Challenge Cup: Edinburgh denied at the death by Gloucester

Late conversion by Adam Hastings gives visitors vital victory in race for places in last 16

Darcy Graham
Darcy Graham on the attack for Edinburgh against Gloucester. Image: Peter Watt/N50 Sports.

Edinburgh 20

Gloucester 21

STUART BATHGATE
@ Hive Stadium

EDINBURGH can still qualify for the last 16 of the Challenge Cup. In fact, they can even lose their final Pool 3 game at Scarlets on Friday and still go through, provided Black Lion are unable to overtake them on match points in their game against Clermont the following day.

But Sean Everitt’s team could, and arguably should, have made life easier for themselves by winning this match. They looked close to doing exactly that when two tries from substitutes Ewan Ashman and Ben Vellacott put them 20-14 ahead going into the last ten minutes, but then Gloucester hit back with a try from Zach Mercer, converted by Adam Hastings.

The international stand-off had already scored three penalties, while Louis Rees-Zammit was also on the scoresheet for the visitors with an excellent solo try. Gloucester may be suffering from a dismal run of results in the league, where they have lost their last nine, but they have now won all three European games and are safely through to the knockout stages.

Edinburgh’s form is close to being the opposite: they have won six out of nine in the URC, but now only one from three in the Cup. They have won narrowly and lost narrowly, and Sean Everitt, for one, was frustrated by their inability to hold on for the victory here.

“That was bitterly disappointing,” the South African said. “A lot of effort went into that game – the players worked extremely hard. Unfortunately the accuracy and our execution was not there tonight.

 “We had a good week of preparation, but credit to Gloucester – they went hard at our breakdown and hard at our lineout. Those three lineouts we lost in the second half were pretty crucial to the scoreboard.

“We just did not get away from them on the scoreboard, and that was the issue for me. And we also conceded 20 turnovers, which is unacceptable.”  

Everitt’s mood was not helped by injuries to Wes Goosen, Robin Hislop and Mark Bennett. It remains to be seen how badly those injuries are, but as things stand they seem unlikely to be able to make the trip to Wales, although both Jamie Ritchie and Luke Crosbie are expected to be available.

It was a chip and chase by Goosen which briefly threatened to give Edinburgh the first score in the opening minutes, and after that chance was snuffed out there was barely another one in the opening quarter. But then, right on 20 minutes, Seb Atkinson was yellow-carded for slapping the ball out of Ali Price’s hands at a ruck, and Edinburgh quickly took advantage of the extra man to open the scoring. 

An attempt by the visitors to run the ball out of defence was first smothered and then turned over, a looping pass by Sam Skinner found Bennett, and the centre in turn delivered the scoring pass to Glen Young, who ran in an unconverted try from 15 metres out.

Gloucester finished the half on the front foot, and received some rewards for their efforts two minutes from the break when Hastings knocked over a 35-metre penalty after WP Nel was penalised for not rolling away. Edinburgh were on the offensive right from the restart, but the normally reliable Healy was off target again with a penalty attempt. Then what up to that point had been a tight game suddenly opened up, as Louis Rees-Zammit put his team ahead with an electrifying run from well inside his own half.

Little or nothing looked on when the Welsh full-back received the ball well inside his own half, but once he had eluded the first defender the score was definitely there for the taking. All he needed to do from that point was straighten up, speed up, and dive over the line. 

Hastings missed the conversion attempt, a Healy penalty tied the scores up at 8-8, but then Hastings was on target with two penalties in quick succession. The match was beginning to slip away from Edinburgh, but they fought their way back into the lead with those two tries.  

First Ashman scored in the corner from a lineout drive, and then Vellacott finished off from right on the line.  Healy failed to convert the hooker’s score but was on target with the scrum-half’s try to make it 20-14.

But Gloucester refused to accept defeat. Mercer finished off powerfully from close range, and then Hastings knocked over the conversion to give his side a narrow but deserved win. 

Scorers – Edinburgh: Tries: Young 23mins, Ashman 60, Vellacott 69. Pen: Healy 52. Con: Healy.

Gloucester: Tries: Rees-Zammit 45, Mercer 74. Pens: Hastings 38, 54, 58. Con: Hastings.

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 5-0, 5-3 half-time, 5-8, 8-8, 8-11, 8-14, 13-14, 18-14, 20-14, 20-19, 20-21.

Edinburgh: E Boffelli; D Graham, M Bennett (J Lang 70mins),  M Currie, W Goosen (H Paterson 5); B Healy, A Price (B Vellacott 64); P Schoeman (R Hislop 64), D Cherry (E Ashman 55), W Nel (A Williams 64), S Skinner (M Sykes 55), G Gilchrist (capt), G Young, H Watson (T Dodd 70), V Mata. 

Gloucester: L Rees-Zammit; J May, C Harris, S Atkinson (M Llewellyn 70), O Thorley; A Hastings, C Englefield (S Varney 72); J Ford-Robinson (H Elrington 60), S Blake (G McGuigan 53), K Gotovtsev (F Balmain 19), F Clarke (C Jordan 60), M Alemanno, J Clement, L Ludlow (capt), Z Mercer.  

Yellow card: Gloucester: Atkinson 20.

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy).

Attendance: 7,774.

About Stuart Bathgate 1363 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.

16 Comments

  1. Healy is exactly the player I said he was last year when his signing was first announced, decent, but he alone can’t carry Edinburgh. When his kicking game is slightly off,as it will be at times during the season, he doesn’t contribute much as a running threat. To be fair, he has impressed me with his leadership and willingness to take on responsibility.
    Ashman is a powerful and dynamic carrier, great to see, but his line-out throw in is abysmal.
    Both of our newbies shortcomings were in evidence yesterday and both need to improve the core skills of their respective positions.
    Though I agree with most of the points made on other posts, I think if we still had Kinghorn and Rambo, that game was there for the taking.

