his service, which was never his strong point, was atrocious this evening.  Munster looked most dangerous when hoisting and chasing the midfield garryowen, which they did extremely well.  On more than one occasion it was a tactic that delivered for them; John Houston, in particular, will no doubt be practising catching the high ball for much of the coming week.

Edinburgh had their noses in front after the first play of the game.  Munster were penalised for straying in front of the kicker at an O'Leary box kick and Mossy made no mistake.  Yet although Embra dominated territory and possession for the rest of the first quarter, they just could not get on the board again.  After Godman had missed a difficult penalty on seven minutes, Warwick had to look sharp to take the ball into touch with Visser homing in on a Godman dink behind the defence.

One felt that the home side needed to translate their pressure into points, so it was a worry when a Munster breakout on 19 minutes nearly led to a try, only a clear forward pass denying them.  O'Gara missed his first penalty of the evening shortly after.

Munster then enjoyed five minutes of pressure in the home 22.  Edinburgh's goal line defence was sound under pressure, but the TMO was called on to adjudge whether Leamy had eventually bashed his way over the line.  The replay showed the ball hitting the ground just short, but it was a wake-up call for the Gunners.

After some fine aggressive defence had cleared the pressure, Paterson notched his second penalty after a great Visser breenge on the left wing.  He added his third in injury time after Edinburgh had smashed the enemy scrummage in the Munster 22.  The 9-0 home lead at the break was richly deserved.  Edinburgh had played all the rugby, and while the visitors had threatened at times, they lacked the creativity to break down the home defence.  More of the same in the second period would surely see Edinburgh win.

And it was business as usual from the restart.  A fine Godman crossfield bomb was horribly misjudged by Warwick.  Visser took the ball on and had his offload not spilled forward, Paterson would have scored.  O'Gara then missed a long penalty on 50 minutes before Dowling chased a hack into the Edinburgh in goal area.  Although beating Visser to the ball, the ball was in touch and he knocked it forward.  The TMO eventually confirmed what was clear to everyone else in the stadium.  No try.  But Munster kept the pressure up and Wallace made it over from short range for a converted try - 9-7 with 25 minutes left.

Paterson replied with his fourth penalty shortly afterwards to set up a tense finale.  What shape the match had had was rather lost as the Gunners focused on running the clock down, which they did generally very well.  Laidlaw's appearance undoubtedly helped and they played much of the remaining time in Munster territory.  It was very much an archetypal Munster approach.  They had no need to chase the game; the onus was on Munster to create something.  Edinburgh did well to resist the temptation to move the ball on more than one occasion.

The match ended with a typically beautiful shimmying run from Ben Cairns.  The centre ghosted past five defenders to deep into the Munster 22 but his offload wasn't held.  Munster had 27 seconds left to score a try from a scrummage on their own 22.  That was not something they were ever going to do and Edinburgh moved back to the top of the league with the win - for tonight at any rate.

There is something  special happening with this team.  The talent has been there for some time, but the attitude is now right.  They have had a couple of poor games but have sorted out the problems and come back to win in the most professional style.  And the crowds are slowly growing.  The attendance looked like it was again over 5,000 this evening.  It's not exactly the RDS or Welford Road yet, but more and more people are joining the Embra tifosi.



Edinburgh: Paterson 4P

Munster: O'Gara 1C, Wallace 1T


Edinburgh: Chris Paterson, John Houston, Ben Cairns, Nick De Luca, Tim Visser; Phil Godman, Mike Blair (captain); Kyle Traynor, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Steve Turnbull, Scott MacLeod, Alan MacDonald, Roddy Grant, Scott Newlands.

Munster: Paul Warwick, Ian Dowling, Lifeimi Mafi, Jean de Villiers, Ronan O'Gara, Tomas O'Leary, Darragh Hurley, Denis Fogarty, Julien Brugnaut, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell (captain); Niall Ronan, David Wallace, Denis Leamy