FERGUS MAINLAND @ The DAM Health Stadium
ON an evening dubbed ‘Fan Appreciation Night’, Edinburgh thrashed the Ospreys, rewarding the patience of their supporters who have been left repeatedly frustrated with their side’s inability to deliver wins.
A brace for Darcy Graham meant Edinburgh ended their home campaign on a high, a performance that leaves the crowd wondering what could have been in a year of should haves and could haves.
“I’m so conflicted,” said Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair. “I thought the vast majority of the game we were right on it. We had five minutes around 30 minutes when Sam [Skinner] got his yellow card and we lost it a little bit, but apart from that we were on it for a huge amount of the game.
“There is huge satisfaction that we’ve done that; that we’ve put away a team like Ospreys with the quality they have, but it’s tinged with a bit of frustration that we’ve not seen that consistency of performance throughout that season.
“One of my frustrations is I believe that what I’ve tried to do isn’t an 18-month or three-year process. It is a three or four year process in terms of empowering the players, giving them ownership of the team. These things don’t just happen so I believe we are starting to move in the right direction but it’s not for me to say that.”
Memories of a season of shortcomings were replaced with elation as Ben Vellacott broke the deadlock after five minutes. The scrum-half capitalised on a careless pass from Owen Williams as the Edinburgh men swarmed the Ospreys’ attacking line.
Vellacott scooped the loose ball and cantered through the dumbstruck defenders from the 10-metre line to open the scoring for the hosts under the posts. Emiliano Boffelli added the extras.
No sooner had the crowd processed the score than Edinburgh had thundered back into their opposition’s 22 as Bill Mata spearheaded an attack that Ospreys struggled to find early answers to. The ball worked its way into the hands of fly-half Blair Kinghorn who set up Dave Cherry to score under the posts. Boffelli had no trouble with the conversion.
Ospreys, who were still fighting for the Welsh Shield, finally took flight, disrupting Edinburgh’s line-out five metres from the hosts’ try line. The set-piece has been faltering all season and failed at a costly moment, turning the ball into the hands of the visitors. who wasted no time in building their attack, moving the ball to within a few feet of the Edinburgh line before Dewi Lake rumbled over from close range. Williams added the conversion.
This break in Edinburgh’s bombardment of the Ospreys line proved to be only temporary. Quick hands after hard yards from the forwards saw Hamish Watson link up with Skinner, who galloped in for the home side’s third of the night. Boffelli continued to be dynamite from the tee.
Blair’s side had the bonus point wrapped up after 20 minutes when Boffelli snapped a loose Ospreys pass clean out of the air and danced over the try-line as if at a Tango Milonga, before converting himself.
After an electric opening quarter of the match, Edinburgh’s engine room was reduced by a cylinder after Skinner was sent to the sin-bin for a clear-out above the horizontal.
With three minutes to go before the break, it was the Ospreys’ turn to be shown yellow as Rhys Davies was sent to the bin for blocking Darcy Graham and connecting with his head.
Edinburgh punished the weakened visitors by adding one more score with the final play of the half. Off the back of securing a line-out deep inside Ospreys’ half, Watson added the finishing touch, and Boffelli converted again.
The visitors scored first after the break when Lake got his brace off the back of a driving maul. Williams converted and suddenly the DAM Health had some nervous energy about it for the first time all game, but Ospreys then had their wings clipped 15 minutes into the second half when Morgan Morris was sent to the bin for slowing the ball down.
Any concerns of a comeback in the capital were put to bed by Graham. The Prince of Hawick, who has been dearly missed whilst recovering from injury could not be brought down by the Ospreys as he added Edinburgh’s sixth try, in his first home game since Munster before Christmas.
The Scotland winger added his second with less than 10 minutes to go in the match after Boffelli saw space and kicked in behind the Ospreys line and Graham won the foot-race to the bouncing ball.
Ospreys got a third through Sam Parry and another driving maul, however, the match was all but over.
Reflecting on Graham’s player-of-the-match performance, Blair was full of praise for his winger who has been starved of game time of late.
“He’s brilliant, Darcy. He’s scoring that try [his second] 99 times out of a hundred, whereas a lot of other wingers would be scoring it 50 times out of a hundred. He’s got a sense, an understanding, he moves so well and he’s low to the ground,” said the coach. “Once that kick goes in, you know it’s odds-on for him to be scoring.”
Edinburgh travel to Ulster next Friday night for their final game of the United Rugby Championship campaign, an opportunity to back up this tantalising performance at the DAM Health and finish a disappointing campaign with flourish.
Edinburgh: E Boffelli, D Graham (D van der Merwe 77), M Bennett (C Dean 68), J Lang, D Hoyland, B Kinghorn, B Vellacott (H Pyrgos 60), P Schoeman (B Venter 60), D Cherry (S McInally 57), WP Nel (L De Bruin 57), M Sykes (J Hodgson 22), S Skinner, J Ritchie, H Watson, V Mata (C Boyle 69)
Ospreys: L Hopkins, G North, M Collins, K Williams, L Morgan, O Williams, R Webb, G Thomas (S Parry 51), D Lake (N Smith 51), T Botha (T Francis 51), A Beard, A Wyn Jones, R Davies, D Lydiate, M Morris.
Referee: G Gnecchi (Italy)
Edinburgh: Tries: Vellacott, Cherry, Skinner, Boffelli, Watson, Graham 2; Con: Boffelli 5.
Ospreys: Tries: Lake 2. Con: Williams 2.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0 14-0; 14-5; 14-7; 19-7; 21-7; 26-7; 28-7; 33-7; 35-7 (h-t) 40-14; 45-14; 45-19; 45-21.
Yellow cards –
Edinburgh: Skinner (24 mins)
Ospreys: Davies (38 mins), Morris (54 mins)