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Edinburgh: 31 (17) Scarlets: 21 (14)



There has been much chat this week about how some matches, this evening's at BT Murrayfield included, devalue the Guinness PRO14.  Granted, both Edinburgh and Llanelli fielded callow sides shorn of internationals and the injured.  But this was a fantastically exciting encounter, ultimately won by the team that dug deep to keep their nerve and dog out the victory.

If last week in Italy saw key leaders posted missing, this week, everyone turned up - and stood up - back home.  From Ross Ford 'doing a Berghan' to cut down a winger wide out to snuff out a certain score, to the brutal dominance of Pierre Schoeman in tight and loose; from a towering performance by Ally Miller in the back row, to the unfussy effectiveness of CH2 and Jamie Hodgson in the boilerhouse; from the calm control exerted by 'Hank' Pyrgos, to the two try return of Tom 'Schooldays' Brown.  

And, naturally, another dominating shift from 'Big Big' Mata at the base of the scrum, who started and finished this match with a try in his latest Man of the Match performance.

Every match is a series of moments.  When it really counted, the Gunners came out on top in them, no more so that in the final 10 minutes, when the pack put in a herculean effort to win a scrum penalty.  That gave them field position and ultimately led to their fifth try, a score that denied the Scarlets even a losing bonus.

The Welsh side had their moments, scoring three good tries.  But it wasn't to be their night, nor a happy return home for Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.  Sadly, Scotland hope Blade Thomson lasted a quarter of an hour before a nasty looking injury saw him carried off.  One hopes that it is not serious and he will debut for Scotland in the Autumn Internatonals.

The Gunners started strongly, pinning the visitors in their own 22 in teh opening exchanges.  After Duhan van der Merwe had knocked on in goal trying to gather a smart Pyrgos kick, Mata notched the first try on eitght minutes.  From an attacking lineout that rumbled forward, he powered his way over on a night whn he seemed to get over the gain line evry time he took the ball up.

The Scarlets replied almost immediately.  Fonotia slung a great pass out of contact to Williams on the wing for their opener.  But the Embramen hit back soon after.  This time it was Mata who was the provider, feeding Tom 'Schooldays' Brown, the Law primary legend cutting back inside for a neat score.

Further Edinburgh pressure around the half hour so Brown cross for his brace, snaffling a well weighted Pyrgos pass.  17-7 Edinburgh and their tails were up.  But it was only a 10 point margin and the Scarlets narrowed it just before the break, Asquith scoring off a nice kick by first five-eighth Jones.

When Llanelli started the second period the stronger side and 'Denis' Hickey was rightly carded after repeated Edinburgh infringements in their own 22, things were looking ominous.  Kiwi utility back McNicholl scored off first phase ball and short handed Edinburgh were now 21-17 down despite their first half dominance.  Was it to be a repeat of the capitulation against Zebre?

Instead, the spirit of season 2017/18 was reawakened as individual after individual won those key moments.  Just before Hickey returned to the fray, the pack drove and Pierre Schoeman bullocked over for the bonus point score, converted by Socino, to retake the lead.  Then Ford made his wonder tackle to preserve it.

Hickey was ensuring that the game was being played in the right part of the field, deep in enemy territoiry.  Then came that scrummage penalty, won by the front row.  Hickey kicked to the corner, llanelli's Gardiner was carded and Mata put the icing on the cake with his second try just before no-side.  

An important victory and an important statement of intent going into the international break.  The Gunners, this evening, sit third in PRO14 Conference B, just three points off second placed Scarlets.

PARMA LAMMED

Zebre: 34 (3) Edinburgh: 16 (13)

I wouldn't like to have been a fly on the wall in the Edinburgh dressing room after this latest catastrophe in Italy.  It's taken nearly a day for my own blood pressure to return to near normal levels; 'Jarvis' Cockers will still be in total frenzy mode.

In the proverbial game of two halves, the Gunners utterly dominated the first period and the half time score of 13-3 in their favour flattered Zebre.  After the break, though, the Italians scored early and visibly grew in confidence and ambition such that, at no-side, they were well worth their bonus point win.

At times, the Embra performance was reminiscent of their play under, well, Michael Bradley, Zebre's head coach. There was great deliberation about their tactics throughout, looking to take the home side on up front, using the box kick as their primary attacking weapon.  But it was telegraphed, predictable and formulaic.  The Italian blitz defence was outstanding all night and

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GREAT TEAMS BEAT GREAT INDIVIDUALS

Edinburgh: 40 (26) RC Toulonnais: 14 (7)

"Sweep the Sheds: Never be too big to do the small things that need to be done."

The first of the fifteen lessons in leadership from the All Blacks, as captured in James Kerr's excellent 'Legacy', available in all good book stores and well worth a read if you haven't already.  Kerr brilliantly explores what it is about the All Blacks' culture that has made them the most successful international sporting team in history.

New Zealand's success is down to many things.  But it is fundamentally the result of a total commitment to the team, no matter how good the individual players may be.

At BT Murrayfield, glancing through the lineups prior to Edinburgh's first home match in the Champions' Cup for five years, I thought that the Gunners' pack had enough to slug it out with visiting RC Toulon's forwards. But when I looked at the visiting backs, it was difficult not to be nervous of what

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