Challenge Cup: Edinburgh v Bayonne: hosts book last eight spot

Quick-fire tries from Ben Vellacott midway through second half secures home win

Duhan van der Merwe dives in for Edinburgh's fifth try versus Bayonne. Image: © Craig Watson -
Duhan van der Merwe dives in for Edinburgh's fifth try versus Bayonne. Image: © Craig Watson -

Edinburgh 33

Bayonne 15

DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield

THEY got there in the end, but it was fairly uninspiring stuff for a long time from Edinburgh, before a quick-fire double from Ben Vellacott midway though the second half ultimately secured the home win against a French side with a notoriously poor away record and several key players rested.

However, we shouldn’t be too curmudgeonly about a comprehensive five tries to two result for a team who have been searching for potency in attack in recent weeks, against an opposition who did not roll over. If nothing else, it means there will be some Scottish involvement in the last eight of the EPCR this year, albeit in the second tier Challenge Cup.

The capital outfit now face a quarter-final next weekend against either the Sharks away (in Durban) or Zebre at home, depending on which of those teams wins tomorrow [Sunday] afternoon’s clash at Kings Park. The smart money is on it being a trip to South Africa, which you have to say is not ideal for a squad who have just returned from that part of the world and who need all the energy they can muster as they battle to stay in contention for the URC play-offs, although head coach Sean Everitt stressed that he would welcome another crack at the Sharks after losing 23-13 to those opponents last weekend.

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“Zebre certainly would help from a travel point of view [but] after doing a review of the Durban game – looking at the opportunities we created there and maybe some of the soft moments that we gave the Sharks – the players will have belief that they can go there and win,” he said.

“This convincing win against a good team helps as well. We can’t underestimate the magnitude of this win even though it’s at home,” he added. “We made hard work of it in the first half. We did everything right – we had 75 percent territory in the first half – but only finished one out of six opportunities. That’s something that has been plaguing us for some time.

“We had a good chat at half-time, came out, and Matt Currie had a good carry through the midfield to score. Then we scored another two in quick succession, which put us away. So I think we’ll take a lot of confidence out of that, because it’s an area that we have been working on. But I’m just really pleased that the guys got through.”

With the match switched from Hive Stadium to the cavernous international bowl at Murrayfield due to the danger posed by the high winds of Storm Kathleen, it was a rather muted atmosphere, and the home supporters were out-sung throughout by the small but enthusiastic band of visiting fans, who kept up a steady flow of encouragement to their team even during the final 15 minutes when the game was gone.

They were, however, quietened briefly early on when Edinburgh attacked off turnover ball, with Matt Currie and Jake Henry making ground on the right before Ben Healy picked out an unmarked Jamie Ritchie on the left touchline with a neat cross-kick, but the flanker couldn’t quite take control of the awkwardly bouncing ball.

The Edinburgh stand-off tried a similar trick a few minutes later but the ball bounced even more unkindly this time, and Bayonne launched a counterattack which travelled all the way to midway between Edinburgh’s 10 meter line and their 22, before centre Guillaume Rouet eventually ran out of options.

The hosts had more than their fair share of possession and territory during that opening 10 minutes but malfunctioning line-outs, sloppy offloads or balls lost in contact meant they didn’t put the visitors under any real pressure.

Perhaps it was frustration, but Ritchie then handed Bayonne an excellent attacking platform when he went in for second bite at the ball on the ground from a blatantly offside position. The penalty was kicked to the corner, and, after a short spell of pressure, Tom Spring shaped to spread the ball wide before ducking back inside then stretched over the line, with the stand-off kicking the simple conversion himself.

Edinburgh responded with a Hamish Watson try, getting the ball down after a penalty produced line-out maul 0n 23 minutes, but Healy couldn’t add the conversion, and Bayonne certainly looked the more incisive of the two teams whenever they got a chance to play with a free flowing offloading approach which the hosts struggled to contain.

