URC: Edinburgh battle to victory in bruising contest with Bulls

Duhan van der Merwe scores for Edinburgh against the Bulls. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

Edinburgh 31

Bulls 23


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.”  

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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.


Teams –

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).


Attendance: 6,759.

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About Stuart Bathgate 1438 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.


  1. last weak Vellacott gambled big time, and it came off. If it hadn’t he have been rightly slagged off.
    Last night with 2 Edin players outside him and one defender, instead of straighten, draw and pass he kicked the ball through. Not just a really poor decision but greedy, he kicked for himself
    He just isnlt a top 9, sorry

    • So on that occasion Vellacott picked a wrong option. Show me a player who’s never been guilty of that. Doesn’t mean he should be written off. For myself, I’d be very happy to see him in the national side either starting or on the bench. Plays a high energy game and keeps defences honest.

  2. That was a bruising encounter and Edinburgh did well against a pack that is almost as wide as it’s tall and some pacy backs. Young perhaps lacks bulk, but made a few dents in the Bulls’ defence, Bennett looked sharp and so did Price when he came on. Vellacott’s decision making is a bit weak and I think Mata was unlucky with the sidestep just before he made his tackle. The yellow card was hard to argue against in the circumstances.
    Good to see the forgotten Chris Dean getting back on the pitch.

      • last weak Vellacott gambled big time, and it came off. If it hadn’t he have been rightly slagged off.
        Last night with 2 Edin players outside him and one defender, instead of straighten, draw and pass he kicked the ball through. Not just a really poor decision but greedy, he kicked for himself
        He just isnlt a top 9, sorry

  3. A win’s a win and four out of five a good start to the season. Last night saw hard won points in a game that we could easily have lost…again. The first half saw so many kicks that you could have gone to the bar and not missed anything. The breakdown was really difficult with Coetzee at the forefront of the Bull’s double tackle system – first guy taking the ball-carrier for the second to target the ball. Our support was not quick enough in. The red card really ended that dominance.
    On the plus side, apart from the one kick through try, they didn’t really look like scoring all game, other than by penalties.
    Kinghorn was super good last night under the high ball – not normally a core strength – and the centres looked to be relishing their roles both in attack and defence. In fact all the backs played their part, looking sharper week by week and plugging gaps on the odd occasion when the forward line faltered.
    There is a more pragmatic shape to the team this year, taking care of business before trying the fancy stuff. at the moment it is working, but we’ve had an good run against opposition often without their stars.
    Lots to work on and hard work needed as a string of away games need to see points gathered if we are to make top 8.
    May seem a bit churlish but not sure how the Bulls winger did not get a yellow for taking out Goosen in the air.
    Plenty to get the crowd back for next week.

    • Agreed thought there were a few misses from the ref, including a few that should have been against Edinburgh

  4. Super win against a full strength Bulls side who in the first half looked like squeezing the life out of Edinburgh. They are a big physical side and we did well to hold them for most of the time.What was pleasing about that period was that whilst we didn’t have much ball the one visit to their 22 resulted in our try.

    In the 2nd half we really upped the tempo and played with a lot more fluency. I thought we could have had another score or even 2 in the 2nd half and made it a bit nervy at the end when the Bulls scored their 3rd try. Some good performances with Boyle deservedly MoM with Ritchie and Ashman also good. In the backs I thought our fielding of the high kicks was good with I think only one dropped – makes a big difference to where you play the game when you do that. A strange kicking game from Healy who missed 3 of the 4 conversions on a still night.

    Our best performance of the season so far and long may it continue.

  5. I’m sure that some detractors will highlight that the Bulls were missing some key players, but they were top of the league, and very physical. This is a very good win, especially considering that soft last Bull’s try and Healy’s kicking being bizarrely off target all night. The performance next week v Benetton very important to build momentum, and then need to take the performances on the road.

    Some really good signs of growth coming through with Sean Everitt, and have Edinburgh developed a Maul?

    As a Warrior fan, glad that Price has slotted in, but shouldn’t be too much of a surprise with many of his fellow internationalists alongside him – might need to pinch Shiel though with Dobie now out injured for 3 months 🙄

  6. Wxcellenf fare……Shows the progress Edinburgh have made, that was almost test match physicality.
    Red card was warranted and changed the game (as well as the yellow card). Interesting Schoeman was not forced off for an HIA….Edinburgh had a purple patch In 3rd quarter and that was the game, forwards mostly to the fore with Boyle Ritchie having good games.
    In previous seasons Edinburgh would’ve lost that game

  7. Wow that was a tough game …

    Bulls prob cost themselves the game with the Red Card.

    Great work from Edin though, but made it hard for ourselves towards the end.

    Liked SE’s comments.

    Price looked to slot right in

    Really hope we do a job on Bennetton next week.

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