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Munster: 16 (10) Edinburgh: 18 (10)

Last time Edinburgh won in Cork was nearly 15 years ago, when Irish Independent Park was known as Musgrave Park.  It is surely no coincidence that that was also the last time I myself was in attendance at this venue.  I remember a young Al 'Stroker' Strokosch playing a blinder at openside as the Embramen emerged with the spoils.  The ground hasn't changed a great deal since then and it still feels like a slightly less intimidating venue than Thomond Park in Limerick.  Everything is relative, mind, and there are good reasons why the Gunners had not repeated the feat until this evening's error-strewn, hard fought win.

It was not pretty; it was not much fun to watch; it was not even all that exciting.  But it was an away win in a place where the locals had not been defeated for three years.  And it was four precious league points, taking Edinburgh to second in Conference B, only two points off leaders Munster.  The Gunners silenced a few critics tonight.

Their execution wasn't great, but it was their attitude and determination that ultimately won this match.  At the crucial moments in defence, they dug in; in attack, they kept their cool when it really mattered.  If they can make this a habit, they will win many more tight affairs than they lose this term.

For tonight's PRO14 clash, Munster rested all 14 of their World Cup internationals, while the Embramen fielded a strong starting XV, with more quality to come off the bench. Tyro 10 Ben Healy was paired with Dan Goggin at half back for the home side. 

One wondered whether their inexperienced hinge might hinder the men in red.  And it looked that way early on, a second string Munster side seeming hesitant.  From the kick off, the young playmaker - already bloodied from a head knock in the warm up - was put under pressure with an awful pass that he knocked on on his own tryline to give away an attacking five metre scrummage for the visitors. It looked like Matt Scott might just have managed to cross, cutting back against the grain to barge through the packed defence. After some debate between the TMO and referee Mitrea, the score was indeed given within the opening two minutes.  It seemed a marginal call, but Richard 'Cockers' Cockerill will not have been complaining as 'Piet' van der Walt knocked over the extras for an early 0-7 Embra advantage.

There followed a fair bit of action in the middle of the park.  While it didn't lead to anything of consequence, the Gunners had the upper hand and were showing commendable aggression in the forward confrontations.  Munster looked like a scratch side, frequent handling errors and inaccuracies meaning they posed little genuine threat to the Edinburgh defence.  van der Walt pushed the lead out to 0-10 with a beautifully struck long penalty for a home scrum infringement on 20 minutes.  It was a fair reward for their dominance over the first quarter.

Healy did score his first points in Munster colours shortly afterwards, with a penalty for a ruck offence on 23 minutes to narrow the lead to 3-10.  Edinburgh enjoyed a number of threatening moments in attack over the next 10 minutes, slight handling errors denying them reward for their attacking ambition.  Scott, once again, was shining with ball in hand, and van der Merwe terrifying the defence every time he was unleashed in space.

But what Munster lacked in finesse, they made up in their spoiling effectiveness.  As another intricate Embra move broke down in home territory, the Irishmen hacked the ball clear.  van der Merwe was caught running the ball back and forced to hold on.  While the Gunners defended the attacking maul off the ensuing lineout, then defended 23 phases on their line, eventually Munster were awarded a try to level this match on 35 minutes, against the run of play.

During the attack, the Gunners had lifted both pads around the base of their goalposts to foil a touch down against them.  It was a Brendan Venter-esque bit of creative play.  But referee Mitrea made it very clear after the score that this was not acceptable, as well as being dangerous.  That is surely correct, albeit the laws themselves are not quite right as they stand.  It doesn't make much sense for a try to be possible in a situation where the ball is touched down short of the tryline and when the defence has no realistic opportunity to tackle the attacking player.

And the visitors' discipline let them down big time in the closing minutes of the half.  With the home crowd booing loudly after The Sledgehammer had given away a breakdown penalty that was as silly as it was blatant, Healy knocked another penalty into touch in the Gunners' 22. 

This was a key moment. Edinburgh's pack, 'Big' Ben Toolis to the fore, stood strong to neutralise the attacking maul to win a defensive scrummage.  While the Embramen should have had a comfortable lead at the break, given their control of the game, they could easily have gone into the sheds behind.  Time to regroup and attempt to press home their superiority in the second period.

