THEY all count, and Edinburgh will scarper back up the road to Scotland with this win tucked away for safe keeping and a deep sense of relief that two late penalties from replacement stand-off Jaco van der Walt eclipsed the previous 70 minutes of inaccuracy in the strike zone.
Richard Cockerill’s men know that they will have to be an awful lot more clinical in attack when they take on Bordeaux-Begles at the Stade Chaban-Delmas on 11th January, but the important thing for the time being is that they go into that match only one point behind the Frenchmen with two pool matches to go, so their destiny is very much in there own hands.
Nic Groom’s reaction when Edinburgh coughed up yet another penalty with 15 minutes to go, this time for holding onto the ball on the deck in the first phase after a scrum in the middle of the park, summed up the level of frustration which had built up during the first hour of this infuriatingly disjointed contest. The South African picked up the ball and banged it against his head several times in irritation. He wasn’t alone in feeling exasperated.
The score at that stage was 7-3 to the home side and it felt like the chance of a valuable away win was floating away, but then a rare moment of magic from Jamie Farndale, who scythed up the middle of the park, established the field position from which Edinburgh were able to claw it back to a one point game.
Josh Bassett was sent to the sin-bin for straying offside when Edinburgh recycled quickly and tried to spread it to the right, and the visitors were able to build pressure for the first time in the match, leading eventually to another offside penalty in the middle of the park, which van der Walt stepped forward to turn into three points.
Then, with just 90 seconds left on the clock, Wasps were penalised again for sliding round the side of a ruck to disrupt Edinburgh’s possession, and once again van der Walt was on hand to take the points. Wasps had a late tilt at recapturing the initiative, but Edinburgh held on for the win.
Now focus can turn for the next two weeks towards the 1872 Cup double-header against Glasgow Warriors. Edinburgh have winning momentum and will be able to welcome back a number of senior players who started this game on the bench (such as Stuart McInally, van der Walt and Mark Bennett) plus a few more who were rested altogether (such as Pierre Schoeman, Grant Gilchrist and Blair Kinghorn).
Edinburgh should have taken the lead on nine minutes when a good break by James Johnstone got them on the front foot and they were awarded a kickable penalty, but Simon Hickey‘s left foot slid on the turf just as his right foot was making contact with the ball and the kick ended up scuttling along the turf like a wayward fairway shot from a high-handicap golfer.
The Kiwi stand-off was, however, on target just over ten minutes later when another Wasps offside offered up an even easier shot at goal, and this time his effort dissected the posts.
And that’s how it stayed until just before the break when Wasps skipper Tommy Young burst from the base of a ruck to pierce Edinburgh’s generally tight defensive line then fed No 8 Nizaam Carr for a clear run under the posts, setting up a straight-forward conversion for Lima Sopoaga.
Edinburgh started the second half brightly and Damian Hoyland got a sniff of the line when he raced onto Johnstone’s clever kick through to the corner. He did brilliantly to gather the ball at full flight but was then squeezed into touch as he stretched for the line.
Edinburgh had most of the game for the remainder of the match, with Simon Berghan, McInally and Jamie Bhatti coming off the bench to give the set-piece a big edge – but their continued inability to build through phases meant it wasn’t until the last ten minutes that they got any reward for all that territory and possession.
Wasps: M Minozzi; M Watson, M Fekitoa, J Gopperth, J Bassett; L Sopoaga, W Porter (S Wolstenholme 68); B Harris (T West 55), T Taylor (G Oghre 59), J Toomaga-Allen (B Alo 59), T Cardall (T Vukasinovic 68), C Matthews, A Johnson, T Young (captain), N Carr.
Edinburgh: D Hoyland; D Graham, J Johnstone, G Taylor (M Bennett 56), J Farndale; S Hickey (J van der Walt 61), N Groom (captain); R Sutherland (J Bhatti 52), M Willemse (S McInally 52), W Nel (S Berghan 40), S Thomson (B Toolis 52), L Carmichael, J Ritchie, H Watson (M Bradbury 63), V Mata.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Wasps: Try: Carr; Con: Sopoaga.
Edinburgh: Pen: Hickey, van der Walt 2.
Scoring sequence (Wasps first): 0-3; 5-3; 7-3 (h-t) 7-6; 7-9.
Yellow cards –