STUART BATHGATE @ Hive Stadium
EDINBURGH made it four wins out of five in the URC with a courageous display against a Bulls team who for much of the first half threatened to overrun them. The dismissal of South African captain Marcell Coetzee just minutes into the second half played a significant part in the outcome, but it should be noted that in the last few minutes before the interval the home team had worked out how to get the better of their opponents.
Edinburgh coach Sean Everitt certainly noted it, and was quick to spell out the implications to his squad at half-time. “In the first half we struggled,” he said. “We lost the breakdown battle – they bullied us there.
“[At half-time] I showed them a video clip of when we got on top of them between minute 35 and 40 when we strung a few phases together and came back into the game. And they responded really well at half-time and we got those three quick tries in succession.”
Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie – playing his first game since the Rugby World Cup – was a dynamic influence on his team right from the start. And on-loan Glasgow Warrior Ali Price made his debut off the bench as Everitt’s side held off a late fightback from the Lions.
“Ali came on and he certainly speeded up the game,” the coach said of the scrum-half. “His kicking was pinpoint and there was an improvement in that department when he came on. I’m just happy he got on and got a win in his first game.”
Johan Goosen created the try that gave the South Africans an eighth-minute lead with a grubber kick that was designed for winger Sergeal Peterson. Blair Kinghorn got there first – only to lose the ball under pressure. Following up, Devon Williams dived on the ball to claim a simple score. Goosen added the conversion.
Two penalties from Healy got Edinburgh back to within a point, but then Goosen hit back with two of his own to make it 13-6 after nearly half an hour. Then Healy sent a penalty to the corner and the pack drove from the lineout, with Ewan Ashman finishing off the try. The conversion attempt went wide, and it was still 13-11 at the break.
The second half had hardly got under way when Coetzee was sent off for barging into Schoeman’s head with his right shoulder. The match officials had to watch half a dozen replays before the decision was made to show Coetzee the red card.
Bulls No 8 Cameron Hanekom was sent to the sinbin when Edinburgh attacked right from the restart. That penalty went to touch too, and from the line-out drive Ashman got try No 2. Healy missed the conversion attempt, but at 16-13 Edinburgh were in the lead for the first time.
Then with the Bulls still down to 13 men, Duhan van der Merwe got his team’s third try. Mark Bennett and Kinghorn made the space, and when the ball got to the winger he had just enough time to dive in and score in the left corner. Healy’s conversion came back off a post.
Inside the last quarter, Bill Mata got the bonus-point try from a Healy pass after a solid drive had the Bulls on their back feet. The fly-half converted to make it 28-13 – a score which looked like being a decisive margin until Elrigh Louw got one back for the Bulls from a tap penalty and former Edinburgh fly-half Jaco van der Walt converted.
The home side’s eight-point lead then became five when, after Mata was yellow-carded for shoulder-to-head contact on Lions centre Stedman Gans, Van der Walt scored from the penalty. However, Edinburgh held their nerve and played much of the final few minutes in their opponents’ half.
When Peterson was yellow-carded in the dying minutes for a deliberate knock-on, Healy ran down the clock before taking his penalty, which went in off a post to end the game. It was the second week running in which Edinburgh had beaten the league leaders – Connacht having been defeated six days earlier – and the five points they picked up here have taken them to within a point of new leaders Ulster.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; W Goosen (C Dean 70min), M Bennett, J Lang, D van der Merwe; B Healy, B Vellacott (A Price 55min); P Schoeman (B Venter 55min), E Ashman (D Cherry 61min), WP Nel (J Sebastian 61min), G Young (M Sykes 64min), G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, C Boyle, B Mata.
Yellow card: Mata (73min).
Bulls: D Williams; S De Klerk, S Gans, D Kriel, S Peterson; J Goosen (J van der Walt 38min), E Papier; G Steenkamp (S Matanzima 58min), J Grobbelaar (JH Wessels 58min), W Louw (M Smith 50min), R Vermaak (R Ludwig 50min), R Nortje, M Coetzee, E Louw (C Brink 68min), C Hanekom (N Carr 64min).
Referee: C Busby (Ireland).
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Ashman (33min, 44min), Van der Merwe (49min), Mata (63min). Con: Healy Pens: Healy (3).
Bulls: Tries: Williams (9min), E Louw (67min) Cons: Goosen, Van der Walt. Pens: Goosen (2), Van der Walt.
Yellow cards –
Bulls: Hanekom (43min), Peterson (79min).
Red card –
Bulls: Coetzee (42min).