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Edinburgh 28-29 Llanelli

There weren’t that many Halloween costumes on display at Murrayfield – it was far too cold for that sort of thing – but the question on everyone’s mind was: what would Edinburgh turn up dressed as – ninjas or clowns?

In the end it turned out to be a decidedly mixed bag, but thankfully less on the negative side than previous weeks.

Both sides began with the usual probing kicks, and much fancied Scarlets tighthead Samson Lee burst through Harry Leonard after an ineffectual up and under from the youngster. Scrum half Gareth Davies looked like he might run riot, but Edinburgh recovered their composure as the chilly crowd wondered if it was to be more of the same from recent weeks.

If Edinburgh were to kick, it would have to be done well. Their porous defence wouldn’t withstand rapier attacks, never mind broadswords the size of George North.

Edinburgh kept up the pressure ball in hand and it wouldn’t really have been an Edinburgh match unless Tim Visser popped up for a score, claiming his 8th try of the season. In the opening minutes he wasn’t going hell for leather under high balls with a dodgy leg, but the try eased him into the match and he went looking for work as usual thereafter.

He wasn’t alone, with Denton, Titterell and Nel all desparate for work and clearly keen to up the tempo from previous weeks. Denton in particular was being used as a crash ball centre in the absence of the late call off Nick De Luca, who was to have been switched to 12 for the night to bring the defensive decision making closer to where it was needed.

The Scarlets meanwhile were looking dangerous any time they turned Edinburgh round. The home team love a loose game, but the visitors back three of North, Williams and Stoddart are not scared of it either. It was said back three that opened the away scoring but through keeping it tight, an NFL-style handoff from fellow wing Morgan Stoddart in a maul going the other way allowing North to dive over.

The next score was a Leonard penalty, with French ref Marius Mitrea looked open to giving decisions if they were earned in the right part of the pitch, as Edinburgh’s increasingly were.

The ding-dong scoring continued though as Nick Reynolds carved through the 22 and Edinburgh’s defensive line to slide over – another soft try.

A great break from Scott playing out at 13 set the crowd alight and Leonard kicked another penalty, but it wasn’t long before North showed his class and the Edinburgh defence’s lack thereof; he created a try from nothing on the half hour mark to return the lead to Llanelli.

Leonard kicked a penalty and the lead changed hands again. Edinburgh’s discipline had been good but their defence largely shocking, while the Scarlets were great in attack but making plenty of errors in their own half.

Llanelli clearly fancied a bonus point before half time and although Ross Rennie did sterling work to rip the ball free on the try line it was then knocked on by McInally and the Scarlets back line found themselves with an unexpected gift.

Half Time: 19-26

It looked like more of the same in the second half with plenty of dinky kicks in behind and lots of running around; perfect for the freezing conditions.

On 47 mins there was another penalty for Edinburgh while it was hard to remember the Scarlets having even one. Leonard missed his first kickable of the half but Visser, Titterell and Denton were still massively keen and finding more holes to get him down into kicking range.

The Scarlets poor discipline continued in defence and soon they were down to 14 after scrum half Davies killed the ball. Edinburgh got 6 points back during their man advantage; they probably would have wanted more, with unconverted pressure on the line.

As it was, Edinburgh went into last 20 minutes only a point down and there was no way of telling which direction the score would edge in. Edinburgh were clearly on the up and the penalties were rolling in but the Scarlets still harboured a threat within range of the line.

Leonard had a chance from out wide on the 22 and nailed it to increase his personal haul and snatch the lead back. In defence he was often hidden out wide as the Scarlets were clearly targeting him with their big boys – a gameplan that would work with any current Edinburgh 10 – but with the boot he was imperious.

Edinburgh’s set piece was good all night, their driving maul was good, discipline excellent for 75 minutes.

As the Scarlets got some rare ball Edinburgh suddenly found their defensive mojo with two periods of excellent defence under pressure but it was an uncharacteristic lapse in discipline that gave the Scarlets their first kickable penalty of the night.

It was by far the most important one though as Priestland gave the Scarlets the lead again and they held on for a frantic last 2 minutes to see the game out.

“It was absolutely gutting to lose with the scoreboard on our side with a couple of minutes to go. It’s really devastating for us,” said official Man of the Match Harry Leonard afterwards, having scored most of Edinburgh’s points – although he gave the credit to his forwards. “The penalties come from other people’s hard work.”

Speaking afterwards Michael Bradley also cut a hugely frustrated figure but denied there were any problems with the instructions the players were given. His message to the players in the dressing room afterwards: “You have to make your tackles.”

“The system is fine. Individuals are just missing tackles,” he went on. “It’s difficult to explain. One moment in a match a guy makes a tackle the other moment he makes a tackle. It’s not that they don’t know how to tackle.”

David Denton was even more honest: “it’s never acceptable to lose and we’re really pissed off. It’s not what we want to give back to the loyal fans that are supporting us.”

“Something’s got to change, but at least today there is something we can take from the game.”

Bruised from a physical encounter, the back row man went on: “Tonight we showed we can play rugby. It is very frustrating that we didn’t close the game off but I would take that over the last few games any day.”

SRBlog Man of the Match: David Denton for a massive effort in ball carrying and defence, possibly his best of the season. Leonard’s kicking was noteworthy although his defence was a weak spot for at least one of the tries.

Attendance 3,754

2 Responses

  1. This is a much better report than Morrison’s negative and over-the-top one in the Scotsman.

    Keep it up.

  2. I thought and think that Morrison was fair and positively kind to several underperforming players.

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