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Ulster: 16 (7) Edinburgh Rugby:17 (7)

Tonight's match was the first in two crucial encounters between these two clubs.   If Edinburgh could edge both, they would have a crucial advantage in the home straight in the playoff race over an Ulster side who have just parted ways with their longtime coach Les Kiss.  It's been a rocky season for the Ulstermen so far and they are eminently catchable, with four away matches out of six to come.

Tonight was a step in that direction fpr the Embramen as they came away with a brilliant injury time win.  It was a victory built on forward power and the sort of supreme composure at the death that is becoming their trademark.  Man of the Match Fraser McKenzie exemplified both.

Ulster dominated field position in the early exchanges, although the Gunners' defence coped well.  The Embramen were looking frisky in attack, though.  If anything, they were trying to move the ball wide a bit too early on a night where the backs didn't quite click consistently.

Eventually the pressure told in a flowing Ulster move sparked by the massive centre McCluskey.  The ball was shipped wide right where the home team had a two man overlap.  It led to a Cooney try and conversion on nine minutes.  While it seemed like the pass from Timoney to Ludik in the build up was forward, referee Owens saw nothing amiss.

The match looked like it might be starting to drift away from Edinburgh going into the second quarter.  But a great kick chase by Bennett forced a penalty in the home corner.  The Gunners' maul had been starting to dominate in a strong period, but they slipped the lineout ball instead to 'Bill' Mata scooting round the corner to touch down just inside the corner.  Sadly, eagle eyed touch judge Brace spotted a foot in touch and the try did not stand.

The Embramen were still on the attack in the enemy red zone, though.  The pick and gos came in repeatedly until eventually Mata picked up and reached over to touch down agonisingly short of the line on the half hour.  The story of Edinburgh's game so far; starting to crank up the pressure, but the execution was not quite sharp enough.  These are crucial plays and you really need to take the chance when you're on the road.

Then a bit of a let off for Edinburgh, as Fraser Mckenzie looked fortunate not to be carded for a forearm to Luke Marshall in clearing a ruck.  The TMO did his best to persuade referee Owens to give a yellow, but The Best Referee In The World saw nothing amiss.  While it gave Ulster an attacking penalty, the Gunners defended the home maul well and won the ensuing scrummage.

It actually worked out well for the Gunners in the end.  After a thrilling break off the scrum on their own 22, Dean broke strongly, taking ball up well beyond the gain line, SHC took quick breakdown ball on and made great ground.  The fiesty scrum half tehn kicked beautifully for the chasing 'Richard' Harries, supported by the increasingly influential Mata, to touch down.  A fine SHC conversion squared it at seven apiece on 35 minutes.  It was nothing less than the Gunners deserved.

And SHC's fabulous touchfinder into the Ulster five metre line shortly afterwards was touched by a home hand, setting up a second Embra try chance with half time approaching.  The maul rumbled and they picked and drove; an absolutely crucial time.  But Ulster defended superbly, as they did all night, to kill the attack as the ball was shipped out. 

This encounter was intriguingly balanced at the break - but would Edinburgh regret not taking that chance in injury time? On the other hand, in a physical match, Ulster had already lost their impressive first five-eighth McPhillips as well as their winger Gilroy, and were struggling for depth with Cooney stepping inside to 10.

but, playing with the wind, the stand in playmaker had a chance immediately to regain the lead after the restart and knocked a long penalty over for a 10-7 advantage on 42 minutes. 

Edinburgh came right back, pressuring Ulster in their own 22 immediately, Mata and McCallum punching good holes in the defence.  But a kick in goal was just a little heavy as the Ulster injury count continued to mount.  They were smashing the ball up, taking the Ulstermen on up front, making slow but steady progress.  Twice it was the power of Bennett that made the break but eventually the ball was spilled forward.  Excellent defence once again by the home side.  What a confrontation.  But one felt that it was the Gunners who were starting to gain the upper hand heading into the final half hour.

Then, after a period of Edinburgh pressure, a couple of cheap penalties conceded by the Gunners gave Ulster field position and then another penalty shot for Cooney on 54 minutes.   He converted it to stretch the lead to 13-7 and the Embramen needed to start converting their own chances, which were being generated by their suffocating, aggressive defence.  Instead, it was errors at lineout and another soft penalty that allowed Ulster to clear the pressure going in to the final quarter.  Now it was the Gunners who were playing the match in the wrong part of the field.

