Monday 20 November 2017

Myler finds range to break Edinburgh hearts

Edinburgh 27 Northampton 31

Michael Aylwin At Murrayfield

There was romance in the air at Murrayfield, just for a while -- a soaring belief that when rugby is played the way we all love to see it played, it makes a team untouchable.

For long stretches of the first half, Edinburgh were that side. No matter how big the Northampton biceps, the Saints had to yield to a side who were playing just those precious few inches beyond their grasping fingers. But in the end, reality won out. For reality, read Northampton. They were spinning at 24-13 down after half an hour. Three dazzling tries by Edinburgh had them shaking their heads. No one had played like this against them.

When Rob Moffat, Edinburgh's coach, had bemoaned last week how his side had not played their best stuff in defeat against Cardiff, those of us who did not know any better merely raised our eyebrows. But in those first 30 minutes, we were shown what he meant. Edinburgh's second try may just have trumped the Llanelli Scarlets' second last week, a try we did not think we would see bettered for at least another season. But it was merely the most outrageous example of what was the theme of the first half -- the ball moved away from contact, the players moving away from it even faster, forwards and backs in perfect concert, which were which?

That second try came off turnover ball in Edinburgh's 22. This report is not long enough to list all the players who handled it, as play moved so elegantly and swiftly from one end to the other. Suffice it to say, Netani Talei finished it in the corner. Chris Paterson, as caught up in the air of general brilliance as anyone, nailed the conversion from the touchline for a 17-10 lead in the 26th minute. Then, when Ben Cairns finished off an only slightly less brilliant score a few minutes later for that 24-13 lead, it seemed we could dream of a day when speed and skill trumped physicality.

We are not there, though. Back to that victory for reality we mentioned earlier. Northampton were far more than a bunch of playground bullies. Indeed, one of the pleasing things about that first half was the way they were forced to raise their own game just to keep up. But they were simply more powerful, and that told. Edinburgh scored their last points of the game in the 49th minute. They ended up shut out of their own party, with rugby league convert Stephen Myler kicking 16 points to deny a victory for any romantics out there.

Scorers -- Edinburgh: Paterson 3 cons, 2 pens; Jacobsen, Talei, Cairns, try each. Northampton: Myler 4 pens, 2 cons; Hartley, Downey, Diggin try each

Edinburgh: C Paterson, J Thompson, B Cairns, J King, T Visser; D Blair, M Blair (G Laidlaw 70); A Jacobsen (K Traynor 65), R Ford (A Kelly 65), G Cross (D Young 60), S MacLeod (C Hamilton 60), F MacKenzie; A MacDonald, R Talei, N Grant

Northampton: G Tonks; C Ashton, J Clarke (J Ansbro 72), J Downey, P Diggin; S Myler, L Dickson (R Powell 63); S Tonga'uiha, D Hartley, B Mujati (E Murray 56); C Lawes, C Day (M Sorenson 72); P Dowson, T Wood (C Clark 75), R Wilson

Referee: J Garces (France)

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