STUART BATHGATE @ Murrayfield
TWO tries from man of the match Matt Scott were the highlights of Edinburgh’s warm-up match with PRO14 rivals Ospreys, but it was the visitors who had the last word to claim a narrow win. Mark Bennett also looked lively, creating his team’s other try for Jamie Farndale, and there were debuts for Ruan Steenkamp and Jamie Bhatti as well as a first appearance by Lewis Carmichael in 15 months after his recovery from injury.
The home side arguably should have won after being in front for most of the contest, but those and other positives were enough for the coaches to offer a relatively benign verdict on the game, Edinburgh’s last before they begin their competitive season in a fortnight with a home game against Zebre.
“There was some very good stuff, and then some poor stuff,” assistant coach Duncah Hodge said. “I think the big thing is that there’s still a lot of positives there, a lot of good work.
“And if you look back at the points they scored, they were soft. Two driving lineout tries and one try where they picked it up and ran it in 40 yards. Whereas we scored three, we dropped two over the line and we had another couple of chances as well. So, like I said, there’s a lot to like but there’s also quite a bit to learn on. Which is a great thing, because we’ve got two weeks now to prepare for the first league game to work on the game management side of things.
“Also, there was just some individual errors, which is always going to happen but they all just built up. That’s frustrating, but I suppose those are the kind of fine margins that you’re working on at this level. And that’s what we’ve got to eradicate.
“It’s not the biggest game of the season though, that one – the biggest game of the season is the one coming up next. So that’s what we’ve got to focus on and we’ll take it from there.”
After seeing their team beat London Scottish 57-21 two weeks ago, the home supporters might have turned up for this one in hope of another high-scoring match, but in truth this far tighter affair was a more useful gauge of where Edinburgh are in relation to their immediate opponents. Ospreys opened the scoring from a lineout maul following a penalty to touch, with hooker Sam Parry getting the unconverted try. The Welshmen had had the better of the opening dozen minutes, but Edinburgh were soon deep inside their territory in search of their own opening score.
The home team just failed to get off the mark when a knock-on a few metres out ended a promising move from a penalty they had opted to scrum, but they were not to be denied shortly thereafter when Scott collected a crash ball on an angle then barged his way with brutal dynamism through two would-be tacklers before touching down. Jaco van der Walt converted to put Edinburgh in front.
Scott’s defence was as impressive as his attack, and he drove his opposite number back a good 15 metres in the tackle as Edinburgh upped the tempo. Not to be outdone, Scott’s centre partner Bennett then put in one of his trademark ghosting runs to set up a second try, scored by Farndale after Van der Walt had provided the link. The stand-off again added the two points to stretch his team’s lead to nine after half an hour.
Bennett appeared to be on the verge of scoring himself shortly before the break, but after doing the difficult work to break free from a couple of defenders, he was caught just short of the posts and had the ball stripped from him. The first half had on the whole been a well-structured affair, a few loose passes notwithstanding. The question was whether the second would maintain a decent shape once both sides starting bringing on the multitude of substitutes they had listed.
Edinburgh were forced into an alteration shortly after the restart when openside Steenkamp came off injured and was replaced by Connor Boyle. Ospreys sub Luke Morgan then made a swift impact, taking advantage of an unexpected opening to burst through and touch down for a score which Luke Price made a seven-pointer. Edinburgh thought they had hit back immediately – and so did the PA system, which started playing Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen – but referee Mike Adamson chalked off captain Nic Groom’s score because of a knock-on.
Groom then gave way to Henry Pyrgos as one of a raft of Edinburgh changes which included Bhatti, making his first appearance since moving from Glasgow. The tempo dropped for a time, prompting Richard Cockerill to call for more urgency, and the head coach got a response within minutes.
Scott, who had been substituted but came back on for the injured Chris Dean, noticed a gap in midfield and needed no second invitation to run into it. He passed to James Johnstone, who at first looked like he would reach the line on his own, but then with the defence closing in he passed back to his fellow-centre, who finished off just by the posts to give Simon Hickey a simple conversion.
Ospreys had not given up the fight, and with ten minutes left Scott Otten scored from short range. Cai Evans curled in an excellent conversion from the left touchline to make it a one-score game at 21-19, and his team were soon back on the offensive in search of the decisive points.
Three minutes from time, they were awarded a penalty in good position 30 metres out, and Evans calmly scored to put them in front. They kicked possession away from the restart, but Edinburgh failed to gather, and with that failure went the home team’s chance of reclaiming the lead.
Edinburgh: D Hoyland; J Farndale, M Bennett, M Scott, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, N Groom (c); P Schoeman, D Cherry, P Ceccarelli, M Douglas, L Carmichael, L Crosbie, R Steenkamp, N Haining. Substitutes: Jamie Bhatti, M McCallum, J Stanley, C Fenton, E Ashman, J Hodgson, F McKenzie, R Darge, C Boyle, A Miller, H Pyrgos, C Shiel, S Hickey, J Baggott, G Taylor, C Dean, J Johnstone, S Pecquer, T Brown.
Ospreys: D Evans; H Dirksen, C Allen, T Thomas-Wheeler, K Giles; L Price, H Morgan; G Thomas, S Parry, T Botha, L ashley, J Kong, D Lydiate (c), O Cracknell, G Evans. Substitutes: S Otten, R Jones, G Gajion, W Griffiths, G Volpi, M Morris, S Cross, D Baker, R Morgan-Williams, M Aubrey, J Hook, C Evans, K Williams, T Williams, L Morgan.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Scott 2, Farndale. Cons: Van der Walt 2, Hickey.
Ospreys: Tries: Parry, Morgan, Otten. Cons: Price, C Evans. Pen: C Evans.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 0-5, 5-5, 7-5, 12-5, 14-5 half-time, 14-10, 14-12, 19-12, 21-12, 21-17, 21-19, 21-22.
Referee: M Adamson.