Bayonne finished the half pressing on Edinburgh’s line after a sweeping kick-return from deep, but Grant Gilchrist managed to dissipate the five-yard line-out and Ewan Ashman bundled opposite number Vincent Giudicelli into touch to ensure that the gap remained just two points at the break.



The second half started with Thommas Ceyte bursting clear from a ruck on halfway and last man Healy did well to put his body in the way of the big lock,  and instead it was Edinburgh who struck next with a long range solo try, scored by Matt Currie, who powered through one tackle on halfway then showed electrifying pace to motor all the way to score under the sticks.

But Edinburgh were caught napping at the restart, complaining to the match officials that the ball hadn’t gone 10 as Bayonne surged into the 22, and although the hosts recovered focus to hold their opponents out for a few more minutes, they couldn’t escape the danger zone. and conceded a scrum penalty which sent through the posts to make it a two point game.

And almost immediately that narrow deficit became a slightly wider advantage for the visitors, when Nadir Mmegdoud streaked back up field almost straight from the restart then sent Spring on a sprint to the corner, which the stand-off showed pace and determination to finish off.

Edinburgh needed a response and co-captain Ben Vellacott stepped up to deliver with a classic scrum-half snipe which saw him score under the posts, and there was a rammy and a TMO review before the conversion was kicked because French centre Yan Lestrade tucked his arm and clobbered the try scorer on the back of the head with a needless late challenge as the ball was grounded.

The outcome was that Bayonne spent the next 10 minutes with 14 players and Edinburgh restarted the match with a penalty on halfway, allowing Healy to kick to the corner, which eventually led to a second Vellacott try in as many minutes, adding the final touch after WP Nel and a few other forwards had burrowed to within inches of the line.

That was the score which broke Bayonne. Duhan van der Merwe had a generally frustrating night but he finally got a chance to showcase that pace and power, bundling over on the left with Healy nailing the touchline conversion.

With five minutes to go, Mikey Jones arrived off the bench for his competitive pro debut, and the 21-year-old loose-head survived his first scrum on Bayonne ball, then got the nudge on when it was Edinburgh’s put-in ahead of the last play.


Teams –

Edinburgh: W Goosen; J Henry (C Dean 74), M Bennett (J Lang 62), M Currie, D van der Merwe; B Healy, B Vellacott (A Price 64); L de Bruin (M Jones 75), E Ashman (D Cherry 56), W Nel (D Rae 67), S Skinner, G Gilchrist (J Hodgson 64), J Ritchie, H Watson (L Crosbie 56), V Mata.

Bayonne: A Callandret (T Dolhagaray 59); B Pourailly, G Martocq, Y Lestrade (R Buliruarua 65), N Megdoud; T Spring, G Rouet (K Labarbe 59); Q Bethune (P Castillon 50), V Giudicelli (T Acquier 50), P Scholtz (M Villar 64), T Ceyte, M Leindekar (K Mikautadze, 50), R Bourdeau, B  Heguy (P Huguet 70), M Ariceta.

Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)


Scorers –

Edinburgh: Tries: Watson, Currie, Vellacott 2. van der Merwe; Con: Healy 4.

Bayonne: Tries: Spring 2; Con: Spring; Pen: Spring.

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7 (h-t) 10-7; 12-7; 12-10; 12-15. 17-15; 19-15; 24-15; 26-15; 31-15; 33-15.


Yellow cards –

Bayonne: Lestrade (54 mins)


Attendance: 5,365

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About David Barnes 4011 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. A decent win against a enterprising Bayonne team who were happy to play from anywhere. I have like many on this site bemoaned the back play but I did feel that it was a bit more expansive than previous weeks – there were a couple of moves beyond simply passing along the line and a few chip kicks over the top one of which Healy almost regathered. Healy also actually took the ball hard to the line on a couple of occasions. This is encouraging and shows there is actually some thought to expand the back play and add a bit of variety. The VdM try was a miss pass from Healy that took out a couple of defenders.I think part of the problem is the speed of ball from the ruck both in presentation and Vellacots service so there is more work to be done.

