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Edinburgh Rugby: 20 (20) Llanelli Scarlets: 9 (6)

The Glasgow Boys, of course, were a school of painters of the late 19th and early 20th century.  Young men with strong links to The Dear Green Place, they had a passion for naturalism.  They also shared a marked distaste for the Edinburgh-oriented Scottish art establishment, which they viewed as oppressive. Plus ca change, as we Edimbourgeois say. Driven and motivated by these ideals they embraced change, created masterpieces, and became Scottish icons in the process.

One Glasgow Boy who risks becoming an Edinburgh icon if he's not careful is Duncan Weir.  The little playmaker was outstanding in a brutally effective performance, owing as much to heart as skill, which saw the Gunners defeat visiting Scarlets, denying the Welsh side even a losing bonus.  The Duncster's Man of the Match performance exemplified the spirit of this side, seemingly as active in the tackle and breakdown as he was with ball in hand and wielding the boot.  Embra overcame some self-inflicted wounds, notably in the form of two yellow cards, to outscore Llanelli two tries to nil.

On a dreich night at BT Murrayfield, one felt that the Gunners had selected a pack to dominate possession, enabling The Glasgow Boy to kick for field position, setting up scoring opportunities in the enemy red zone. This was not really the night to throw ball around.  That said, it was good to see Phil Burleigh return to the second five-eighth role, inside the offload king, Sasa Tofilau.

I was pleased to see jinking James Davies, my favourite Team GB player from the Olympic 7s, take the field for Llanelli.  But it was South African tighthead Kruger doing the breakdown jackaling that won a penalty on two minutes.  Patchell hit the post in what was already proving to be an error-strewn game.  The Scarlets were enjoying the lion's share of early possession, helped by the Embramen giving away three penalties for holding on in the tackle in the first ten minutes.  But the Gunners' defence looked comfortable as the visitors played just a bit too much rugby for the conditions.  Eventually, Patchell gained some reward for pressure with a long penalty on 12 minutes.

Whatever else may have been going poorly for the Embramen, though, the scrummage was motoring.  They won their second scrum pen on 18 minutes, having given away a defensive scrummage on their first foray into the enemy red zone when the Scarlets had initially defended an attacking maul well.  Weir's effort bounced in off the post and it was all square at the end of the first quarter.

Immediately afterwards, quick lineout ball on the 22 saw Hardie, Tofilau and Sutherland make ground.  The ball went loose and appeared to be played by a Scarlet in an offside position, but an Edinburgh knock on was called.  A Welsh infringement at the scrummage saw the put-in chosen by the home side. A series of pick and drives saw them edge closer and closer, eventually forcing a penalty and a warning to the Scarlets.  Weir took the simple points to edge the Gunners 6-3 ahead on 25 minutes.

But just as one felt the Gunners were taking control, Patchell knocked over a breakdown penalty on 29 minutes to level the score once again. Certainly, the balance of field position was shifting the capital side's way, though, and the touchdown eventually came on 33 minutes.  Weir saw the blitzing defence shoot up offside from the breakdown and put in a beautifully weighted kick behind.  The covering Williams somehow managed to miss the ball completely, which bounced invitingly for Mike Allan to touch down in the corner.  Weir's excellent conversion from wide out put the Gunners 13-6 up with the break beckoning.  It took an excellent Hardie steal at an attacking Llanelli breakdown to stop the visitors crossing themselves on 36 minutes, though.  The Welsh penalty count continued to mount and eventually Ball saw yellow for an offence at the maul on 39 minutes. 

After the Embramen had royally botched their attacking lineout, an hilariously inept Williams clearance effort saw the ball bounce wildly, ending up in a startled Bradbury's hands.  The big No 8 overcame his astonishment to motor over for try number two, again well converted by Weir for a handy 20-6 Embra half time lead.  Ball's indiscipline had cost the visitors big time and these last five minutes looked like they might prove crucial in the final analysis.  On a night like this, a 14 point deficit is a mountain to climb.

Immediately on the restart, the referee called in the TMO to review a Bradbury tackle.  It was undoubtedly a yellow and Scafrlets looked to take advantage kicking to the corner.  The capital side defended well and forced the breakdown penalty to clear the danger.  Great kick by the Duncster as the diminutive playmaker was starting to boss this match. Still a 20-6 advantage going into the crucial middle quarter.

Burleigh put the home side under unnecessary pressure with a foolish penalty on 53 minutes.  He was carded for his trouble as Patchell's third kick sailed over to narrow the gap to 20-9.  Rasolea came on for Tofilau in the centre. Mike Allan's excellent kick chase forced a penalty holding on immediately afterwards to give Weir a long penalty shot.  Although he missed right, time was running down in the second power play. 

That said, Scarlets soon had numbers on the left wing and forced another penalty, which they kicked to the corner.  It was superbly defended by the Gunners, Toolis and WP winning the turnover.  Heroic stuff again at the breakdown a couple of minutes later with Llanelli threatening - Duncan Weir with jackaling worthy of Pocock secured a defensive penalty to clear. The Scarlets were upping the pace, though, and Edinburgh were having to scramble to close the gaps. They needed to control field position once again and stop trying to force the play quite so much as Burleigh returned to the fray on 63 minutes.

Play was becoming increasingly end to end in the last ten minutes as the Welshmen desperately tried to take something from the match.  And it seemed like Steffan Evans must score in the corner, only to be denied by superb defensive work by Rasolea and Allan.  However, Allan was penalised for a high tackle after much debate between the referee and TMO, giving Llanelli a lineout close in with three minutes left on the clock. Edinburgh defended the driving maul well and it was scrum time for the visitors. Bid D Gunners with time running out and the Scarlets hurling themselves at the line.  These guys just were not going to cross and eventually the Embramen won a defensive lineout, mauled upfield and the feisty Fowles kicked to touch on no-side.  A hard fought, not very pretty, but ultimately well deserved victory.  The show is back on the road..




Cardiff Blues: 34 (17) Edinburgh Rugby: 16 (13)

I still have nightmares of an awful night some years ago watching Edinburgh succumb to defeat in a South Walian monsoon, bullied up front at Rodney Parade with Peter Fitesemanu crashing over from short range for the winning try.  I had thought these days were over.  Now it's the Embra pack who're dominating the enemy.  When it comes to an arm wrestle, it's the Gunners who come on top.

Well, not tonight.  At a subdued Arms Park, the Blues, led by the perennially abrasive Kiwi back rower Nick Williams, scored two tries in a dominant second half performance to come away with a deserved bonus point win.  They had the lion's share of the field position throughout and gave away little ground in defence all night.  With their noses in front and with field position as the heavens opened yet more, they strangled the life out of this match and took the chances when they came.

I know I keep saying it and I'm just some guy who watches from the



Edinburgh Rugby: 21 (7) Newcastle Falcons: 26 (14)

In 1975, in order to commemorate the life of former Edinburgh Wanderer, Arthur Smith, who had captained both Scotland and the Lions, a Wanderers Select played the Irish Wolfhounds on the international pitch at Murrayfield.  At half time, there was a demonstration of a new form of the game, mini rugby, accompanied by an invitation to any child aged between eight and twelve to return the following Sunday to have a go.  On the appointed day, the three volunteer coaches were startled when 238 excited children descended on them in the pouring rain.  They had to call in reinforcements from the SRU ground staff for what was a Scottish first.  Last season, Murrayfield Wanderers celebrated 40 years of mini rugby on the back pitches (training on Sundays at 1200 midday, new season starting this Sunday, the 28th  All welcome.  Other mini sections are available ...).  

Watching mini rugby is one of those life affirming experiences.  One

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