At BT Murrayfield
A BONUS-POINT victory kept Edinburgh in the hunt for a place in the knockout stages of the Champions Cup, but they made heavy weather of it for a time before eventually winning by a decent margin. Duhan van der Merwe scored twice, with Blair Kinghorn and George Taylor getting the others, three of which came in the second half. Simon Hickey was on perfect form with the boot, converting all four and adding a penalty.
The result keeps Richard Cockerill’s side level with Bordeaux on points at the top of Pool Three, but they are behind on points differential after the French side beat compatriots Agen 73-3.
“It’s job only half done,” Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill said. “We’re halfway through the group and we’re doing OK, but we’ve got to go to Wasps, we’ve got to go to Bordeaux. It’s still a very tough group to get out of, but we’ve given ourselves a fighting chance.
“I felt we could have played better tonight. We’ve got to get out the habit of being in front and then letting teams back in the game by really simple, basic, fundamental errors. In key moments we have the elbow on people’s throats, and when we need to finish them off we want to finish them off. We need to do that better.
“But we’re playing pretty well. We could have scored more tries, and I think there are a few Test boys still rusty after the World Cup. We need to get them up to speed.”
Wasps had the better of a keenly contested first quarter, and took a 16th-minute lead through a Lima Sopoaga penalty awarded after the home team had offended in the lineout. The Premiership side have had a poor start to the season, winning only one of their five league matches to date, but they displayed no sign of shaky morale at that point of proceedings as they took the game to Edinburgh in confident fashion.
The high tempo suited Cockerill’s side, however, and after sustained pressure they went ahead with 25 minutes. They had twice come frustratingly close to scoring the first try of the evening shortly before the score, first when Van der Merwe was held up on the line after Wasps had conceded a scrum five, and then Darcy Graham fell into touch as he tried to gather a high ball on the right. Advantage was being played in that latter move, however, and from the scrum a forward drive eventually opened up space on the left for Van der Merwe to dive in at the corner, with Hickey converting.
The stand-off took Edinburgh into double figures five minutes before the break when Wasps were penalised for not rolling away, but the visitors hit back in the last pay of the half with a second Sopoaga penalty. Wasps had nearly scored a try a few minutes before then when a kick into the in-goal area just went dead, and, worryingly from a home point of view, they had been able to create more space in open play.
Minutes into the second half, though, it was Edinburgh, in the shape of Kinghorn, who found acres of space and extended their lead. A knock-on by Wasps fell to Graham, and although he could not control it either, the ball eventually found its way to Kinghorn on the right touchline. The full-back was more than ten metres inside his own half, but he was able to outsprint the defence and touch down in the corner, with Hickey again adding the two points.
Barely five minutes later, Van der Merwe performed a similar feat on the left, this time running in unopposed to give Hickey a simpler conversion attempt. He made no mistake, and what had been a tense, evenly balanced contest appeared to be firmly in Edinburgh’s grasp at 24-6 with half an hour to play.
Wasps had other ideas, however, and quickly got one full score back when Jack Willis touched down after a good midfield break by Sione Vailanu. Their heads may have gone down momentarily after the double whammy from Kinghorn and Van der Merwe, but the Willis score reignited their belief that they could win this one.
No sooner had their hopes revived, however, when they shot themselves in the foot, with tighthead prop Kieran Brookes being shown the yellow card for a repeated scrum offence. With multiple substitutions disrupting both sides’ rhythm, Edinburgh took their time to make the extra man pay off, but eventually, following a penalty kicked to touch, George Taylor got the bonus-point try in the right corner.
Hickey’s conversion gave the home team an 18-point lead with less than ten minutes to play, and Wasps realised there was no way back for them. They did get another try right on full-time through Nizaam Carr, with substitute Jimmy Gopperth converting, but it was hardly a consolation.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Graham, J Johnstone, G Taylor, D van der Merwe; S Hickey, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, S McInally, S Berghan, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson, N Haining. Subs: M Willemse, J Bhatti, P Ceccarelli, S Thomson, V Mata, N Groom, J van der Walt, D Hoyland.
Wasps: R Miller; Z Kibirige, M Fekitoa, M Le Bourgeois, J Bassett; L Sopoaga, D Robson; Z Zhvania, T Taylor, K Brookes, T Vukasinovic, T Cardall, J Willis, N Carr, S Vailanu. Subs: T Cruse, T West, J Toomaga-Allen, B Shields, T Young, A Johnson, W Porter, J Gopperth.
Referee: G Clancy (Ireland).
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Van der Merwe 2, Kinghorn, Taylor. Cons: Hickey 4. Pen: Hickey.
Wasps: Tries: Willis, Carr. Cons: Sopoaga, Gopperth. Pens: Sopoaga 2.
Scoring sequence: 0-3, 5-3, 7-3, 10-3, 10-6 half-time, 15-6, 17-6, 22-6, 24-6, 24-11, 24-13, 29-13, 31-13, 31-18, 31-20.
Yellow card: Wasps: Brookes.