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WHEELS COME OFF THE BRADLEY BANDWAGON

Saracens: 40 (14) Edinburgh Rugby: 7 (7)



In truth, the wheels have been absent for some months and it feels like we've been sledging uphill since then.  The Gunners' last win in any competition was the one point squeak over Connacht at the Sportsground on 1 December.  They have managed only another three this term, including the pre-season.  These were against an equally hopeless Cardiff, the rugby giants of newly-formed Zebre and an understrength Ospreys side at home.  At kick off today, they had flopped in the last six outings.There was, therefore, a depressing inevitability about the outcome.  I don't know about you, but I've lost the energy to be angry about all this. 

Two early Farrell penalties put Saracens ahead at a wintry Vicarage Road this afternoon, the snow perhaps making both sides wonder whether playing this fixture in the South African summer might not have been such a bad idea after all.  Saracens were chasing top spot in the pool, which any sort of win today would deliver for sure. No need for a bonus point, as they already sat three points ahead of second placed Munster in a pool that has been pretty underwhelming overall.  That said, Munster were having a go, notching three tries in the first half against visiting Racing Metro in their quest for a five pointer.  Equally, Edinburgh have in the past upset the apple cart in the final pool match, the hammering of USAP Perpignan a few years back being one of the more spectacular examples.  We know they have the ability to beat anyone.  The question is whether they can do so under the current regime.

On the evidence so far this season they cannot.  And it certainly wasn't looking like it when Farrell was on the board again with a third penalty at the end of the first quarter before Ashton scored in the corner on 28 minutes.  The missed conversion left the home side a comfortable 14-0 up.

But Tonks, resplendent in today's special edition shirt, sparked a mini-fightback, alertly snaffling a reply four minutes later off a home handling error after the restart.  Laidlaw's conversion narrowed the deficit to 14-7 down in the snow.  Things were looking up a bit as the Embra men, with nothing to play for - apart from their first point(s) of the tournament this term - had a bit of field position, Netani looking particularly motivated.  It was to be their most promising spell of the match.  Although they could not narrow the gap further before the break,they departed for the half time oranges only seven points down.

After Farrell had missed an early penalty chance in the second period, Ashton motored over for his brace on 47 minutes.  Another failed conversion left the home side 19-7 up and starting to open a handy lead going into the key middle 20 minutes of the half. And they were back in the Embra red zone shortly afterwards, knocking a penalty to the corner.  Defending a close-in enemy lineout was not the time for Edinburgh to make a replacement ... so they made three!  Stevens was duly driven over for a third try amid the confusion.  The game was safe now and Sarries had no need of the try bonus - despite Murray crossing for Munster's bonus at Thomond around the same time. But they seemed up for giving their support a show in the snow before entering the Heineken knock-out stages.  Farrell's conversion left the score 26-7 Saracens with almost half an hour of this nightmare yet to unfold.

The Gunners held out, though, but were under concerted pressure in the final ten minutes as Sarries turned the screw.  Eventually, Hodgson duly crossed for the fourth touchdown, Farrell's conversion taking the lead to 33-7.  And there was yet time for Sarries to trouble the TMO again with a close thing.  It was adjudged that Wyles, whose error had led to the sole Edinburgh try of the match, had scored.  Farrell's last minute conversion completed the 40-7 rout, the visitors having been shut out in the second half.  The pity is that this was not a surprise. A disappointment, a disgrace, maybe.  But not a surprise.

And so the European interlude is over for another year.  A club that made it to last year's semi-finals and which could have reached the final with a fair wind has ended this campaign with a grand total of zero points.  A club that seemed unable to stop scoring tries last term has managed a paltry three in six pool matches this.  A club that last season succeeded by playing exhilarating heads up rugby has failed this year by playing a mindless ten man gameplan that the opposition have had little difficulty in coping with. It is difficult to see what continuing with business as usual is going to achieve.  It is time for a change.