Edinburgh ruin Scarlet chances

Edinburgh 33 Llanelli 32

Edinburgh 33 Llanelli 32

The gutsy Gunners threw a spanner in the Welsh works at Murrayfield to scupper the Scarlets’ quest to sneak into the Heineken Cup knockout phase.

Scotland coach Frank Hadden had pleaded with the capital troops to produce a pre-Six Nations confidence boost by finishing their shaky campaign in style.

And they came up with the goods to keep alive with a potent display which yielded a four-try bonus point before the interval – and there was no way back for Llanelli in spite of a valiant late fightback.

Edinburgh were forced to shuffle their line-up just before the kick-off when Test stand-off Phil Godman failed to shake off the effects of a flu bug.

Veteran playmaker Duncan Hodge came off the bench, with Ander Monro joining the back-up squad at short notice.

The switch did not appear to have a negative effect on the Scots as they surged into the lead with just two minutes on the clock.

From a line-out penalty option, they embarked on two well-controlled pack drives before New Zealander Matt Mustchin barged his way over for the try. Skipper Chris Paterson followed up to land the conversion from the widest possible angle.

Scarlets were sparked into attacking action of their own and despite being camped in enemy territory for a 10-minute spell, they couldn’t make any instant breakthroughs.

Their pressure finally paid off when Mike Hercus deceived the home defence with a deft chip which was perfectly weighted for Barry Davies to collect and claim the try.

Hercus followed up to convert – then Davies added a long-range penalty to set the Gunners back on their heels.

But Edinburgh regrouped to manufacture another top-notch touchdown. Ally Hogg made the first charge before Al Dickinson and Allan MacDonald combined cleverly in midfield.

Their slickness provided hooker Andy Kelly with the time and space to scuttle t the line, with Paterson again slotting the goal.

Even worse was to come for the Welshmen in the 34th minute as they conceded another try.

Edinburgh’s mauling power was underlined as they wheeled to the line with scrum-half Mikey Blair in the right place at the right time.

Then on the stroke of the interval, they made sure of the bonus point with a marvellous Hugo Southwell effort.

Paterson entered the line before Hodge found the half-gap to send Southwell hurtling to the target.

Paterson converted to open up a 16-point gap – but there was still enough time for Hercus to repair some of the damage with a penalty.

Edinburgh, despite having Simon Taylor in the sin-bin for obstruction, continued to force the pace after the restart, however the Llanelli defence were looking more resolute.

But any lingering prospect of a Scarlets rally was dashed when Argentinian speed merchant Francisco Leonelli cruised in for an interception try – gleefully goaled by Paterson.

But Llanelli staged an amazing flourish with tries by Lee Byrne, Alix Popham and Tal Selley, the latter two converted by Hercus – however it was too little too late.

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