Celtic Challenge: error-prone Edinburgh lose out to wily Wolfhounds

Emma Orr scores twice on debut but Irish team prove too strong and too streetwise against inexperienced Scots

Edinburgh v Wolfhounds
Edinburgh conceded five tries in a defeat by a stronger and more coherent Wolfhounds side. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

Edinburgh 17
Wolfhounds 27



AFTER enjoying a bonus-point victory over Glasgow Warriors in week one of the Celtic Challenge, Edinburgh were forcibly introduced to the harsher realities of the tournament as they lost out to more experienced and street-wise Irish opponents.

The Wolfhounds had 12 full internationals in their starting line-up compared to the home team’s four, and that told in the calmer way in which they dealt with pressure. Edinburgh did begin brightly, and opened the scoring, but once they fell behind they looked in too much of a hurry to hit back.

That anxiety, manifested in some defensive hesitation under the high ball as well as in that tendency to attack too hastily, was highlighted by coach Claire Cruikshank as one of the key improvements her team will need to make over the coming weeks. “It was a little bit frustrating,” she said. “We didn’t really manage the game that well – we didn’t hold on to the ball long enough. I thought we gave them opportunities around the breakdown by being a little bit soft. 

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“They got a score quickly after half-time, which took them into a pretty comfortable lead, but we came back at the end and we definitely finished the better team. 

“So it’s mixed emotions. I’m a bit frustrated, but we came back at the end there and an extra minute or two and we hopefully could have got another one.

“They’ve got numerous senior internationals in there. We’ve got a few as well but the majority of our team is still pretty young. We’ll learn from it and that is the key thing with this competition – how we adapt and learn and put what we didn’t do right this week into next week against Thunder down in Wales.” 

Emma Orr, one of those four Scotland caps in the Edinburgh side, opened the scoring with a superb try. No 8 Merryn Gunderson picked up from a scrum and passed to Jenny Maxwell, who sent Briar McNamara off through a gap in midfield. As she was being closed down by two defenders, McNamara then offloaded brilliantly to her fellow-centre Orr, who had the pace to run in and touch down before four pursuing Wolfhounds could put in a tackle.

McNamara added the conversion, but from 7-0 down the Wolfhounds went on to dominate the rest of the half, scoring three unconverted tries before the break to take a firm grasp on the game. Hooker Sarah Delaney got their first from a driven maul from a lineout, right-winger Natasja Behan finished off for the second after heavy pressure, and openside Aoife Wafer claimed the third from another lineout maul minutes before half-time.

Edinburgh’s best chance to hit back came between the visitors’ second and third touchdowns, but it went abegging when Orr spilled a McNamara pass after the inside centre had again forged an opening. In the opening stages of the second 40 the Wolfhounds resumed where they had left off, and within minutes got the bonus-point try, Brittany Hogan ploughing over almost unopposed after playu was recycled following a lineout maul.

O’Brien converted that score, but was off target again after an hour when Wafer scored again from close range. By that time, however, the five points were safely in the bag for the Irish side.

As Cruikshank highlighted, Edinburgh showed both the stamina and the strength of character to finish strongly. With ten minutes left, winger Cieron Bell evaded one defender then barged past two more to touch down in the left corner. Then, right on time, Orr got her second, slicing through at an angle to score on the right. 

Nicole Marlow missed both conversion attempts, but it was a commendably gutsy finish to the game from the home team. Even so, Cruikshank is well aware that there are a lot of lessons to be learned quickly as they prepare for their next two games on the road.

“I think it’s a bit about game management, and also we don’t have to force everything – we can go through the phases,” she said when asked what the most important lessons were. “It felt like we had to score first or second phase every time we got the ball.

“If we go through three, four, five phases, look after it, then we can really stress teams. So don’t panic, be patient is the key message.”  



Edinburgh: R Philipps (N Marlow 67); H Walker (N Flynn 56), E Orr, B McNamara, C Bell; S Denholm (captain), J Maxwell (L Brebner-Holden 41); P Muzambe (P Fletcher 51), N Haynes (M Whitehouse 63), M Poolman (K Lindsay 68), F McIntosh, N Logan (A Ferrie 77), G Bell (F Walker 48), A Stewart, M Gunderson. 

Wolfhounds: E Durkan; N Behan, A Dalton (N Caughey 63), L Tarpey, A Clarke (N Marley 41); D O’Brien, K Whelan (E McConnell 69); L Djougang (H Wilson 76), S Delaney, S Barrett (A Moore 63), F Tuite, E Corri, H O’Connor (captain), A Wafer  (M Clenaghan 67), B Hogan (E Murtagh 63).

Referee: Sam O’Neil (Scotland).



Edinburgh: Tries: Orr 2, Bell. Con: McNamara.

Wolfhounds: Tries: Delaney, Behan, Wafer 2, Hogan. Con: O’Brien.

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-10; 7-15 (h-t) 7-20; 7-22; 7-27; 12-27; 17-27.


Attendance: 903.

‘I was angry and upset and I didn’t know how to deal with it, so I got into trouble very quickly’

About Stuart Bathgate 1437 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.