Rugby Union: Edinburgh park and ride

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The Independent Online
Edinburgh. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39

Ulster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13

THE admirable concept of joint Scots-Irish provincial contests will soon be fatally flawed unless administrative problems identified by Edinburgh's eventual win over Ulster are quickly addressed.

With all senior grounds in the Edinburgh area deemed unplayable this prestige fixture went ahead in bizarre circumstances at Hawkhill, home of the hospitable Leith Academicals but a public park setting none the less.

Ulster, who believed the original venue at Heriot's was fit to use, seemed so thrown by the to-ing and fro-ing that they were totally inept during the opening exchanges. A potentially outstanding Edinburgh side, who had known what to expect, took full advantage to go 32-0 up by half time.

When Ulster, much changed from the side who defeated South of Scotland a week earlier, came to terms with the environment they won the second half 13-7 and would have been a lot closer had four clear- cut chances not been missed.

Despite the distractions, national selecters did benefit. The Ulster captain, Mark McCall, looked a penetrative centre and, on the Scottish side, Derek Stark and Peter Wright showed class and hunger.

Other Scots to advance their claims included the scrum-half Derek Patterson, the flanker Stuart Reid and both locks, Scott Aitken and Jeremy Richardson. It was at the line-out, however, that Ulster were particularly woeful.

A compelling feature overall was the sheer professionalism of Edinburgh's Gavin Hastings, who could have been captaining the Lions again at Eden Park for all the difference the surroundings made to him. And to think the Scottish full-back was still carrying nasty scars on the back of his hand from a brush with the All Blacks three weeks ago.

If Hastings's commitment is to be fully rewarded, then Scots authorities must identify suitable grounds for district matches that are not compelled to host school games on the main pitch beforehand.

Meanwhile, North and Midlands and Glasgow won away at Munster and Connaught respectively and even the South of Scotland stopped the rot by conceding only two tries this week. Nevertheless, they did go down 16-26 at home to Leinster.

Edinburgh: Tries Stark, Timms, Paul, Adam; Conversions Hastings 2; Penalties Hastings 5. Ulster: Try Wilkinson; Conversion McCall; Penalties McCall 2.

EDINBURGH: G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); D Stark (Boroughmuir), R Adam (Heriot's FP), S Lineen (Boroughmuir), M Tonkin (Currie); D Wyllie (Stewart's-Melville FP), D Patterson (Edinburgh Academicals); P Wright (Boroughmuir), D Timms (Currie), S Paul (Heriot's FP), J Richardson (Edinburgh Academicals), S Aitken (Watsonians), B Ward (Currie), G Simpson (Heriot's FP), S Reid (Boroughmuir).

ULSTER: C Wilkinson (Malone); I Gray (Queen's University), M Field (Malone), M McCall (Bangor, capt), T Howe (Dungannon); D Humphreys (Queen's University), A Matchett (Ballymena); D Elliott, M Patton (Bangor), P Millar (Ballymena), C Hamilton (Instonians), C Morrison (Malone), C Darrah (NIFC), Jeremy Hastings, John Hastings (Dungannon).

Referee: E Murray (Greenock Wanderers).