Edinburgh v Scarlets: narrow defeat dashes Euro qualification hopes for hosts

Richard Cockerill's side did enough to win tight encounter but paid the price for costly mistakes

Edinburgh stand-off Jaco van der Walt looks for a way through Scarlets' defence. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Jaco van der Walt is back in the Edinburgh team for the trip to Treviso. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

Edinburgh 25

Scarlets 27

DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield

A TENSE and entertaining match ended in deep disappointment for Edinburgh when their late charge for glory came up short. This defeat leaves the capital side chasing a shadow in terms of Champions Cup qualification at the end of this season.

Scarlets now need six points from their two remaining games in order to seal that third place finish in Conference B of the PRO14. Edinburgh have four games left and will keep battling until the dream is absolutely dead and buried, but they know now that the remainder of this campaign needs to be about trying to generate momentum for their European last 16 clash on the first weekend of April, and building towards next season.

It is doubly frustrating for Edinburgh because they played some really attractive and effective rugby, but that old problem of coughing up cheap points cost them dearly again.

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“I think it’s going to be tough for us from here on in,” conceded head coach Richard Cockerill. “It’s a game we could have easily won, but we didn’t manage territory particularly well in the first half. We had 70 percent territory against us but still managed to be in front [at half-time] but then we concede ten easy points from a couple of errors [at the start of the second half].

“We got ourselves back into the game and could have easily won it at the death. We had a penalty to win it and then had some long phases to try and win it at the death.  It finished three tries a piece, so it’s a game we could have won, but a bit of luck and fortune wasn’t on our side.”

“We’ve got to keep developing players, and we’ll potentially give some other guys an opportunity,” he added. “I’ve no idea who we will or won’t get back next week, but we’ve got to keep working hard at our game.

“Europe is going to be the focus now I suppose. But we’ll try as hard as we can to get as many points as we can.”

Edinburgh laid down an early marker by sending two kickable penalties towards the touchline, and they got their reward when Magnus Bradbury – filling in as a second-row – rumbled over from close range with just five minutes played, after a series of punishing drives in which Pierre Schoeman and Grant Gilchrist featured prominently.  Jaco van der Walt added the conversion.

True to recent form, Edinburgh almost immediately offered Scarlets a way back into the match, with Dan Jones slotting an offside penalty just four minutes later, but his time the home side avoided compounding that lapse with another one, and when Damien Hoyland was tackled high as he ran the ball back from full-back, van der Walt stepped forward to restore the seven-point cushion.

Scarlets came again and Edinburgh initially did a pretty good job of soaking it up on their own 22, even winning a turnover when Bradbury’s shoulder dislodged the ball in contact, but then a brilliantly worked attack from a line-out cut the home team wide open, with Dan Jones’s inside pass releasing Tom Prydie, who then sent Tyler Morgan galloping under the posts. There was a brief hold-up while referee Ben Blain confirmed that the final pass had not strayed forward, and it was borderline, but the move deserved a score.

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A penalty against Scarlets for not rolling away in front of their own posts allowed van der Walt to edge the host back into the lead as the game entered its second quarter, only for Scarlets to strike back again when Darcy Graham switched wings to tidy up a mischievous kick from Steff Evans which had created all sort of confusion in Edinburgh’s backfield. The winger made some good ground but then threw a speculative pass out of the tackle which handed possession right back to his opponents, and Scarlets took full advantage by immediately transferring the ball to the opposite touchline, where Johnny McNicholl stretched past Hoyland to score in the corner.

It was entertaining stuff and then Edinburgh picked it up a gear with a breathless passage of play, offloading like the Harlem Globetrotters – or as close to the Harlem Globetrotters as any team coached by Cockerill will ever manage – culminating in van der Walt scooping up a loose ball and beating his man, before sending Graham home.

There was a bit of handbags before the try was awarded because van der Walt took exception to opposite number Dan Jones following through with his tackle after the pass had gone, but it was all just handbags, and the Edinburgh No10 recovered his composure to knock over the conversion which made it 20-17 at the break.

The second half got off to a pretty disastrous start for Edinburgh when George Taylor spilled the ball under no sort of pressure and Steff Evans hacked ahead twice, before scrum-half Dane Blacker arrived on the scene to flop over the line, with Dan Jones firing home the touchline conversion, and then adding an offside penalty almost straight from the restart for good measure.

In the space of seven minutes, a narrow half-time lead had transformed into a seven-point deficit, and it nearly got worse for the home team when James Johnstone was sucked in by Sione Kalamafoni which allowed Steff Evans to escape up the left touchline then feed Blacker, who perhaps should have zoned in on the corner rather than send a back-handed flip in field which didn’t go to hand.

Van der Walt had the option of the posts when Scarlets were penalised in the middle of the park but went for the corner, and Edinburgh picked up two more penalties in quick succession, before their pack power finally delivered a try through replacement hooker Dave Cherry at the back of a line-out drive.

No conversion so Edinburgh were still two points adrift, but this time they controlled the restart, and were soon back on the offensive with another high-octane passage of play, but they couldn’t find a way through and a Grant Gilchrist knock-on followed by a penalty against Cherry for lying on the wrong side allowed Scarlets off the hook.

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With seven minutes to go, van der Walt had the chance to put Edinburgh back in front with a 47-metre penalty. It was right on the edge of his range, and although his effort had the legs, it floated agonisingly to the right of the posts.

