Edinburgh v Scarlets: Van der Merwe scores hat-trick in seven-try stroll

Capital outfit register their best performance of the season to date to smash Guinness PRO14 Conference B table toppers

Ally Miller on the attack for Edinburgh against Scarlets.

Edinburgh 46

Scarlets 7

STUART BATHGATE @ BT Murrayfield

EDINBURGH put in easily their best performance of the season so far last night, scoring seven tries against a Scarlets side who bore little resemblance to the one that had won their last three games. Duhan van der Merwe claimed a hat-trick, Mike Willemse got two more, and Mark Bennett and debutant winger Eroni Sau also crossed in a result which takes Richard Cockerill’s team to within a point of Munster and Connacht at the top of PRO14 Conference B.

The head coach was naturally pleased with the attacking power shown by his players, but he was just as saitisfied with the defensive effort which restricted Scarlets to a single score. “It was a good result,” Cockerill said. “We didn’t really know what to expect from Scarlets apart from they were unbeaten and have had some pretty good results. So I’m delighted with the win. We did some really good things ball in hand. Our game’s developing well and the foundations of our game are strong – our exits, our scrum, our driving game.

“Credit to the players and to Calum Macrae, our defence coach, because Scarlets are a dangerous team who like to score tries. We’ve been working hard on our defence: we weren’t as pleased with it at Leinster, and we were very motivated to put that right.”


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It may still be too early in the season to read much into results such as this, especially as most teams have been without substantial numbers of players on World Cup duty. But there is no denying the fact that three wins from four games is a pretty good return by Edinburgh, even if they were well off the pace in that defeat by Leinster in Dublin to which Cockerill referred. “We want to be competing in the play-offs if we can get there,” the coach added. “We’re only four rounds in, so a long way to go, but we’ll just keep picking points up, as many as we can wherever we can.”

Edinburgh had been forced into a late change, bringing Henry Pyrgos into the starting line-up as scrum-half and captain after Nic Groom’s wife had gone into labour. Pyrgos was soon in the thick of things, supplying the scoring pass for  Van der Merwe to run in the first try after Ally Miller had broken the first line of defence. And the winger was soon on the scoresheet again, running in another easy score after good work by Nick Haining had been carried on by Matt Scott and Bennett. Simon Hickey converted the second try to make it 12-0 after ten minutes, and the home team were off to the ideal start.

Scarlets roused themselves after that and began to apply some pressure, but to no avail. By contrast, Edinburgh made clinical use of the next opportunity that came their way, with Willemse peeling off a maul and running in the third try of the evening against a defence that looked static at best, lackadaisical at worst. Hickey again converted.

Scarlets thought they had got off the mark late in the first half when Kieran Hardy dived over in the corner, but a TMO review showed the last pass had gone forward. Nonetheless, the ease with which the Edinburgh defence had been prised apart was a warning to them that more work had to be done before the game was won – and they responded within two minutes by scoring the bonus-point try.

Van der Merwe was the instigator this time, with Pyrgos and Hickey carrying on the move deep into the Scarlets 22. The defence offended and the referee signalled advantage, but Edinburgh did not need it, as Pyrgos looped a pass out to Bennett, who beat his man with ease and touched down, giving Hickey a simple conversion.

The only black spot in the first half came right at the end, when Fraser McKenzie was sinbinned for an offence in the ruck. Even then, Edinburgh emerged unscathed, as Scarlets kicked to touch but lost possession from the lineout. The Welsh side did nothing with their man advantage after the restart either, and a few minutes after McKenzie returned, Hickey stretched his team’s lead with a straightforward penalty. 

Scarlets looked a dispirited bunch by that point, but they finally got off the mark with almost an hour played when substitute hooker Marc Jones rounded off some heavy pressure to touch down against the base of a post. 

Edinburgh hit back quickly, and Willemse got his second try from a lineout maul after a penalty had been sent to touch. Van der Merwe then went one better, completing his hat-trick thanks to a scoring pass from Jaco van der Walt, who added the conversion. Finally, Sau marked his debut with his team’s seventh try in the last minute.

Teams

Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; E Sau, M Bennett, M Scott, D van der Merwe; S Hickey, H Pyrgos (captain); P Schoeman, M Willemse, P Ceccarelli, F McKenzie, M Douglas, A Miller, L Crosbie, N Haining. Subs: C Fenton, J Bhatti, M McCallum, S Thomson, M Bradbury, C Shiel, J van der Walt, G Taylor.

Scarlets: J McNicholl; R Conbeer, S Hughes (captain), I Nicholas, T James, D Jones, K Hardy; R Evans, T Davies, S Lee, S Cummins, J Kruger, T Phillips, J Macleod, U Cassiem. Subs: M Jones, P Price, W Kruger, J Helps, D Davis, J Evans, A O’Brien, K Fonotia.

Referee: F Murphy (Ireland).

 

Scorers –

Edinburgh: Tries: Van der Merwe 3, Willemse 2, Bennett, Sau. Cons: Hickey 3, Van der Walt. Pen: Hickey.

Scarlets: Try: M Jones. Con: D Jones.

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 5-0, 10-0, 12-0, 17-0, 19-0, 24-0, 26-0 half-time, 29-0, 29-5, 29-7, 34-7, 39-7, 41-7, 46-7.

 

Attendance: 5,191.


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About Stuart Bathgate 1387 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.