02 July | 18:15:52
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Home victory breaks Edinburgh's losing spell
Edinburgh claw back from a disappointing start of season to trump home team Stirling
Monday, 19 November, 2007 | 10:25
After a poor start to a season that has seen Edinburgh lose away to Stirling and Dundee and suffer a drubbing last week at the hands of Varsity rivals Heriot-Watt, this fixture took on great significance as the university looked to mend their broken ways and avenge the reverse fixture that started the poor run. In the end, Edinburgh held the edge in this close encounter thanks to some inspired back play from Kelechi Eseonu and John Geddie in particular, though it was not all plain-sailing as a late Stirling rally threatened to snatch the win from the hosts.

In crisp, sunny conditions Edinburgh started brightly, taking the initiative from the off, and it was not long before the first points were on the board. After solid forward play set up the attacking base, the three-quarters launched a penetrative attack with Geddie breaking the line and setting up the supporting Eseonu to finish down the left. With the two points added by McGonigle, Edinburgh continued to press from the restart and, following some excellent forward play in the loose and several phases, it was left to Tom Clarke to crash over from three metres out.

McGonigle converted again to leave the hosts 14-0 up with only ten minutes on the board. Stirred from their torpor by the Edinburgh blitz, Stirling responded in kind with a carbon copy try, centre James Griffiths matching his counterpart minutes later. Having established a foothold in the game, Stirling reduced the gap further with McCann slotting a penalty after Edinburgh hands were caught handling in the ruck. With the game on a more even keel and Stirling shoring up the gaps in the midfield, some clever tactical kicking from Doubleday kept the Stirling back three honest.

However, it wasn’t long before Edinburgh regained their early momentum. With the forwards again establishing a solid base, Geddie took a short ball from Henderson and cut a diagonal run back across the Stirling three-quarter line. With the Stirling half-backs sucked in and some smart work by the Edinburgh back row to secure a quick ball, the ball was spun wide with speed to the mercurial Eseonu who ran a zig-zag through the remaining cover defence to score in the corner. McGonigle kicked to go 3 from 3 for the day.

The bit firmly between their teeth now, Edinburgh added a fourth minutes afterward, with Eseonu completing a clinical first half hat-trick. The Geddie/Eseonu one-two punch was once more the source. Middleton, composed throughout under the high ball, took one such ball on his ten metre line and released his back line from right to left. Geddie broke the line with Eseonu close by and a switch on the 22, with Eseonu shaping a run off his wing towards the posts, resulted in another 7-pointer.

Despite Edinburgh’s considerable dominance on the score board, in truth this flattered the hosts. Stirling began the second half determined to press home their slight forward advantage. Sloppy work at the line-out allowed Stirling to secure ball on the Edinburgh ten metre line, and a flowing back move that included a beautiful take-and-give off his bootlaces from Griffiths released Butler down the left wing to storm home and, with the resulting conversion, narrow the gap to 28-15. With the momentum firmly behind them, Stirling began to press hard but thwarted themselves on several occasions through silly penalties.

After his first miss of the afternoon, McGonigle re-composed himself shortly after to convert a penalty, giving Edinburgh what looked like a match-winning deficit. Stirling were not done yet though. Some suspect defence on the Edinburgh blind-side at a scrum allowed the ebullient McRory, who had an excellent game at scrum-half, to finish one of his sniping runs and offer his side hope. Minutes later, after some poor refereeing which missed a blatant knock-on, he was at it again capitalising on the good fortune by collecting his own chip on the Edinburgh 22 and just outpacing the Edinburgh cover defence to score.

Despite McRory’s heroic efforts to drag his team back from the brink, it was ultimately fruitless as Edinburgh held on nervously to secure their second win on the trot. Coach Dale Lyon reflected afterwards: "We’ve had a poor start to the season but the guys have started to turn things round and we’re now starting to put into practice in games what we’ve worked on in training and execute our game plans better. The team’s lost quite a few players from last year and it’s largely a new bunch of lads so we’re rebuilding right now but I’m encouraged that the players have really stepped up to the mark in the second half of this season."

Stirling will probably feel that this was a match they shouldn’t have lost, having had more sustained pressure and controlled the forward battle. However, thanks to some poor handling, indiscipline and poor decision making at crucial times, they could never quite translate this slight dominance into points on the board. Edinburgh were largely indebted to the flying Eseonu and the solid Geddie for their victory and despite the continuing resurgence after a poor start to the season, both forwards and backs will need to work more effectively as individual units and together in order to continue the revival.

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