Swansea sacrifice style for points

Swansea 21 Edinburgh 16
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Rarely can a first home win of the season, and in the Heineken Cup to boot, have been greeted with such muted enthusiasm. When the Italian referee, Giovanni Morandin, blew time on this desperately dull match, the locals headed to their public houses and chip shops with as much relief as exultation.

Swansea have always preferred to lose in style rather than bore their way to victory, but yesterday at St Helens the latter was how it had to be. The diffident early-season form ofboth teams, with neither qualifying for the quarter-finals of the inaugural Celtic League, suggested as much beforehand.

Swansea's home record of played three, lost three, had clearly dented the morale of the locals and, even though this was probably the only match not being televised live to someone, somewhere in Europe this weekend, the attendance was disappointingly low. Lulled by the uninspiring play, as well as the Indian summer sunshine, the five thousand or so punters took an age to get worked into anything like a lather.

Nor could the crowd be blamed for their torpor. A part of the appeal of European competition, certainly in this part of the world which has yet to deliver a Heineken Cup winner, has sprung from some almighty contests, under floodlights and against unfamiliar opponents.

Nothing at all, in short, like this meeting between two sides whose frailties were cruelly exposed on a perfect pitch in ideal conditions. Edinburgh had not left much of an impression in south Wales in the course of their two Celtic League defeats by Cardiff and Newport, and never looked remotely like making it third time lucky.

Those of an optimistic nature were entitled to expect a modicum of creativity from Geraint Lewis or Simon Taylor in the respective back rows. Neither man put a foot wrong, but neither were their talented hands put to much use. Taylor was certainly less of a force than in Scotland's Six Nations romp against Ireland a week ago. Swansea's promising outside-half, Gavin Henson, also failed to lift the mood. The spiky-haired No 10 tended to muddle in the midfield with unnecessarily elaborate passes and chose to drop out deep to Edinburgh's runners, Chris Paterson and Derrick Lee, rather than attempt to feed the Swansea forwards. Graham Henry, the Wales coach who gave Henson his first international start against Romania earlier this month, must still be scratching his head over the line-up for the next of the delayed Six Nations matches against Ireland in a fortnight.

Henson's line-kicking was better and, going for goal, he could not be faulted. Three penalties and a dropped goal sent Swansea in at half-time with a 12-6 lead; Gordon Ross had kicked two penalties for Edinburgh.

The gainline stood largely intact for both sides, despite the efforts made by Taylor for Edinburgh, and Swansea's Colin Charvis, to mix things up in the threequarters. Two more penalties by Henson to one from Ross increased Swansea's lead in the third quarter before, at last, a move of sustained momentum took Chris Paterson to within five metres of the home goal-line. Swansea held out, though, and Henson struck again with seven minutes left to make their advantage all but impregnable.

Paterson's stubborn refusal to let the match peter out without the try it barely deserved, paid off in injury time. The Edinburgh full-back, fresh from his Six Nations outing on the wing, took Taylor's pop pass after a tapped penalty and squirmed over for the replacement Duncan Hodge to convert. Swansea were not to be denied their Heineken Cup points. But Bath, at The Rec next Saturday, will be a different proposition.

Swansea 21 Edinburgh 16

Pens: Henson 6 Try: Paterson

Drop: Henson Con: Hodge

Pens: Ross 3

Half-time: 12-6 Attendance: 2,750

Swansea: K Morgan; R Rees, S Payne, S Gibbs (capt), B Lima; G Henson, R Jones; J Marsters (A le Chevalier, 76), G Jenkins, B Evans, T Maullin (L Jones, 48), A Moore, G Lewis, H Jenkins (D Thomas, 76), C Charvis.

Edinburgh: C Paterson; D Lee, M di Rollo, K Utterson (C Howarth, 63), C Sharman; G Ross (D Hodge, 60), G Burns (capt, I Fairley, 79); A Jacobsen, S Scott (C di Ciacca, 79), C Smith (J Brannigan, 76), M Jolly (T Walker, 63), A Davidson, A Dall, S Taylor, G Dall (M Taylor, 79).

Referee: G Morandin (It).