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WE SCARE BECAUSE WE CARE

Edinburgh: 28 (14) Leinster:11 (11)



My abiding memory of Scotland's big win over Australia last season is John Barclay's full-on reaction to his own second half  try.  It was as if he was getting out of his system the years of frustration he had endured when seeming surplus to requirements in the Scotland squad.  Through hard work and determination, he had clawed his way back.  This was someone who cared deeply about pulling on the navy blue jersey.

Barclay's long injury layoff since returning north has given him a chance to have a bash at punditry. Articulate and intelligent with a wry sense of humour, he and Sam Warburton have livened up the BBC's coverage of international rugby this season.  The downside of his foray into old fashioned telly has been what one hopes is the temporary absence of his videoed ambushes of Stuart Hogg last season, scaring the life out of the now blonde bombshell, that became a social media sensation when uploaded to YouTube.

Last night's display at BT Murrayfield showed that the old boy can still play a bit of rugby too.  While the Man of the Match award owed something to sentiment, the back rower put in a solid shift nonetheless.  He has waited nearly a year to make his debut for the Embramen.  On this showing, he is going to bring a crucial touch of veteran nous that will serve the club well when the pressure really comes on.  Every match they play for the rest of this season will demand cool heads if they are to be successful.

And they took one step forward in beating an under-strength Leinster side with a bonus point in a workmanlike performance, where forward power decided the outcome.  The backs were spectators for most of this match as Edinburgh did what they had to do.

Ross Ford, that great servant of the Edinburgh cause, celebrated becoming the second most capped player in the competition, with a try on his 203rd appearance. Although he is in the twilight of his career, he continues to give his all to the club in his trademark unfussy, low profile way.  The veteran hooker was at the heart of a dominating home set piece and sometimes erratic lineout that strangled the life out of the already qualified Dubliners, handing them only their third defeat of this PRO14 season.  It was a sign of how forward-oriented this match was that Duhan van der Merwe did not touch the ball once.

The visitors began well and at pace, easing into an early lead with a Frawley penalty.  Edinburgh were rocking when Fraser McKenzie was rightly carded for a dangerous ruck clearance on Reid.  The Irish side took advantage when international hooker Cronin crossed off the back of a driving maul to put them 8-0 to the good.

Slowly, Edinburgh came back into this one.  In scorning several kickable penalties, the Embramen were clearly thinking of the bonus as well as the win.  After pounding the enemy defence with repeated phases, eventually WP Nel crossed from short range for the Gunners' first touchdown.

The home front row worked their magic in the set piece for their second.  With Bill Mata controllling the ball at the base, the pack again shunted Leinster back at an attacking scrum, forcing them to infringe to avoid a certain try.  Referee Whitehouse, who was not afraid to use his whistle all night, had no hesitation in awarding the penalty try.  14-11 Edinburgh at the half.  They had weathered the early storm and looked in a good position to kick on in the second period.

Fordy's score soon after the interval made it a case of when rather than if the Gunners were going to secure the try bonus.  They dominated ball and territory throughout the second period with Leinster really struggling to gain any kind of foothold. Overall, the Gunners had 63% possession and 66% territory and forced the visitors to make an astonishing 249 tackles.

After more close in phases, Mata smashed over just after the hour.  Hickey's conversion was to be the final score of the night.  Edinburgh shut up shop over the final quarter and had the Leinster attack under lock and key.  Not flashy, not exciting fare for the 6,600 crowd; just calmly and quietly effective. 

The win, coupled with defeats for both Benetton Rugby and the Scarlets,  saw the Gunners climb to fourth in PRO14 Conference B.  The Welsh side are really struggling at present, having been blown away by the Blues last night, so an away victory is eminently achievable.  That will be followed by a must-see, winner-take-all match against Ulster that could decide which club secures automatic Heineken Champions Cup rugby for next season.

Between now and then, though, is next weekend's Champions' Cup quarter final against Munster.  Over 30,000 tickets have been sold already and it is shaping up to be the best attended quarter final match in the history of the competition.  It will be a great occasion and another test of how far the Gunners are on the road to being genuine title contenders.

CREATING A COMMITMENT CULTURE

Looking towards the season run-in

 

In his excellent exploration of FC Barcelona’s winning culture (‘The Barcelona Way: Unlocking the DNA of a Winning Culture’) Damian Hughes begins with an anecdote from Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge at the Camp Nou.

During a match early in his tenure, one of his players shot at goal, but the ball went agonisingly wide.  A chance to take the lead was gone.  Guardiola immediately turned round to look at the substitutes sitting on the bench.  He

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#LOVINTHESCRUMMIN

Edinburgh: 19 (9) Montpellier Hérault Rugby: 7 (10)

A record for a Heineken pool match of 11,802 scrum fans descended on BT Murrayfield this evening to watch Edinburgh's front row crush their oppositve numbers, laying the foundations for the Gunners' fifth win of the pool.

WP Nel won man of the Match, 'Rambo' McInally comprehensively bested the great Bismarck du Plessis and The Greatest Schoeman chewed up Jannie du Plessis so badly that the former Springbok was hooked after only half an hour.  When the trio were replaced en masse on 70 minutes, they left a trail of devastation behind them.  

There is something beautiful about a dominant scrummage.   It's about rugby's traditional values, about winning the physical confrontation and crushing the enemy psychologically.  I would have been very happy watching these guys scrum all night.

As it was, there were a fair number of set pieces as the visitors' handling frequently let them down.  While JP Doyle is a whistler who is not the most enthusiastic

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