    Not sure how anyone thought Zebre had a chance today against Sharks who thrashed them 47-3. So its back to Durban next week where we’ll have to play out our skins to get a result. I hope some of our injured are back – particularly Schoeman and Venter because the scrum got a hard time last week and without them it could be ugly.

  2. Rugby Fan, put Tuipulotu or Redpath at 12 and/or decent attack coach you would soon realise the folly of yout strange Anti-Healy tirade(s).
    Watched a lot of Healy at Munster and IMO there wasn’t a lot between the best 3 prospective Ireland 10s.

    • Glasgow missing a 10, Edinburgh missing a couple of centres. Questions for both is who can they afford to bring in?
      Edinburghs squad badly unbalanced with a huge amount of budget in backrow and back 3.

  3. Comfortable in the end but, as others have said, not very convincing against the 2nd 15 of a team who’ve never won away from home in donkey’s years. All those worrying midfield line breaks would have been turned into points by other opposition. Don’t think Edinburgh are going to scare whoever they face in the next round. But still it’s job done and let’s hope for a Zebre win and home tie in a full and buzzing hive in the quarters.
    But weren’t the Bayonne travelling fans just magnificent – resplendent in Bayone tartan and all and bouncing from start to finish. Looked like a heck of a party for those lads!

    • I don’t think it’s fair to say a 2nd 15, they were all given free reign to play an expansive game and are talented players. I’d say it was a good performance by Edinburgh, but I would like to see the approach of not kicking EVERYTHING carried on to the end of the season!!

  4. 5,200 attendance for a knockout game – not good. Are the fans saying deliver more exciting Rugby or we’ll not turn up? Sounded more like a French ground last night! Agree with the comments, a win is a win but our attack is bereft of ideas. In the first half we huffed and puffed mostly in their half and singularly failed to blow their house down. Their points from 22 entries must have been way higher than ours.

  5. Bayonne were a difficuklt side to put away despite their “weaker” selection.The try by Tom Spring was absolutely brilliant and showed the wind was certainly not to blame.
    A little better in the second half but the backs are just not playing like a coherent unit despite all being individually good.
    From the little ball he got Jake Henry continues to impress and a pretty useful a good addition to the back three resources (particularly with Boffelli,Graham and Paterson all out injured).

  6. I know a win is a win but Bayonne made 13 changes and haven’t’t won an away match for 2 years! There is something missing in the Edinburgh back play. There is no creativity or deception. Healy doesn’t seem to play flat enough and there are no dummy runners or short quick passing or miss passes. What does the attack coach do?

  7. Healy is an absolutely brilliant kicker, Currie looking strong and pacy, forwards put in a real shift but “its” simply not clicking for Edinburgh.
    May be as easy as recruiting a proper 2nd ⅝ but something needs to be done as it’s clunky fare presently.
    Nevertheless Sharks or Zebre very beatable
    Nice too see Crosbie back and Jones make his debut

    • Once we dispensed with the usual diet of box kicks and passing off a static 10, we started to create lots of chances.

      Chips from both half-backs, snipes from 9, 10 taking the ball to the line. Once all these options are in play, the defence can’t just blitz and gives the attack more space.

      By no means perfect but that second half was a huge improvement on recent fare.

      Our defence is still my major concern though, it has looked very porous since the end of the 6Ns. We are giving up far too many easy line breaks.

      Healy was excellent last night and not just with the boot.

      • Healy was dire in open play. Just because he can kick a rugby ball a long way doesn’t mean he’s a ten. He kills the backline stone dead particularly once play progresses past phase one and it’s no longer a pre planned move. On the positive side though Henry looks a prospect a serious one at that and it’s vital he and Patterson get the required time. They are real future of Scottish rugby not the cast offs from other countries.


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