When he got another bite at the cherry less than two minutes later, from sightly further out and a less central position, the stand-off opted to kick the territory, but Edinburgh were frustrated when Chris Dean collided with referee Blain meaning that play went back for scrum.

Still they kept going, battling through over 20 phases as the game moved into overtime, and when Graham broke down the right touchline it looked like the hosts might just make it, but he was closed down in the corner and couldn’t find a team-mate as he desperately tried to keep the ball alive. Scarlets snaffled possession and fired the ball into touch to bring the curtain down on an excellent contest, which ended in disappointment for the home team, but served as a reminder that rugby can be fun.

Scorers –

Edinburgh: D Hoyland; D Graham, J Johnstone, G Taylor (C Dean 72), E Sau; J van der Walt, N Groom (C Shiel 52); P Schoeman, M Willemse (D Cherry 52), L Atalifo (M McCallum 67(), M Bradbury (A Ferreira 78), G Gilchrist, N Haining (L Crosbie 22-34), A Miller, V Mata (L Crosbie 61).

Scarlets: J McNicholl; T Prydie, T Morgan, S Hughes (P Asquith 58), S Evans; D Jones (A O’Brien 67), D Blacker; P Price (K Mathias 68), M Jones (T Davies 68), P Scholtz (A Jeffries 68), M Jones, S Lousi, U Cassiem (E Kennedy 67), J Morgan (T Ratuva 15-24, 44), S Kalamafoni.

Referee: B Blain (Scotland).


Scorers –

Edinburgh: Tries: Bradbury, Graham, Cherry; Con: Van der Walt 2; Pen: Van der Walt 2.

Scarlets: Trie: Morgan, McNicholl, Blacker; Con: D Jones 3; Pen: D Jones 2.

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-3; 10-3; 10-8; 10-10; 13-10; 13-15; 13-17; 18-17; 20-17 (h-t) 20-22; 20-24; 20-27; 25-27.

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About David Barnes 3956 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. I am always appalled at the ingratitude shown by football fans whenever their teams aren’t doing well but never thought to see it in rugby. Speaking for myself, the results and displays garnered during Cockers tenure have built more than enough credit that I wouldn’t presume to judge him on this disrupted and disjointed season.

  2. I am always appalled at the ingratitude shown by football fans whenever their teams aren’t doing well but never thought to see it in rugby. Speaking for myself, the results and displays garnered during Cockers tenure have built more than enough credit that I wouldn’t presume to judge him on this disrupted and disjointed season.

  3. Some hysterical over- analysing going on here with the only sensible comment being Edinburgh did miss having a proper 7. As to the rest, Taylor was uncharacteristically awful, probably due to his lack of game time. The truth is Edinburgh were beaten by a Scarlets team that simply played better than them on the day. Get over it guys.

    • Disagree. The failings shown by Edinburgh yesterday have been constant and ongoing this season. Zero attacking nous, inability to convert opportunities close to the line, dull plodding through the phases, picking and going nowhere until someone inevitably makes a mistake.

      Scarlets threw the ball around nicely yesterday and were good to watch, but that was Edinburgh’s game to win and they failed to grasp the opportunity.

  4. Scarlets need 6 points from an away trip to Munster and a home game v Connacht who are first and second in the pool so by no means a formality…. Connacht not generally inconvenienced by International call ups unlike Scarlets… may be clutching at straws, and yesterday was a terrible result but still just about in Edinburgh’s hands

  5. I could not believe the end, everything should have been in place for VDW to attempt a drop goal. The constant battering of the welsh line without a 2nd thought of a DG was quite unbelievable……school boy stuff. Surely this Rainbow Cup thing is perfect for Savala, Shiel, Blain to be given game time. Finally it was evident that Ally Millar is an 8 and only imposed himself when Mata went off, really missed a 7.

  6. Loads of endeavour, the Edinburgh guys cannot be faulted physically but a terrible lack of imagination, and flair, why sign Chamberlain when RC clearly doesnt rate him, VDW is more of a 12 imo, hes very strong and solid but a top 10 needs more, should’ve signed Adam Hastings from Glasgow with Haining and Bradbury going the other way. VDM is a gargantuan miss from this team, maybe he covered over the cracks somewhat.

  7. The team just looks so disjointed. The attack has no angles, no clever lines, it’s all just beat your man. Which is fine, but not ideal. They also had a lot of players looking very short of full speed. Johnstone is a damn clever player, but he looked slow. Taylor is an excellent center, but this is his first game back in ages.

    It’s hard to know what’s supposed to be next. They’re neither powerful enough to be all route 1 through the pack, and a lot of VdV’s kicking wasn’t spot on, and Groom looked lost today, not playing the quick, incisive rugby one expects from him.

    It’s just odd. Since the re-start, they have never hit their straps again. I don’t know what to think, I really don’t.

  8. You can almost imagine Cockerill bollocking the players for what happened ahead of Darcy Graham’s try – how dare they play adventurous attacking play!

    For the most part the rest of the attacking play was the regular blunt, unimaginative garbage. They were never, ever going to show anything approaching wit to score in those final passages of play and were totally clueless about how to break the defence down. Cockerill’s turgid game plan is starting to annoy and frustrate a lot of fans, I reckon.


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