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SOUTHERN CROSS DENIES EMBRAMEN

Montpellier Hérault Rugby: 21 (21) Edinburgh: 15 (10)



"I’m very proud of the performance but we can play better. We’ve got to work hard this week because we’ve got to turn these opportunities into wins.”

'Jarvis' Cockers' words after no-side on an afternoon when Edinburgh had pushed Montpellier Hérault Rugby very hard, added to their burgeoning reputation as a handy side at this level, yet had come up short nonetheless.

In Europe, if you win your home matches, nick one on the road and pick up as many bonus points as you can, you've got a shot at qualification. Yes, the Gunners coulda, perhaps shoulda, won this match, given the possession and opportunities they had.  Nonetheless, they came away with what could prove to be a crucial bonus point come the end of January, depending on how this pool shakes out.

This was the toughest match of the pool and the Embramen will take a great deal of heart from it.  The errors that undid them are eminently fixable.  They need fear no-one and can look forward to the visit of RC Toulonnais to BT Murrayfield next Saturday with confidence.  The show should be back on the road this time next week.

The first home try yesterday came on five minutes, off a gorgeous offload in traffic from stand-in first five-eighth Ruan Pienaar. the supporting full back, fellow South African Henry Immelman, came back against the grain to touch down.  The Springbok half-back has so often been the undoing of this Edinburgh side when at Ulster.  it looked like he might do the same trick for his current employers too.

The try had come after the Frenchmen knocked two kickable penalties to the corner early on; a real sign of intent.  For much of the opening quarter, the Gunners struggled to make any kind of impact.

But when it came, Edinburgh's first touchdown was a corker.  The score was sparked by Bill Mata's one handed offload to the supporting Grant 'Gilcho' Gilchrist on halfway.  The big lock made some ground then slipped an even better offload to 'Denis' Hickie, who dodged a tackle and scooted forward, offloading in the tackle to the supporting 'Hank' Pyrgos, some way short of the enemy 22.  The old boy looked like he was going to sail serenely over the line but for a brilliant cover tackle by Pienaar.   

But 'Deadly' Dougie Fife secured the breakdown immediately, the ball spilling back for world class hooker Stuart 'Rambo' McInally, to scoop up and score.  It was a brilliant, buccaneering team try.  As Jarvis said, "If the French had scored that we’d say it would have been called a classic French try. Maybe it’s a classic Edinburgh try now!"

Great handling saw Montpellier's winger, Benjamin Fall, surge up the right from Edinburgh's 10 metre line.  He broke two indifferent tackles on the touch line to score a great try in the corner, but one which looked rather less great from a defensive point of view.  It was a lapse by the Embramen that was to prove costly in the final reckoning.

The home side's third came off turnover ball in their own half, with lofty lock van Rensburg setting off on a charge.  The ball was kept alive superbly before Pienaar picked out Gabriel Ngandebe cutting back off the left wing with an astute bomb for a great try.  Again, though, the defence was rather caught napping in attempting to field the ball, then letting the winger stroll across the line untouched.

Hickey clawed back a penalty before the break, but a 21-10 advantage gave MHR a handy lead and a full half in which to kick on for a try bonus.  Meanwhile, Edinburgh had had their moments, but small lapses had cost them dearly.

A gilt edged chance came in the second period, when Bismarck du Plessis was carded for killing enemy ball on his own line. First Bill Mata came close, then Hamish Watson crossed but was adjudged offside.  Away from home against a quality team like Montpellier, you really have to take these chances when they come.

The Gunners' second touchdown eventually came just before the hour.  Mata took the ball up well deep in the Montpellier 22, yet one felt that he should have offloaded to the supporting Fife.  No matter.  The big man simply drove further on before putting Deadly over in the corner for an unconverted try that left this one intriguingly poised at 21-15 Montpellier going into the final quarter.

The Embramen could have got their noses in front late on as replacement 10 'Piet' van der Walt made good ground on 70 minutes, the ball being taken on by The King Blairhorn and Deadly.  But referee Barnes adjudged crossing as Simon 'Ice' Berghan and 'Ray' Bradbury got in a mini-fankle as the backrower touched the ball down.  The closeness of the call reflected that this match was balanced on a knife edge.

And another close call denied the Embramen shortly afterwards.  Think of Rob Andrew at the bottom of a ruck in the Calcutta Cup or Neil Back in the Heineken final against Munster.  In similar fashion, a French hand appeared to snaffle ball at the bottom of an attacking Edinburgh ruck, but the referee was genuinely unsighted.  Just one of those things.

The match ended with a quite sublime tackle by the unsung Chris Dean on Louis Picamole just as the great No 8 looked like he was going to deny Edinburgh even a losing bonus point, grabbing an interception and running through treacle towards the Gunners' line.  Although the ball was spun wide from the breakdown, a home knock on with time expired gave the Gunners something from a match that they had contributed richly to.  It was just reward for their endeavour, as well as a tribute to their never say die attitude. that will serve them well over the rest of the tournament. 

GUNNERS DEFINITELY NOT ON EASY STREET

Ediburgh: 31 (24) Benetton Rugby: 30 (15)

Kieran Crowley?  Aleister Crowley, more like.  Benetton's kiwi coach has certainly worked some powerful magic since his arrival in Italy, turning Benetton into a force to be reckoned with.  They are strong up front, silky smooth out wide and, but for their failings with the boot, might well have come away with an away win over Edinburgh last night.

As it was, they outscored the Embramen five tries to four and, in hat trick hero Luca Sperandio, boasted the outstanding player on the park.  They will be kicking themselves that they didn't come away with five points, rather than a bonus brace, from this encounter.  

Their attitude also impressed.  When they fell behind, their heads did not go down.  Instead, they hit right back, playing with ambition and scoring some cracking tries.

Ultimately, for Edinburgh this was mission accomplished.  They needed to get the show back on the road with a second home win.  Check. They really

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SCHOEMAN STARS AS EDINBURGH CRUSH CONNACHT. KIND OF.

Edinburgh: 17 (10) Connacht: 10 (0)

A bumper crowd for this fixture of 5000 saw the Embramen huff and puff to notch their first victory of the season at BT Murrayfield last night.  The 17-10 margin flattered the visitors somewhat, given the Gunners' dominance up front throughout.  But the Galwegians weathered the storm and came to life in the final quarter, a fine try from Adeolokun on the hour setting up a tense finish that gave them a losing bonus.

After no side, 'Jarvis' Cockers fulminated about the standard of officiating in the competition. Certainly, one felt that the Schoeman/McInally/Nel front row, among the best in the PRO14, gave their opponents a torrid time up front yet perhaps did not get the benefit.  But there looked to be a little pre-season rust left to shake off in attack still, as Edinburgh's handling frequently let them down, while they sometimes ran out of patience in the red zone and coughed up possession. 

It was an odd match.  Normally, a team that spends so

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