Celtic Challenge: Edinburgh battle back from slow start to defeat Brython Thunder

Bonus point victory on the road leaves capital side joint second in the table

Panashe Muzambe scored Edinburgh's opening try versus Brython Thunder. Peter Watt/N50 Sports.
Panashe Muzambe scored Edinburgh's opening try versus Brython Thunder. Peter Watt/N50 Sports.

Brython Thunder 17

Edinburgh Rugby 22

EDINBURGH RUGBY fought back from 12-0 and then 17-12 down to secure an important bonus point win on the road in the Celtic Challenge over Welsh outfit Brython Thunder at Parc Y Scarlets.

The battling triumph in Llanelli means that Edinburgh have two wins from three in the tournament so far and they can look to build on this later in the month and heading into February.

They were helped here by the promptings and game smarts of Scotland scrum-half Caity Mattinson while No 8 Freya Walker impressed and young winger Cieron Bell made it three tries in three games.

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“It wasn’t the prettiest of games at times, but when we had the ball we looked dangerous and it was crucial when we went 12-0 down that we showed real fight to get it back to 12-12,” said Edinburgh head coach Claire Cruikshank. 

“Away from home, it could have been easy for some of the more inexperienced players to go into their shells, but everyone stayed calm and we got things level with some good play.

“They obviously scored again just before half-time, but in the second half I thought that we controlled things relatively well and scored another couple of good tries. I feel things are starting to click, there is still more cohesion we can find, but in general any away win is a good thing.

“To have two wins and 10 points from three games is a really pleasing start to the competition. The players have learnt a lot in the last few weeks and now they can have a bit of time off to rest and recover before we go again in a fortnight.”

In the eighth minute Edinburgh looked to be away from inside their own half. Walker broke away and then fed centre Emma Orr who passed to Bell. The Edinburgh University speedster had already scored in the first two games and has pace to burn, but referee Sarah Toll pulled play back for what she deemed to be a forward pass between Walker and Orr.

Two minutes later the Thunder took the lead. From her own half, second-row Shona Wakley fed a short pass to captain Alex Callender – which looked marginally forward – and the Wales international openside burst through.

She was tackled by Edinburgh full-back Nicole Marlow, but Wakley was on her shoulder and she charged in for the try under the posts. Centre Ellie Tromans missed the relatively simple conversion to leave the score at 5-0.

Edinburgh were struggling to get a foothold in the game and the lineout was not functioning too well when in the 21st minute a mistake in the midfield set up Thunder’s second try. Callender picked the ball up and burst through the middle then put a grubber kick in, which Tromans collected it then went over for the try, with winger Amy Williams converting this time to make it 12-0.

Edinburgh needed to get the next score to change the momentum of the game – and they did. From a scrum five metres from the home team’s line, numerous players tried their luck with pick and goes before loose-head Panashe Muzambe went low and dived over the try line from short range. Marlow, the Cardiff Met student, converted and it was 12-7.

That gave Edinburgh confidence and, six minutes before the interval try number two arrived. The visitors attacked well down the right via Marlow and skipper Sarah Denholm and when a penalty was awarded a few metres out Mattinson took it quickly, advising over for an unconverted effort to make it 12-12.

They often say that you are most vulnerable when you have just scored and, in the minutes before the break, the Thunder were on the attack. Edinburgh’s defence did well to hold them out at first, but with the clock just about heading into the red, Thunder found some space on the left and Williams’ arching run just beat the tackle of opposite number Nicole Flynn and she touched down. The conversion from out wide was missed as the Welsh side led 17-12 at the interval.


Just like Edinburgh’s second try, quick thinking from Mattinson set up their third try. With the Thunder penalty count rising, a quick tap by the Gloucester-Hartpury number nine got the ball to fellow internationalist Muzambe and she fed Walker who went over in the corner, drawing the  scores level at 17-all.

In the 57th minute it looked like Thunder had scored their fourth try through Wakley after an initial break by No 8 Sioned Harries, but the referee disallowed it amid some confusion for what was said to be a double movement.

Moments later, Orr broke out from her own 22 and kicked ahead, but Thunder full-back Eleanor Hing did well to get back and cover.

Edinburgh were now playing with more clarity in attack and, just before the hour mark, a deliberate knock-on from home centre Tromans saw her yellow carded.

And two minutes into that 10-minute period of having an extra player Edinburgh made their advantage count. Denholm and centre Briar McNamara fed Bell coming off her left wing and heading towards the right touchline, and she did the rest with an excellent finish.

The bonus point unconverted effort was an important one, giving Edinburgh the lead for the first time in the game at 22-17.

In the 64th minute, with the Thunder looking to hit back immediately, Edinburgh vice-captain Alex Stewart won an important turnover.

As the game entered its last 10 minutes, Edinburgh showed great composure, going through the phases with the likes of replacement forward trio Poppy Fletcher, Katie Lindsay and Sophie Murphy carrying well.

The visitors were then awarded a penalty which McNamara smashed off the post and the gap was still just five points with three minutes to go, but the five point gap proved to be enough for a solid win on the road.

Meanwhile, Clovers from Ireland scored a late converted try to defeat Gwalia Lightning from Wales 19-17.

It all means that, as the tournament takes a break until January 27th, Wolfhounds are top on 14 points, Gwalia and Edinburgh have 10 points, Clovers have nine, Thunder have one and Glasgow Warriors have 0.


Teams –

Brython Thunder: E Hing; D Mugabe, E Tromans, M Webb, A Williams; N Terry, M Davies; C Thomas-Bradley, R Carr, C L Davies, N John, S Wakley, F Jones, A Callender©, S Harries. Subs: A Morgan, M Johns, K Carr, C Mundy, K Mackay, S Singleton, M Wilkinson, L Williams.

Edinburgh: N Marlow; N Flynn, E Orr, B McNamara, C Bell; S Denholm©, C Mattinson; P Muzambe, M Whitehouse, M Poolman, F McIntosh, N Logan, M Gunderson, A Stewart, F Walker. Subs: A Ronald, P Fletcher, K Lindsay, A Ferrie, S Murphy, L Brebner-Holden, H Ramsay, R Philipps.

Referee: Sarah Toll.


Scorers –

Brython Thunder: Tries: Wakley, Tromans, Williams; Con: Williams.

Edinburgh: Tries: Muzambe, Mattinson, Walker, Bell; Con: Marlow.

Scoring sequence (Brython Thunder first): 5-0; 10-0; 12-0; 12-5; 12-7; 12-12; 17-12 (h-t) 17-17; 17-22.


Yellow card –

Brython Thunder: Tromans (59 mins).

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About Gary Heatly 441 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.