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EDINBURGH JUST NOT AT THE RACES

Racing 92: 56 (20) Edinburgh: 3 (3)



When the Gunners play Racing 92, it's always a great excuse to look back at that amazing, Greeg-inspired 48-47 victory at Murrayfield in the Heineken in 2011.  It was, astonishingly, not televised live, but shaky film of the encounter can still be found on YouTube. Both sides looked like they were dead and buried at times during that match, but both fought back, playing exhilarating rugby.  When all hope looked to be lost, they both gave it a lash with no fear.  In the end, it was the Embramen who sneaked it.  There are still a few elder statesmen left from that amazing time, including Grant 'Gilcho' Gilchrist, Henri Chavency and the great Juan Imhoff.  

One Racingman who was not on the carpet in the futuristic Paris La Defense Arena this afternoon was Finn Russell, suspended after his red card during Scotland's recent victory over France.  Last year's losing finalists nonetheless fielded their usual star-studded outfit.  Particularly with an experimental Embra side featuring The King Blairhorn in his old position of first five-eighth, very few would have given the visitors a chance in this one.  They had a strong pack and a workmanlike back division with a sprinkling of stardust.  But with no-one expecting anything from them this afternoon and no pressure on their shoulders, one wondered whether another famous French upset might be on the cards.  Toulouse, Perpignan, Montpelier, Brive and Racing themselves have all fallen to the Gunners over the years.  Could this be another?

In the end, Edinburgh were simply blown away by Racing's winning combination of power and panache.  They had this one won after an hour and could afford to coast to the finishing line.  The pack won quick ball, setting the platform for their stellar backs in a dominating, almost error-free performance.  If the bullocking Camille Chat exemplified the contribution of the piano shifters, the brilliance of Virimi Vakatawa personified the piano players. Number 8 Jordan Joseph got the man of the match award, but it could have been anyone in the home side.  The Gunners just had no answer.  There were glimpses of individual quality from the Scots, but the whole proved to be rather less than the sum of its parts.  The Parisians duly cruised on to the quarter finals with plenty to spare.

Straight away, Edinburgh carved open an opportunity.  After a great breenge from WP, the ball was moved to the left and only a misdirected pass from Duhan denied Hoyland the chance to scoot up the wing.  Would they rue the missed chance?  It seemed they might not as Jimmy Johnstone did cross immediately afterwards, cutting clean through the defence on a brilliant line after a fine pass from The King off lineout ball.  But Ritchie had just nudged the ball forward gathering off Gilcho's catch and the try was rightly chalked off.  It looked like the home side were about to take advantage immediately, Chat smashing deep into the Gunners' 22, but Racing sealed off five metres out, enabling Blairhorn to clear on five minutes.  Phew!

Machenaud did nudge Racing ahead with along penalty on seven minutes.  And they were winning terrifyingly quick ball in attack. But the French side were penalised at the breakdown to enable The King to level things up with a straightforward penalty on 13 minutes. And there was hope at the restart.  Although Edinburgh botched the reception, the imperious Watson rescued superbly, then Bill Mata sparked a break by exploding through the ruck, enabling Pyrgos to clear.  While the Gunners were under the cosh, they were holding their own and would actually have been the happier of the two sides as the first quarter came to a close.  There would assuredly be more chances for them.

Racing then smashed the Embra line repeatedly, but that scourge of French sides, Future Scotland Captain Jamie Ritchie, won a superb breakdown penalty to clear the immediate pressure.  The Parisians were right back on the attack, though, and Chat smashed his way over beneath the sticks.  No panache.  Just power. 10-3 Racing on 26 minutes and they had the momentum now.  Machenaud duly stretched the advantage with another penalty on 31 minutes.

And things got worse for the Gunners as Racing injected the panache, sparked by a wonderful Vakatawa offload.  Once they were behind the defence, they were on easy street to put Machenaud over for his try.  20-3 Racing on 35 minutes.  At this stage, Edinburgh had had only 29% possession.  They desperately needed ball and field position. They also needed an option beyond the willing Gilcho at the lineout.  Blairhorn then knocked a penalty into the enemy 22.  In an extraordinary passage of play, the Gunners somehow managed to be pushed right back to their own 22, then countered superbly to end up back inside the Racing 22.  When in space, they made good ground.  But at times they ran out of ideas, typified by Pyrgos finding himself in wide open prairie on the counter, but doing a 360 looking in vain for support. 

