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Scarlets Continue Slump As Edinburgh Secure Fourth Place

jmcconnell 10 May 2008

Edinburgh overcame a weakened Llanelli Scarlets side at Stradey Park on Saturday evening, with tries from Ben Gissing, Andrew Turnbull, Allister Hogg and Mike Blair inspiring the Scottish outfit to their best ever Magners League finish.

Edinburgh completed the league season unbeaten on Welsh soil after wins at Cardiff, the Ospreys and Llanelli and a draw with the Dragons.

Unfortunately for the off-colour Scarlets, this defeat marked the first time they had lost three games in a row at Stradey Park since the region was formed in 2003.

The summer break cannot come quick enough for the Welsh side as they look to rebuild and rediscover their of last season when they finished fourth in the league and were Heineken Cup semi-finalists.

That rebuilding process will begin immediately with more than a dozen players leaving the Scarlets, including Dwayne Peel, Alix Popham, Matthew Watkins, Garan Evans, Ben Broster, Adam Eustace and Bruce Douglas.

The Welshmen, led again by caretaker coach Paul Moriarty, did take the lead in their final game of the campaign, breaking through for a try after 14 minutes of dominant play.

In sunny conditions, Llanelli had an early stranglehold on possession in what was winger Matthew Watkins’ 150th game for the region.

Nathan Brew could have worked a team-mate in for an earlier try, but the centre glanced the wrong way when the Scarlets had an overlap on the cards.

But they had Edinburgh pinned back in their own half for much of the opening quarter and got rewarded when hooker Mahonri Schwalger dotted down in the left corner.

Centre Gavin Evans did the groundwork and with the ball moved wide, Deacon Manu was on hand to put his front row colleague over for the score.

Rhys Priestland converted but the Scarlets did not score again until the 76th-minute as Edinburgh went up through the gears as the game wore on.

They were back level in the 21st-minute when Ben Cairns’ delayed pass put lock Ben Gissing charging over for a try which Calum MacRae converted.

And six minutes before half-time a fine, long floated pass from outside-half Phil Godman found Andrew Turnbull in space on the right and he side-stepped his way over for the Scots’ second try.

The Scots, 19-18 winners at the Ospreys last weekend, then broke into a 12-7 interval lead as winger Andrew Turnbull, with a superb sidestep, got over for his fifth try of the campaign.

Turnbull found space as he ghosted onto a long pass from Godman and his evasive running skills saw him outdo the Scarlets cover.

The Scarlets were stunned when Edinburgh captain Allister Hogg barged over for a try, three minutes into the second half.

Hogg’s second try in as many games was set up by Mike Blair and Matt Mustchin and converted by Phil Godman.

The result was put beyond any doubt in the 48th-minute when scrum half Blair sliced through for the visitors’ bonus point try.

The Edinburgh pack probed with a lineout catch and drive and then Nick De Luca put Blair dashing through for the score.

The Scarlets had a decent spell of possession and territory either side of the hour mark but Edinburgh were able to add to their lead with a David Blair penalty.

A late touchdown in the right corner from Dafydd James stemmed the tide and gave Llanelli some consolation as they fell to their fifth straight league defeat.

With Glasgow winning at Munster, Edinburgh needed this victory to confirm themselves as the best-placed Scottish side in the league.

This latest triumph, Edinburgh’s first at Stradey Park since September 2005, was all the more notable as winger Mark Robertson, son of former Scotland international Keith Robertson, came off the bench to make his debut for the club.