London Scottish 34
Match abandoned after 76 minutes.
DAVID BARNES @ The DAM Health Stadium
A FALSE fire alarm at the DAM Health Stadium meant this game was abandoned with six minutes left to play, but lets not pretend this early cessation of hostilities suited the visitors, who shrugged off their underdog status to score six fine tries which established a well-earned lead which they would surely have held onto had the match gone the full 80 minutes. The visitors will be deeply frustrated that this peculiar end to the game might take the gloss off their achievement as a semi-pro team which comprehensively outplayed their full-time opponents.
The game finished in confusion when a voice began blaring out of the stadium’s PA system in the 76th minute making the emergency announcement that all spectators were to leave the venue immediately. After a brief pause as the sizeable crowd weighed up the possibility that this was a mistake which would quickly be rectified, everyone started heading towards the exits. There was around half an hour of milling around before confirmation began to filter through that the game was not going to restart.
“Tonight’s match has been abandoned on health and safety grounds,” said a statement posted on social media by the host club. “We apologise for any inconvenience caused, thank fans for their patience and wish all supporters a safe journey home. The match ends 26-34.”
Doug Struth, Edinburgh’s managing director, elaborated a short while later. “A stadium fire alarm was triggered accidentally by a member of the public in the Lothian Stand,” he explained. “Scottish Fire and Rescue Service attended the ground and no fire was identified. We’re pleased to report no one was hurt.
“We would once again like to thank supporters for their patience and understanding, as well as for the safe and orderly manner in which they left DAM Health Stadium tonight. Our sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused.”
Meanwhile, Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair was typically phlegmatic about the unusual end to his team’s general performance, and the unusual end to the action. “Decisions have to be made with respect to the welfare of the players and how long it is going to take to get things organised to restart,” he shrugged. “Both sides just felt it was the right decision. We’d warmed down a bit and then health and safety made the call, which I think was the right decision all round.
“It was a little bit frustrating not to get that last six minutes, they’d kicked the ball out 10 metres from their own line. So, it was an opportunity to put pressure back on them and try to win the game, but we’d seen enough to understand that we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Having finished bottom of the Championship – the second tier of English club rugby– last season, with one win and one draw from 20 matches, and having lost 66-19 in last week’s pre-season loosener against partner-club Harlequins, London Scottish had no winning momentum coming into this game. But that one game under their belt since the summer perhaps contributed to them being more switched-on and more accurate against an Edinburgh side who had started the game as big favourites but weren’t at the races.
The hosts did draw first blood with a Henry Immelman try, converted by Charlie Savala, in the fifth minute, but they then coughed up four unanswered tries – scored by Josh Gillespie, Hayden Hyde, Noah Ferdinand and Luca Petrozzi – before the half hour mark. Time and again London Scottish ruthlessly capitalised on Edinburgh mistakes, with their pacy outside backs showing a charming willingness to attack from deep off turnover ball.
Nathan Chamberlain at 10 and Robbie McCallum at 12, two recent Scotland Under-20s stars who moved south during the summer after failing to establish themselves at senior pro level north of the border, both impressed for London Scottish, although Chamberlain only lasted a little over 20 minutes before retiring with a shoulder injury.
Eventually, Edinburgh recovered some composure and focus to finish the first half strongly, claiming tries through winger Jack Blain, after a sustained period of pressure, and debutant Jake Henry, following some fine broken field running from Charlie Savala, Adam McBurney, Savala again and Connor Boyle.
That brought it back to a three-point game at the break, and Edinburgh pushed themselves ehead early in the second half when Blain crossed for his second try of the match, but the hosts then took their foot off the gas again and another former Scotland Under-20s cap in Cam Anderson helped himself to London Scottish’s fifth try, which edged them back into a narrow three-point lead.
This was soon stretched into an eight point advantage when some more slick hands gave visiting No 8 Cam King all the room he needed to score his team’s sixth try, which was enough to secure a well-deserved win for the visitors.
Edinburgh Rugby: H Immelman (Hoyland 46); J Blain (F Douglas 63), J Lang (M Currie 41), C Dean (C Hutchison 28), J Henry (K Winters 63); C Savala (J van der Walt 51), C Shiel (H Pyrgos 41, B Vellacott 63); N Auterac (J Jack 41), A McBurney (P Harrison 41), A Williams (L Atalifo 32, D Gamble 63), M Sykes (K van Niekerk 63), J Hodgson (J Campbell 51), J Ritchie (P Philips 32), C Boyle, B Muncaster (C Gordon 61).
London Scottish: C Anderson; N Ferdinand (C Cleaves 34), H Hyde (C Ingall 40), R McCallum, J Gillespie; N Chamberlain (H Sheppard, 24, C Slevin 40), L Petrozzi (D Nutton 51); F Baxter (E Chilvers 57), S Riley, J Rees (S Gratton 31), M Jurevicius (A Southon 46), M Wilkinson (M Jurevicius 68), B Tuilagi (V Tuilani 40), W Trenholm, C King (W Hobson 57).
Referee: Ben Blain
Edinburgh: Tries: Immelman, Blain 2, Henry; Con: Savala 3
London Scottish: Tries: Gillespie, Hyde, Gillespie, Petrozzi, Anderson, King; Con: Chamberlain, Sheppard.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-7; 7-12; 7-17; 7-22; 7-24; 12-24; 14-24; 19-24; 21-24 (h-t) 26; 26-29; 26-34.