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WEBSTER WINGS IT FOR EDINBURGH

Leeds Tykes: 0 Edinburgh Rugby 23 - 18 January 2004



Streamlined superstar's touchdown sets Gunners on road to victory at Headingley

Something momentous - and rather lovely - is stirring in our nation's capital. Across the District, travel rugs are being discarded as their owners realise that it's OK, in the words of the song, to "wave your hands in the air like you just don't care." A phenomenal travelling capital contingent of upwards of 200 souls hooted, shouted, and whistled the Gunners to a comprehensive 23-0 shutout of the hometown Tykes at Headingley this afternoon.

Even when the Gunners retired to the dressing room after their pre-match warm-up, they received a rapturous ovation from their fans, which in itself was as nothing compared to the reception they got after no-side. On this showing, even the mighty Ulster support will have to look to their laurels when the Gunners travel over to Ravenhill in March. An honourable mention must go to the air horn which never failed to elicit an impressive "Gunners!" from the edimbourgeoisie, until it hooted its last, its mission accomplished, late in the game.

The players themselves had a fair bit to do with the win. Two breakaway tries contributed to a comfortable victory that was sealed with calm, effective defence from the visitors. Again, the platform was laid by the pack, where the Gunners were on top in scrum and better in the lineout than they had been the week before. Though Leeds battled gamely, and will justifiably feel they were unlucky not to have taken even a bonus point from the double-header, this was a much-improved Edinburgh performance.

The Gunners will have wanted to go in like the SAS from the opening kick-off. While recent outings have seen them start more like the WRVS, they had a very strong first ten minutes this time, with Laney giving them the lead with a penalty on two minutes and sparkling back play featuring Laney, Lee, and Di Rollo early on. Only little knock ons in dangerous positions denied the capital men on a couple of occasions, but the Paterson-Laney five-eighths combination was working well.

Paradoxically, the Gunners' spectacular opening try came after the first spell of concerted Leeds pressure. Throughout the game, the visitors were alive to the attacking possibilities afforded by using turnover ball quickly; and a brilliant interception by Simon Taylor on the Edinburgh 22 fed the other Simon, Webster, who pinned his ears back and sped down the wing almost the length of the park to touch down under the posts. As soon as he had broken through the home defence, no-one was going to catch him. Laney's conversion took the score to 10-0 Gunners; a real kick in the teeth for the Tykes, who had been beginning to find their rhythm.

The game was massively physical, but the Gunners contained the Tykes pack well, though home wings Christophers and, in particular, Albanese looked dangerous when they got the ball. A fantastic save by Jackie Joiner on the Edinburgh try line denied the home team a try on 25 minutes, before first Jackie then Dougie Hall almost made it over the Leeds line with five minutes of the half to go, only solid Tykes defending keeping them out, to keep the lead to only 10-0 at half-time. Unnecessary penalties were costing Leeds dear as ball carriers got isolated in good positions, then held on too long on the floor as the swarming Gunners' defence, well, swarmed over them.

Gordon Ross appeared at half-time. But the Gunners now had the advantage of the strong wind and made that advantage count early on with a smartly taken dropped goal from second five-eighth Laney. Gogs' distribution was far slicker than Walsh's had been, but Leeds were still unable to break out of the Gunners' immense defence.

Marcus Di Rollo, who had had a fine game up to then, notched Edinburgh's second try on 45 minutes, juggling an interception theatrically before gliding over from 30 yards out. Laney's conversion took the score to 20-0 to the visitors and the game was effectively over.

The Gunners went a little off the boil in the next 20 minutes, seemingly content to contain the Tykes, with a fine tackle by Taylor and excellent collective defending at a series of scrums on the Edinburgh five metre line keeping the Tykes scoreless. At the other end, a super Webster break put Lee away outside the home 22. But the busy full-back turned into tacklers, rather than using the overlap outside, and the chance was lost.

A Laney penalty on 63 minutes increased the lead to 23-0, but should the Gunners instead have gone for the corner and the third try in an effort to secure the crucial fourth try for the bonus point? It was a difficult call to make.

Hugo Southwell came close on two further occasions in the final minutes, which also saw, amid the usual flurry of substitutions, Ali Strokosh come on for his first taste of European action. But there was to be no more scoring and the Gunners closed out the win, to take them back to the top of Pool 2, two points ahead of Toulouse with two more games to go. The Gunners are also the only undefeated team left in the entire competition, with Gloucester and the Scarlets both losing this weekend.

It's the Ospreys at home next week as the group stages build up to a climax. A win would likely guarantee Edinburgh's passage to the quarter-finals - making them the first Scottish team ever to do so. But the Gunners will have to be at their best to beat a Neath-Swansea team that is far better than their current unhappy record suggests. Come along to Meadowbank to cheer the guys on and, hopefully, to celebrate at full-time! For non-season ticket holders, tickets are available through the Edinburgh Rugby website, the ticket hotline on 0870 272 6600, or on the night.

MAN OF THE MATCH:

The maestro, BRENDAN LANEY, took the Heineken award for the second game in a row. If ALLAN JACOBSEN had opposing tighthead, Powell, for breakfast in the tight last week, Chunk-ophiles will be delighted to learn that the PL favourite had his replacement, Holt, for high tea (this is Edinburgh we're talking about) this afternoon to earn the Ed's vote.


Read Bill Lothian's verdict in the Evening News: http://www.sport.scotsman.com/rugby_superteams.cfm
The opposition view is at http://www.leedsrugby.com


Scorers: Edinburgh: Laney 2C 1DG 2P, Webster 1T, Di Rollo 1T
Leeds

Tykes: Cardey; Christophers, Snyman, Davies, Albanese; Walsh, Walker; Shelley, Regan, Holt, Murphy, Palmer (c), Ponton, Hyde, Popham Replacements: Powell, Cusack, Morgan, Rigney, Persico, Ross, Botham

Edinburgh Rugby: Lee; Webster, Di Rollo, Laney (c), Joiner; Paterson, Blair; Jacobsen; Hall, Smith, Hines, Murray, Dall, Hogg, Taylor. Replacements: Di Ciacca, Brannigan, Kellock, Strokosch, Burns, Philip, Southwell

Referee: Donal Courtney (Ireland)

OBSCURE RUGBY TERMS: No 57: "Second five-eighth"

The Ed is indebted to the legendary Norman Mair, who recently explained the origins of the "second five-eighth" term in his Scotland on Sunday column as follows:
"The berth, to answer a perennial inquiry, dates back to 1903 and the All Blacks' captain, Jimmy Duncan, who pulled one of his forwards out to play between the half-backs and three-quarters. Hence the term, five-eighths." Those Kiwis certainly know their fractions.