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Reports & Features

THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT WITH THE EDINBURGH YOUNG TEAM

Scarlets: 28 (14) Edinburgh: 28 (7)



We have all been through the ringer over the last 18 months.  Lost loved ones, lost jobs, lost freedoms that we have all taken for granted as we deal with a pandemic, something that few of us have ever experienced before.  Even for those who feel that they've coped pretty well, all things considered, there can be moments when it can all seem too much. 

So I was so pleased to receive this week Edinburgh Rugby's e-mail to supporters advertising the sale of season tickets for next season, which begins this Monday morning for some.  It is a sign that the return of some sort of normal life is not far away.  More than that, as the Embra tifosi contemplate their seating preferences for the bear pit that will be the Gunners' new stadium on the BT Murrayfield back pitches, Minifield, it is a sign that maybe the new normal will be better than the old.  

The visitors fielded an experimental side at Parc y Scarlets in their last match of this unique season, giving youth its chance with Connor Boyle's first start for the Gunners at openside, while the Skykes/Hodgson boilerhouse looked like a well established combination.  Further back, full back Kyle Rowe really impressed in attack from the off, while there was more gametime for many of the other tyros in navy and burnt orange.  One of them, 'David' Blain, showed his quality, escaping the sin bin to notch the try that sparked their succesful comeback.  On a sweltering day in west Wales, Edinburgh looked like they had come to move the ball wide in an outing whose main value for them lay in what it might mean for next season and beyond.  Going by the evidence of this afternoon, it's looking promising. 

The Embramen looked dangerous at times, but they were let down by their handling too often.  There was no faulting the ambition of their play, nor the opportunities they carved open.  The inaccuracy is eminently fixable as combinations gel.  There is no doubt that the Gunners are losing some real quality at the end of this season, but it looks like there are plenty of youngsters who are more than ready to take the step up. That they fought back to snatch a deserved draw with two late tries was a testament to their never say die mentality.  The ability to stay in the hunt and the composure they showed will serve them well in future as they learn to close out matches when they're ahead, and nick those where they aren't.

Although Edinburgh had the most pressure in the early stages, it was actually Llanelli who were on the board first, Steff Evans creating the space that allowed the lively Kieron Hardy to cross on nine minutes for a 7-0 home advantage. It looked like the Gunners would hit back immediately after a brilliant, powerful break by the impressive Cammy Hutchison sliced through the defence.  The North Berwick legend's perfectly timed pass to Pyrgos was guddled forward, but this was an encouraging sign. The Embra young team were playing with unwonted pace, opening up the defence with their offloading game.

The soon to depart Eroni Sau came close on 17 minutes after a fine example of KBA from Edinburgh put him dancing along the touchline in the enemy 22, but his twinkling toes just strayed into touch.  There was space wide out if the Gunners could get the ball there.  Shortly after, Blairhorn's massive pass to the right wing saw brilliant interpassing from Johnstone, Blain and Ritchie surge close to the score.  A couple of forward breenges and The King nearly finished off, but the ball went forward as he was reaching for the line.

While the Gunners' approach to this match had been pretty anti-Cockers up to now, they reverted to type with a series of close-in drives that eventually saw a fired up Marshall 'Eric' Sykes smash over.  Makeshift first five-eighth The King nailed the extras to even the match at 7-7 on 24 minutes.  But the Scarlets regained the lead as Rogers cruised over after Hardy had surprised the defence by taking a quick penalty, Blairhorn and today's skipper Future Scotland Captain Jamie Ritchie having been a mite unlucky to be penalised at the breakdown. 14-7 on 29 minutes with Jones' conversion.

The half ended with the Embramen piling the pressure on in the home 22, but loose handling enabled the men in red to clear, with Scotland cap Blade Thompson to the fore. The back rower was having an impressive outing in the loose in an entertaining, open affair.  That said, both sides will have been relieved to head into the cool of the changing rooms at the interval. The Scarlets deserved their advantage, having been just a bit more incisive when it mattered, while the Gunners' handling had let them down in similar situations.

A pacy home attack saw the Scarlets come close soon after the resumption, but Blade's attempted offload to his winger drifted forward.  Both sides freshened up their front rows early in the second half, with Scotland legend Dave Cherry entering the fray to shore up an Edinburgh set piece that had creaked a bit up to now.  Kunavula was proving a powerful carrying option off the base.

A steepling kick from Kinghorn behind the defence saw Blain nearly away as he gathered the bouncing ball.  But the Scarlets' scramble defence did superbly well to keep their line intact. It set up a period of Edinburgh pressure inside the home 22.  The TMO was called into action to check out Morgan Jones' attempt to clear Boyle at the ruck on 47 minutes and the lock was duly yellow carded for the shoulder charge. The Gunners' power game duly kicked in as the pack drove from successive tap penalties, Exeter-style.  And it was Ritchie who touched down under the posts, evening this one at 14-14 with another eight minutes of the power play and half an hour of the match yet to run.  Fatigue was setting in on both sides and when Pyrgos' last kick of his match dribbled into touch five metres from the home tryline, it felt like they were starting to take control of the match.

The Sledgehammer duly came very close to scoring in the corner, but The Greatest Schoeman was then held up over the line, giving Scarlets the chance under the new law to drop out from their own line.  Happily for the capital club, Scarlets kicked directly into touch, giving Edinburgh the option of an attacking scrum five!  Frustratingly, a wheeling scrum saw Blairhorn getting the ball under pressure and his long pass to Blain on the wing was misdirected.  More accuracy against an undermanned back division would have seen the young winger score in the corner. 

On 63 minutes, Blain was carded for taking Steff Evans out in the air fielding a high ball, giving Scarlets a one man advantage of their own. The Welsh side took advantage immediately, glorious interplay among the forwards including Blade putting Hardy over for his brace.  It was another sharply taken score after the Scarlets had been under pressure.  The Gunners' captain's challenge on the grounds of a forward pass was not successful and Costello duly added the extras for a 21-14 home lead with 15 minutes to run and the visitors down a man.  And they doubled their lead when they turned on the power with an attacking maul for Hughes to touch down with five minutes left to run.

After Blain had returned from the sin bin, the sinner turned saint as he crossed for a good score, smashing through three defenders off an Edinburgh driving maul.  Chamberlain's conversion narrowed the gap to 28-21 on 77 minutes.  The Gunners duly had a go at tying matters up by running the ball out of their 22 from the restart.  They had a lineout on halfway as the clock ran out.  The King and Sau combined superbly to make ground on the left wing to see them come close, then probe around the enemy 22.  The Embramen pounded the line under the posts and replacement loosehead 'Big' Boan Venter eventually smashed over beneath the sticks.  Chamberlain's conversion secured the bonus point draw, which felt like a fair outcome for two sides who gave plenty in an entertaining match.

So that's it for this season.  Here's to a somewhat more conventional fixture list after the summer break and some of the promise we have seen in recent outings being given the chance to blossom.  

 

 

GLASGOW PREVAIL AGAIN IN THE LATEST INTER-CITY

Edinburgh:24 (17) Glasgow Warriors: 31 (24)

I don't know about you, but I so want to be back watching rugby live.  The thrill of being deafened by Bruce Aitchison on the PA, to feel the collisions on the park and to marvel at WP winning yet another scrum pen.  Hopefully the Covid restrictions will continue to be relaxed and I'll see you in person in Minifield next season.

 

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Glasgow Warriors: 29 (24) Edinburgh:19 (14)

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