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Krasny Yar: 14 (0) Edinburgh Rugby: 73 (31)

Returning home from the Far East over the years, I've often taken a day flight over Siberia.  One thing that strikes you looking down from 38,000 feet is how much of it there is.  It takes hours to get from one end to the other, passing over evocative natural wonders, such as Lake Baikal, and exotic sounding cities such as Omsk, Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk.  One day, I'd love the chance to visit at least some of them.

Yesterday, Edinburgh Rugby didn't make it to Siberia.  Instead, they played their European Challenge Cup 'away' fixture with Siberian club Krasny Yar at Fili Stadium in Moscow.  They were thereby spared a further five hours and 2,500 miles in the plane.  By comparision, the journey to the Russian Federation's capital was a short hop.

After last season's trip to Romania, it was great for the Embramen to have the opportunity to provide professional opposition for one of the leading clubs in another emerging rugby nation.  And it was not just a goodwill trip.  This same side had the previous weekend turned over Stade Francais, albeit rather further east in Krasnoyarsk, 34-29.  In an impressive victory, they had notched five tries against the Top14 side while they were at it.  If the Gunners had expected this to be a walk in a Muscovite park, that result will have shaken them out of any complacency.

There was certainly little sign that Edinburgh expected the Siberians to roll over when this match kicked off.  They started strongly and had secured the bonus point by the break, sitting a handy 31-0 up.  Pleasingly, they kicked on in the second period, scoring a further six tries to run out 14 -73 winners, Krasny Yar having picked up two tries in the final quarter, including the final score of the match on the stroke of no-side.

As one might expect, a few records were broken on the chilly afternoon.  The Gunners had never scored so many, nor enjoyed such a wide winning margin, in the second tier competition.  Two players, Murray McCallum and The King Blairhorn, notched a try brace in their total of ten touchdowns.  SHC, moving out to the first five-eighth slot following Jason 'Stovies' Tovey's first half injury, added a fine solo try to his nine points with the boot in a perfect place kicking performance. 

The remaining five tries came from the forwards, reflecting the power of the pack which, as with Timisoara Saracens last term, ground down the opposition.  Although the forwards deserve plaudits - and one was again impressed with Luke 'Bing' Crosbie at openside, the latest in the conveyor belt of young back row talent - there were some pleasing lines in the back division too.  James Johnstone shining particularly brightly.

For the record, Edinburgh were 14-0 to the good within the first 10 minutes, early tries by Blairhorn off a fine Johnstone break and SHC having been converted by The Stovenator.  Krasny Yar suffered two yellow cards in the following 20 minutes, Georgian Malaguradze on nine minutes for a deliberate knock on and Artemyev on the half hour. 

By that time, Lewis Carmichael, playing at blindside, had powered over.  Skipper Neil Cochrane added the bonus early in the second power play. A penalty from SHC saw the Embramen end the half a comfortable 31 - 0 up with the only question being whether they would take the foot off the gas in the second period.

Two quickfire scores from replacement loosehead McCallum suggested that the visitors were looking to build a big score.  Just before the hour, their maul, which had been a huge weapon so far, secured a penalty try as the 'home' side collapsed it under pressure.

After Kolomiytsev had crossed for Krasny Yar's first points of the match, The King showed his class with his second try on 65 minutes.  With the clock ticking down, McKenzie and McInally took advantage of the Embramen's maul dominance for tries nine and 10 before Kondakov gave the Russian side a deserved final word with their second touchdown on 80 minutes. 

In either European competition, it is axiomatic that if you can win your home games and one away fixture, you are in with a shout of qualifying for the knockout stages.  The Gunners now have a 2-0 record in the competition before they have played a home match.  With Stade's home reverse against London Irish this weekend effectively ending any real interest they might have had in the competition, qualification will be between the Embramen and the Reading side.  For now, at least, it's advantage Edinburgh.

It's always a bit cliched to say at times like these that 'rugby was the winner' but the Gunners headed off to the airport after the final whistle having made their own small contribution to supporting the growth of the game in Russia.  It was time very well spent and we look forward to welcoming Krasny Yar to Myreside for the return fixture.



Edinburgh Rugby: 17 (14) Benetton Rugby: 20 (10)


Beaten by a pullover.  The shame of it.

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Cardiff Blues: 10(7) Edinburgh Rugby: (10) 20

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