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Eidinburgh 12 Gloucester 23: Slapstick defending allows visitors easy win despite hearty late surge

There was heart in this Edinburgh performance, but precious little head.

Edinburgh's Roddy Grant upends Billy Twelvetrees of Gloucester during yesterday's Heineken Cup Pool 6 match at Murrayfield.
Edinburgh's Roddy Grant upends Billy Twelvetrees of Gloucester during yesterday's Heineken Cup Pool 6 match at Murrayfield.

Precious few skills either, as they all but took their leave of the Heineken Cup with a flurry of needless and glaring errors. Gloucester may celebrate the fact they have ended a five-match losing streak and that their European ambitions are still alive but they will know, too, that Edinburgh made it absurdly easy for them.

Gloucester had brilliance in their back three, where the talent of Jonny May shone most brightly, although most of what they did was workmanlike. But that was all that was required, for Edinburgh were laboured and horribly inefficient in what they tried to do. To make matters worse, Edinburgh's defence fell apart in a critical period during the first half, in which time Gloucester virtually killed off the contest.

Edinburgh had suffered the blow of losing Ross Ford with a calf injury before the start, but their dented confidence may have been bashed back into shape by the way Gloucester began the game, with international No.8 Ben Morgan making a dog's breakfast of his attempt to collect the first kick-off.

Gloucester survived the resultant scrum, but their composure did not. Five minutes later, the West Country side turned over possession at a lineout on their 22, Edinburgh moved it swiftly across the pitch, and Cornell du Preez and Dave Denton combined to put Greig Tonks over in the left corner.

It was a lovely score by the Edinburgh full-back, but he blotted his copybook badly just four minutes later. It is not exactly clear where Tonks was or what he was doing when Gloucester centre Henry Trinder threaded a kick into the Edinburgh half, but he certainly was not where he should have been. Full-back Rob Cook galloped after the ball, and collected it as it bounced for a preposterously soft score.

To lose one try to a defensive howler is unfortunate, to lose two looks awfully like carelessness. Freddie Burns had already ushered Gloucester in front, 8-5, with a 15th-minute penalty, and Edinburgh took yet more damage on the scoreboard when the English side, running with improbable ease on the ploughed surface that is the Murrayfield pitch, cut loose again three minutes later. An organised defence would have dealt with the threat when Cook slipped an inside pass to Martyn Thomas, but Edinburgh were about as organised as a litter of newborn puppies and the winger raced through for Gloucester's second try.

Gloucester eased off on the scoring front after that, a second Burns penalty being all they could add before half-time, but their failure to do more could have been the consequence of being doubled up with mirth at Edinburgh's efforts.

As the hosts' error count grew, the only question was whether we were watching a pantomime or a farce. When Jack Cuthbert, tracking back to collect a high kick, collided with Tonks, cantering in the opposite direction with the same thing in mind, you could almost hear the crowd shouting "He's behind you" in the moments before impact.

It was an incident that might have persuaded coach Alan Solomons to skip the half-time team talk and just dish out copies of the Dummies' Guide to Rugby Union instead. If he did, then his players clearly did not have time to digest the chapter on tackling, for when May launched a mazy run from near halfway - gifted possession by a poor clearance by Harry Leonard - he ran straight past about two thirds of the Edinburgh team, handed the ball on to Cook, and Gloucester had their third try.

At 23-5, the fat lady was not quite singing her lament for Edinburgh just yet, but she was probably practising her scales. At which point, Edinburgh finally decided to make a game of it. At last, they began to string together a few passes which went to hand rather than to ground, and they began to clear the rucks with purpose and devil.

Seven minutes after Thomas's second try, the Edinburgh pack piled into a ruck near the Gloucester line and thrust over Du Preez.

Referee Jerome Garces judged that the flanker had been held up, but Edinburgh girded themselves for the scrum and went again. Another series of rucks on the line followed, the last one giving Dave Denton just enough room to squeeze over for the score.

Greig Laidlaw's conversion brought things to 23-12 for Gloucester, with 28 minutes left on the clock. Not an impossible target, and well foreseeable given the momentum shift of the previous few minutes, but Edinburgh could not strike while their iron was hot.

They camped on the Gloucester line for a couple of minutes at one point, but came away with nothing. As far as this Heineken Cup is concerned, that looks to be their lot.

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