The half ended with Edinburgh having an attacking lineout five metres out.  They pounded the Racing line, yet while The Mish was driven over, he was held up and the Parisian side were left sitting pretty at the break.  A 10 point deficit would have given the visitors hope.  17 points looked like a bridge too far, with Racing looking imperious.  

The second half began with van der Walt on in the 10 slot for Blairhorn.  But it was no change as Racing were again on the attack early.  Crossing at a five metre lineout gave the Embramen a chance to clear the pressure. One bright spot was the scrummage, where WP was working his customary magic on Eddy Ben-Arous.  The great man won a scrum penalty and van der Walt knocked a great kick deep into the Racing 22.  But Edinburgh messed up the set play and were pinged in the ensuing confusion.  Another chance had gone abegging.  You just cannot afford to do that against opposition as strong as this.

Once again, when the Gunners gave their danger men, such as Mr Darcy Graham, a bit of space, they looked good in isolation.  You could not fault their endeavour and they defended stoutly. But the accuracy in handling, passing or kicking just wasn't there as they snatched at chances.  Gibert then knocked over a long penalty on 56 minutes to stretch the lead to 23-3 and Racing emptied their bench, perhaps feeling that their job was done.

Joseph definitively killed the match on 62 minutes, powering over the line for a close-in try.  When Racing had chances, they made no mistakes.  Iribaren stretched the lead to 30-3 with the conversion.  And in the story of this match, 'Big' Bill Mata made a fantastic break deep into the Racing half, but it took an age for support to arrive.  The Gunners' attack just petered out and Racing struck.  In a bewildering series of offloads, chips and quickfire phases, they worked their way upfield and Kubilashvili eventually crossed.  37-3 with the conversion on 68 minutes.

An error at a breakdown off another decent Mata run saw Thomas jog over from distance to make it a 44-3 shellacking on 70 minutes as Racing cut loose.  Thomas scored again in the corner off first phase on 75 minutes.  And Francois Trinh-Duc rounded off the scoring in a move that said it all.  Shiel managed to break from his own line, but his offload went to Kurtley Beale.  The ball was then shifted wide for the veteran 10 to cross in the corner, Iribaren converting superbly from the touchline.  56-3 Racing at the final whistle.

A sobering result. 

 

80 MINUTES OF TERROR

Edinburgh: 10 (3) Munster: 22 (17)

On Wednesday night, many watched the successful landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars. It is quite a thought that NASA can design a machine that, given the 11 minutes it takes for radio signals to reach Earth, carried out a series of complex manoeuvres, including surviving the 'Seven Minutes Of Terror' as it decelerated from 12,000 miles per hour in the Martian atmosphere, to land autonomously in a tiny target area surrounded by potential hazards over 208 million miles away.  That is a challenging task that requires incredible accuracy and perfect execution.

Sadly, these were qualities that were lacking in Edinburgh's display as Munster's control in attack, set piece and defence saw the Conference B leaders comfortably home at BT Murrayfield this evening. The Gunners had plenty of chances but they just could not take them.  In a match where they were struggling up front for most of the time, they did not have the gumption to vary their play when they were getting

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THE YOUTH IS THE HOPE OF OUR FUTURE

Glasgow Warriors:23 (9) Edinburgh: 22 (10)

The words of José Rizal, Filipino polymath and national hero, sprang to many observers' minds as Glasgow Warriors edged this evening's PRO14 encounter at Scotstoun.

After last weekend's icy false start, it was third time lucky as the visiting Embramen faced off against the Warriors in a rainy second leg of the 1872.  An away victory would see the hallowed trophy remain firmly bolted inside the metaphorical Minifield trophy cabinet for a fourth season in a row.  As it turned out, the series was levelled and it'll be all to play for the next time these two sides meet.

Edinburgh were bolstered by the re-signings this week of club legends Hamish 'The Mish' Watson and Future Scotland Captain Jamie (T) Ritchie, while the west coasters had their own boost in the re-signing of the impressive Tom Gordon.  Recent chat about both pro teams has concentrated on high profile departures.  It's understandable that folk are concerned about which direction

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