Men’s Varsity Match: Edinburgh hold on to win after fierce St Andrews fightback

Image courtesy: Chris Reekie

Edinburgh University 26

St Andrews University 19

ERIN McRITCHIE @ BT Murrayfield

EDINBURGH did just enough to get the better of St Andrews – but they only prevailed after what their back-row forward Harry Ryan declared was “the hardest game of rugby” he had ever played.

It was evident from the kick-off that it was going to be a hard-fought contest as Edinburgh and St Andrews battled for dominance, and, with penalties being awarded both ways, it seemed it was going to be a thrilling encounter.  Both teams were determined to exhibit their skills in the opening 10 minutes, but it was Edinburgh that first showed promise as they repeatedly attacked the St Andrews 22, though the away team’s defence seemed to withhold the pressure.

That was until Edinburgh wing Harry Hitchens identified a gap in St Andrews line and stormed over the whitewash for the first score of the match, and stand-off George Wallington added the extras. Just five minutes later, Edinburgh were awarded a penalty try by referee Michael Todd, due to St Andrews many infringements at the breakdown.

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Despite being reduced to 14 men – prop Max Young was shown a yellow card after 21 minutes for a high tackle – Edinburgh continued to play with real intensity as flanker Ryan scored their third try. St Andrews fought back, however, scoring two successive tries in under five minutes as both flanker Alex Hodgins and prop Matthew Phillipson crossed the line for the visitors, though full-back Kelvin Chen was unable to add either conversion, leaving Edinburgh with a 19-10 half-time lead.

A neck injury to Edinburgh University’s Adam Causer resulted in a prolonged stoppage of play after 47 minutes as he had to be stretchered from the field. After the match, coach Dave Adams said: “He’s away to hospital with his mum and dad, but from what I’ve heard he will be OK.”

It was St Andrews who seemed to benefit more from the break as they looked set for another score before injury once again caused a stoppage in play, this time as players from both sides were attended to.

St Andrews captain Roland Walker then crossed the line and took his team up to within four points of Edinburgh. Joe Stainer, a replacement for Edinburgh, reinvigorated his side’s sense of fight and finished off a team try to once again widen their lead. A yellow for Edinburgh’s Toby Woods saw the leaders once again reduced to 14 men, however, the final whistle came before St Andrews could launch a successful last-minute contact.

Despite the disappointment of defeat, St Andrews director of rugby Scott Lawson said he was “immensely proud” of the character shown by his team as they fought back from three scores down. “To go 19-0 down and then for it to finish at 26-15, I think it shows a great amount of character,” the former Scotland hooker said. “I think the effort and the application they showed in kind of adverse circumstances was the most pleasing thing on the day.

“The character and attitude they showed was always going to be the most important thing today – the technical and tactical elements of the game were going to be secondary. They fought hard, and ultimately I think they enjoyed the occasion.”

Teams –

Edinburgh: B Smith; A Friend, C Keys, A Causer, H Hitchens; G Wallington, J Small-Edwards; M Young, J Boyle, J Gibson, Z Redgrave, J Nelson, S Burnside, H Ryan, E Russell. Subs: N Brimacombe, T Woods, S White, C Klinger, E Martensson, O Ryan, J Stainer.

 St Andrews: K Chen; R Walker, R de Rome, R Lind, F Mughal; S MacGregor, C Lynde; M Kauffman, J Morrison, M Phillipson, M Sutherland, S Tue, A Whyte, A Hodgins, TJ Akinjobi. Subs: H MacLean, M Keane, H Carden, D Cox, J Kelly, A Boyes, W Syme.

Referee: M Todd.


Edinburgh: Tries: Hitchens, penalty try, Ryan, Stainer. Cons: Wallington 2.

 St Andrews: Tries: Hodgins, Phillipson, Walker.

 Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 5-0, 7-0, 14-0, 19-0, 19-5, 19-10 (h-t) 19-15, 24-15, 26-15.


Yellow cards 

Edinburgh: Young, Woods.

 Attendance: 9687.


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About Erin McRitchie 12 Articles
Erin is studying journalism at Edinburgh Napier University, and is co-editor of the university’s website ENRG Sport. Earlier this year, ENRG Sport won two awards at the Scottish Student Journalism Awards - Podcast of the Year and Website of the Year.