Gwalia Lightning 19
Edinburgh Rugby 20
EDINBURGH RUGBY battled hard to secure a 20-19 bonus-point victory over Gwalia Lightning at Cardiff Arms Park, meaning that they have secured three bonus point wins from their four matches in this Celtic Challenge campaign to date and are now clear in second in the table on 15 points behind the Irish Wolfhounds who are on 19 with one round of league game still to play before the top three shoot it out in the play-offs.
Having led 15-7 at half-time in Wales, Edinburgh went 19-15 down before showing good composure to score what proved to be the winning try in the 71st minute.
“We are buzzing after that, we are absolutely delighted because that was a very hard fought win,” head coach Claire Cruikshank said. “I am proud of the team for the way they kept their composure once we went behind in the second half.
“We were happy with the way that we played in the first half, but we felt that we maybe left a couple of tries out there because we had one held up in the corner and dropped the ball near the line on another occasion.
“They were always going to put us under pressure after half-time and they certainly did that. Once they scored two quickfire tries and went ahead it was all about us staying composed and being calm. We knew if we were patient then we would cause them problems and the team did that to get the winning try.
“After that the team then managed the last few minutes well and in that phase of the game – and in the whole match in general, actually – I thought defensively we really stepped things up in this game and that was what the win was built on.
“Wales is a tough place to come for any Scottish side these days and it tends to have been over the years, so to have come down twice in recent weeks [they also won against Brython Thunder in Llanelli on January 14th ] and headed back up the road with full points is great, and the players should take confidence from that.
“We now have one more game to come against the Irish Clovers [at Hive Stadium next Saturday] and we want to build from here and make sure we are in the top three after the split.”
Edinburgh took the lead through hooker Millie Whitehouse, who touched down from a line-out. Full-back Nicole Marlow, playing in the city where she lives while she studies at Cardiff Met, could not convert from out wide leaving the score at 5-0.
The visitors doubled their account just before the half hour mark when a lovely wide pass from centre Emma Orr put winger Cieron Bell over on the left for her fourth try in four matches.
Lightning struck back when, from a good pick-up from the base of a scrum under Edinburgh’s posts, home No 8 Tess Evans fed scrum-half Sian Jones who showed tenacity to get over for the try, with stand-off Robyn Wilkins converting.
Crucially, Edinburgh got their third try in the 38th minute. After stand-off Sarah Denholm, the captain, had gone close, a pass was popped up to loose-head prop Poppy Fletcher and she went over from short range. But, once again, there was no third conversion from Marlow, leaving it 15-7 at the interval.
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Edinburgh started the second half as they had ended the first, hunting for their fourth try and a bonus point. The likes of No 8 Freya Walker and tight-head Molly Poolman carried well and they got close to the Lightning try line, but a great steal by home hooker Molly Reardon helped avert the danger this time.
But Lightning came back into it, and scored again just before the hour mark, when, from Jones rumbled over for her second try of the game from a solid line-out move.
Although the conversion was missed, the momentum was with the hosts at this stage. and they scored their third try – a cracker – in the 64th minute, when centre Rebecca De Filippo fed replacement Katie Thicker near the touchline 10 metres inside her own half, and the speedster just flew away, beating the defence to score from 60 metres out. Wilkins then nailed the conversion from out wide and suddenly the Welsh team were 19-15 ahead.
Calm heads were needed amongst the visiting ranks and with nine minutes to go they were on show. Scotland centre Lisa Thomson kicked a penalty to touch and, after a line-out from five metres out and a couple of carries, replacement prop Panashe Muzambe dived around the side of a ruck to score the all-important bonus point fourth try. Replacement Briar McNamara missed the tough conversion meaning it was 20-19 to the visitors.
Lightning went chasing a fourth try of their own, which would have been the winning score, and they came close with four minutes to go but a knock-on meant there was no further late drama.
Edinburgh managed to see out the remaining minutes and will now reset ahead of their next test against the Clovers who are third in the table after a win at Glasgow on Saturday.
Gwalia Lightning: R Parry; C Lewis, J De Vera, R De Filippo, K Davies; R Wilkins, S Jones; A Constable, M Reardon, J Scoble, P Jones, B King©, M Davies, L Issac, T Evans. Subs: S Waugh, D Dinapoli, L Williams, E Jones, S Mead, K Deeks, R Thomas Evans, K Thicker.
Edinburgh Rugby: N Marlow; N Flynn, E Orr, L Thomson, C Bell; S Denholm©, C Mattinson; P Fletcher, M Whitehouse, M Poolman, A Ferrie, N Logan, M Gunderson, A Stewart, F Walker. Subs: A Ronald, P Muzambe, K Lindsay, S Murphy, G Bell, L Brebner-Holden, B McNamara, H Walker.
Referee: Amber Stamp.
Gwalia Lightning: Tries: Jones 2, Thicker; Con: Wilkins 2.
Edinburgh Rugby: Tries: Whitehouse, Bell, Fletcher, Muzambe.
Scoring sequence (Gwalia Lightning first): 0-5; 0-10; 5-10; 7-10; 7-15 (h-t) 12-15; 17-15; 19-15; 19-20.