  2. Agree with most comments , lineout, a few careless penalties, a two missed kicks
    Talked to a few Gloucester fans and they are having a terrible season, from a Scotland perspective Hastings doesn’t look good

    It was interesting to watch Bath v Gloucester the other week. Russell / Hastings and Redpath / Harris app on display. Hastings the only one that didn’t look pretty good.

    • Hastings is just back from three consecutive long term injuries that have marred the past 18 months during which he’s played a handful of games. He certainly isn’t ready for a 6N squad but fans shouldn’t write him off. Tough enough to come back from such as long lay off but harder to do so into a struggling team. He’s made some clangers and looks quite hesitant but out FH stocks are so thin he’s probably already at least fourth in like for a call up. Hopefully he’ll get back to his highest previous standards where he would still be backing up Russell.

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  3. Gloucester, are a spoiling outfit, we should of won at a canter with at least 11 points spurned through dead ball kicks and rucks on the try line spilled. You could see Gloucester going direct at the ball in every contact, we never stopped it all game, they spoiled ball all game and struck when we allowed… Naieve comes to mind but Profligate is the word of the game for me. Another game that should of been a W can’t keep spurning chances, and everyone has an off day but Healy was in to sort out the tight games with the boot… must do better

  4. We had two poor defensive moments last night and it cost us two tries. The tackling at Zammit’s try was absolutely shocking. And we missed a tackle in the midfield in the build up to the last try that gave them their field position. (I thought there was a blatant crossing a couple of phases before the score as well FWIW).

    Other than that, the defensive shape was good and looked comfortable.

    As far as the attack goes, we can quibble about half-backs and centres all we like but the brutal truth is that our forwards were not anywhere near as destructive as they need to be carrying the ball. Schoeman and Mata were generally good for getting over the gain line directly for the most part.

    But Mish’s carrying, spectacular as it is, goes from side to side a lot, meaning that the forward progress he makes is relatively slow, so the defence has time to reset. And the rest of the pack seemed totally ineffectual ball in hand.

    I think we need much, much more from our locks and 6 in terms of carrying. And this has been a problem for Edinburgh and Scotland for some time.

    The backline needs space to attack. Honestly, how often did Healy get the ball with any real attacking option available to him? I don’t think it is the game plan to box kick so often, but it is what we end up doing because we can’t create space with our carrying.

    Of course, it doesn’t help when your primary launch platform implodes as our lineout did again during the second half. And this has been a feature this season; lineout going well and then, like someone has flicked a switch, it just stops working completely.

  5. Out of interest if someone can enlighten me from their knowledge of those in the professional set up in how much time is spent in 1:1’s between players and management aimed at building players potential, confidence, behaviour etc…

  6. Disappointing to loose a game that was well within reach against ordinary opposition. In the end, any one of the several missed kicks would have done the job, but they should not have been needed.
    Good news, was that Paterson did not look out of place, suggesting further depth in the back three. The trick is to find a way to reach these guys more accurately, more often, though the one concern across the line looks to be a lack of pace in general.
    But the main reason for the loss was the way Gloucester were able to target and at times dominate our lineout and breakdown. They got to a lot of our throws and the breakdown was a mess with far too much ball taken in and not defended or cleared accurately or aggressively enough, perhaps the use of Young at 6 hampered these efforts more than expected.
    Either way, with GT looking on, there were not many who would be sure of being in the starting XV in Cardiff in three weeks –

  7. Still completely unclear as to what Edinburgh’s attacking strategy is, or indeed if there even is one. Healy and Price as a combination is really not working as yet, and the centres need to contribute a whole lot more.

    Gloucester really aren’t very good and it’s embarrassing that their long losing streak came to an end against us. To be fair to their fans though, they were tremendous and that was probably the best atmosphere the new stadium has experienced yet.

  8. Ramblings, something no right about the backs, need a Cam Redpath, a proper 2 5/8 character to offer a genuine ball playing option at 12. Against a very physical team simply lacked the invention to counteract (as Finn and Bath had the previous week)
    Ashman, whilst I’m very dubious about his throwing does add huge physicality. Miss Crosbie, Mata had a good game. Patterson is progressing nicely but did miss Goosen after he went off

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  9. Very unlikely we’ll get through in the number 2 competition. Gloucester weren’t great we were poor, our attack is weak and predictable (we so need a new attack coach) we are totally reliant on a moment of magic from the back 3. Very disappointing against Englands second worst team.

    • Edinburgh don’t need an attack coach they need competent half backs. Price is a slow waste of space and Healy couldn’t run a back line if his life depends on it. He’s a long rang albeit inaccurate kicker at best. Potentially a 15…..maybe. no wonder Irish were happy to sell him on. Indulging GT to try to deny Horne game time is impressively hurting Edinburgh. What a nonsense GT is these days

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      • Remarkable you manage to turn an Edinburgh loss into an opportunity to whinge against the Scotland coach. Excellent work

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  10. Just a bit too inaccurate at key moments and a few entries into the gloucester red zone failed to deliver points in the first half. Healy also left his kicking boots at home otherwise would have won. At times i thought we were far too slow to clear the ball from the ruck and therefore denied us much fluency. Always going to be a tight game against a Gloucester team with a lot of big names despite their lowly league position. Doesn’t feel like this group is any easier than last year when they were in the Champions trophy and made the last 16.

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