Another thrilling SHC break off a tap penalty took the ball from half way.  The ball was moved on by Dean then quick ball shipped to the supporting Carmichael, who beat three tackles from distance to cross for a brilliant try on 63 minutes. It was the sort of try that one used to see Iain Paxton score for the national side; all pace and athleticism.  Sammy stroked the ball over beautifully to take the lead 14-13 on 64 minutes.  It was his final act of the match as Nathan Fowles entered the fray.

But the Gunners gave away a breakdown penalty almost immediately, giving Cooney another chance at goal from inside the enemy 10 metre line. The former Connacht man made it16-14 Ulster in this nailbiter with 13 minutes left on the clock.

Yet another Ulster kick charged down by the Embramen and it was the Gunners on the attack in the Ulster red zone again.  Once more, the Gunners pounded the defence; probing close in, probing wide out.  The home defence had taken a huge pounding in an heroic performance; but surely they would crack?  Yet eventually, after countless phases, they won a defensive penalty that allowed them to clear their lines.  Fantastic work rate, heart and discipline from the Ulstermen.

Enter Duncan Weir with nine minutes to run, like SHC about to move on in the close season.  Might the stage be set for The Glasgow Boy?  It was indeed to prove so.

Again it was Edinburgh pressing; again Ulster stood strong in defence.  Entering the last five minutes, could the Gunners draw a penalty?  But they gave away another penalty in attack, enabling the men in white to clear. Then the Embramen managed to win a defensive penalty to keep hope alive.  While Weir's long kick didn't go out, Bowe managed to knock it behind himself into touch to put Edinburgh 10 metres out from the Ulster line with an attacking lineout.  This was the game.

And the next couple of minutes was the story of this evening.  It ended with the Gunners pounding the Ulster line once again.  Bradbury was eventually held up directly underneath the posts as time expired.  Scrum five Edinburgh.  What a match!

And off the scrummage, Weir duly broke Ulster hearts with a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous dropped goal! 

This was 'Jarvis' Cockers' first ever win in Belfast and it put the Embramen into third place in PRO14 Conference B.  In the end, it was a narrowly deserved and crucial win.  These guys just do not lose tight matches in the final 10. 

A playoff place and top level European rugby next season is now in their hands.




Edinburgh Rugby: 29 (17) Leinster: 24 (19)

'International tighthead, Murray McCallum'.  I like the sound of that. 

This was a night for the young Gunners up against an experienced Leinster squad.  As well as their tighthead, the callow Embra pack featured Luke 'Bing' Crosbie, One Man Wrecking Ball Jamie Ritchie, Cammy Fenton, and the increasingly impressive Lewis Carmichael in the boilerhouse, tonight's Man of the Match.  It was a real vote of confidence in these young men, given the firepower the Gunners boasted on the bench this evening.

And they gave as good as they got.  They were down in the final straight, but dug in, worked the ball into the Leinster red zone and converted the try scoring opportunity when it came.  This was a five try bonus point win over the form team in Europe.

More importantly, this was a victory built on composure and fierce resolution.  Absolutely fantastic to see another sign of the spirit and increasing maturity in this

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Edinburgh Rugby: 34 (12) Stade Francais: 33 (6)

When Junior Rasolea pounced for Edinburgh's third try of this extraordinary European night with three minutes left on the clock, it said everything about last night's performance. 

Like tjhe centre himself, for long periods in the match, one felt that the Gunners were on the verge of cutting loose.  There would be the odd half break from Rasolea, Bennett, Kinghorn or Hoyland.  But the dogged Stade defence somehow kept a lid on the enemy attack.  At times, the Gunners would be putting in repeated phases.  But no matter how quickly they won ball to go again, they could not break through.

And in the second period Stade always seemed able to get their noses back in front, Jules Plisson at 10 pulling the strings superbly.  At times, there was the air of a match that would just be beyond the Embraman about this one.

But while it was not That Racing Metro match, there was more than a whiff of it about the way the Gunners refused to be beaten. 

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