Tale of two teams as Ed­in­burgh se­cure morale-boost­ing vic­tory

‘Sec­ond-string’ are too strong for Ir­ish

The Scotsman - - Sfl In Focus - daVId FEr­gu­SON at MUR­RaY­FIELD sta­DIUM

THERE is only so much one can read into pre-sea­son matches, but the abil­ity of what re­sem­bled Ed­in­burgh’s sec­ond-string to rein in London Ir­ish in the sec­ond half last night and fin­ish them off will have given coach Rob Mof­fat some­thing to think about be­fore the Mag­n­ers League launches next week.

The Ed­in­burgh coach had spo­ken in the week of not nam­ing a start­ing lineup as he ef­fec­tively wanted all the play­ers in­volved to be­lieve they were equal in the run­ning for the start­ing jersey in next week’s league opener at Cardiff. That was blown out of the wa­ter when the side did take to the park, how­ever, as there was a dis­tinct and strong ‘1st XV’ look about the team. Sadly, for the home sup­port­ers, de­spite some bright en­ter­prise and a fine early try by Chris Pater­son, they went into the in­ter­val 14-5 down as London Ir­ish re­vealed a sharper abil­ity to fin­ish op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Ed­in­burgh left out An­drew Kelly (calf), James King (heel), Este­ban Lozada (back) and Steven Turn­bull (back) to give them more time to re­cover for next week’s trip to Wales, while Ir­ish made just three changes to the side that was in the Prin­ci­pal­ity last week­end, beat­ing New­port Gwent Dragons 33-20.

But, af­ter some bright bursts and good de­fen­sive work in the open­ing stages, Pater­son opened the scor­ing with ten min­utes played in a move that re­vealed the value of the side’s ex­pe­ri­enced heads. Mike Blair, again look­ing sharp around the base of the scrum and ruck, took a quick tap-penalty and found Pater­son fly­ing up in sup­port. The full-back’s pace and an­gle of run took him ca­reer­ing onto Blair’s pass and past Delon Ar­mitage, and the 32year-old had plenty left in the tank to reach the line de­spite a mad scram­ble of de­fend­ers grasp­ing at his back.

His con­ver­sion veered on to the right-hand post and came back but with, Craig Hamil­ton steal­ing Ir­ish li­ne­out ball, Mark Robert­son bounc­ing off fear­some dou­ble hits from the vis­i­tors and sum­mer sign­ing Ne­tani Talei, the Fi­jian No 8, of­fer­ing a strong pres­ence go­ing for­ward there was much for the Ed­in­burgh fans to be ex­cited about.

Blair su­perbly caught out the Ir­ish de­fence with a neat jink in be­hind just in­side his own half and had cen­tre Alex Grove, roar­ing up in sup­port, held the pass a sec­ond try was on, but the ball went to ground in one of sev­eral ex­am­ples of the hosts’ pre-sea­son rusti­ness.

Flanker Alan MacDonald sparked an­other fine break, but the Premier­ship side were prov­ing adept at scram­bling in de­fence. A pow­er­ful side in at­tack as well, they re­vealed an abil­ity to fin­ish on the half-hour mark, a break in mid­field suck­ing Ed­in­burgh’s de­fence in tight and, al­though Grove ini­tially de­nied a three-on-one over­lap Topsy ojo, the Eng­land winger, sprung through a gap and beat tack­les to dive over the line.

Ryan Lamb, the stand-off, con­verted, and just two min­utes from half-time he was on the mark again when Ir­ish drove a li­ne­out from a penalty, and their new academy sign­ing, wing Mar­land Yarde, burst from the ruck to dart over.

The sec­ond half was al­most like a new game as Ed­in­burgh sent on 13 sub­sti­tutes, only locks Fraser McKenzie and Craig Hamil­ton stay­ing on, and then added the fi­nal 14th re­place­ment, Stirling County prod­uct Grant Gilchrist just 12 min­utes in for Hamil­ton. Ir­ish were not so rad­i­cal, but did use their size­able bench through the sec­ond half to fur­ther hin­der at­tempts to find a rhythm.

The ‘new’ Ed­in­burgh team were a bit more di­rect and, in Lee Jones, had a fin­isher. The winger signed from Selkirk re­acted quick­est to some loose play af­ter a neat chip-and-chase by David Blair on the hour to out­pace the cover and score in the left-hand corner, and Blair duly con­verted. Af­ter a pe­riod where the tempo dropped, Ed­in­burgh stormed back to life in the fi­nal five min­utes, the for­wards driv­ing hard and re­tain­ing pos­ses­sion well in front of the vis­i­tors’ posts and it paid off with Jones again the hero.

Ross Ren­nie and Tom Brown made good dents be­fore the wing popped up on the right to take a slick pass and cruise into the corner. Blair brought the crowd to its feet with an­other tow­er­ing con­ver­sion to put Ed­in­burgh 19-17 up, a lead they held for the fi­nal two min­utes..

Pic­ture: Dan Phillips

Ed­in­burgh’s Chris Pater­son got his team off to a fine start with the first try against London Ir­ish at Mur­ray­field

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