Healy did put Munster in front for the first time in the game, though, with an impressive long penalty on 42 minutes. Immediately afterwards, it looked like The Greatest Schoeman had rolled over for a brilliant try, following an equally brilliant clean break and sprint through the defence by the rampaging McInally.  The TMO correctly adjudged the ball to have been held up, giving the Gunners the consolation of an attacking scrum five. Now it was Edinburgh's turn to pound the line.  But a handling error by The King when the ball was eventually shipped wide allowed the men in red to hack clear again.  This really was not good enough, particularly when The Sledgehammer was standing unmarked on the wing and would likely have crossed.

This was starting to look like one that would get away from the Embramen as Munster upped the intensity in the middle quarter and the Edinburgh penalties started to mount up.  Healy slotted an easy three to stretch the lead on 52 minutes to 16-10.

Then things started to go the Gunners' way again.  'Denis' Hickey, just on for van der Merwe, slotted a penalty after a ruck infringement with Edinburgh pressing in the red zone to narrow the deficit to 16-13 Munster on 56 minutes and still all to play for. And again the pack stood tall to foil a potential key moment soon afterwards.  Munster powered their way into Edinburgh's 22, but Watson, who had a characteristically busy match in the loose, took his opportunity brilliantly to force a breakdown penalty.  The Gunners cleared, forced a Munster penalty and all of a sudden it was the Embramen who had an attacking lineout deep in their opponents' 22.

And in a fairly chaotic piece of play, advantage being played for a cynical Munster offence, The King broke every rule in the book by drifting across field aimlessly.  But he redeemed himself as his impeccably judged kick to the corner sat up perfectly for The Sledgehammer to gather and cross.  16-18 was the Gunners' advantage on 65 minutes as the momentum seemed to be shifting back in a Scottish direction in this tight affair.

Entering the last five minutes, the Gunners were playing in the right place as The King knocked a penalty into the home 22.   Munster infringed at the lineout and he repeated the feat with three minutes left to run.  This time, the Embra maul rumbled forward.  It looked like there were a number of home infringements as the maul headed goalwards, but it came down and Munster were awarded a defensive scrum five to give them a last roll of the dice.

But they could only clear to their own 22.  And from the lineout, the Embramen did their pick and drive drill to kill the clock as my Premier Sports app gave up the ghost at the worst possible time.  Happily, I emerged from radio silence eventually to note with quiet satisfaction that the Gunners had indeed run out deserved winners.  They had made life more difficult for themselves than they should have done against game opponents.  But, as the cliche goes, the good teams win despite playing badly. 

The boys will return from Cork with their confidence boosted ahead of Wasps' visit to BT Murrayfield in the European Challenge Cup next Friday evening





Edinburgh: 20 (10) Dragons:7 (0)

At BT Murrayfield this evening, some perspective was lent to what is, after all, only a game by the impeccably observed silence and lone bagpipier playing The Flooers o the Forest to mark this Remembrance time


It's been quite a week nonetheless.  Last Saturday, the Springboks simply blew England away in the Rugby World Cup final.  Eddie Jones knew what was coming, and it duly did, but his side just could not live with the brutal efficiency of the South Africans.  A dominating set piece, suffocating defence and two wingers with that little touch of magic to carve open a tiring opposition defence. That's a style that has also served Saracens so well for some years as one of the dominant forces in European rugby.  But this week saw the Londoners docked 35 league points having been found to have violated the English salary cap.

While Edinburgh are playing a wider game this season, it would be Springbok-style rugby that would win them this scrappy

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Edinburgh:46 (26) Scarlets:7 (0)

When I watched England defeat Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals last weekend, the word that kept springing to mind was 'commitment' - to their gameplan, to their team, to each other. 

And their famous victory over the All Blacks this morning was more of the same.  It was no accident that five-eighths Ford and Farrell were their top tacklers against the World champions.  Successful teams are built on universal commitment to do the unglamorous work that lays the platform for the fancy stuff that they played to score some super tries.  Whoever they play in the final will have to go some to beat them.

In more humble action at BT Murrayfield this evening, Edinburgh fielded plenty of firepower in the backs.  The once and future international Scott/Bennett combo was back in midfield, while to the power and pace of Duhan van der Merwe and The King Blairhorn was added the, erm, power and pace of debutant winger Eroni Sau.  So far this