Edinburgh Accies 36
GARY HEATLY @ Raeburn Place
LAST year’s play-off semi-finalists, Edinburgh Accies, recovered from a shaky first 20 minutes to click into gear and see off GHA with a bonus point and plenty to spare in this entertaining season opener.
Given that Accies did finish fourth in the regular season table in 2021-22 to make the post-season play-offs, they started this game on their home turf as firm favourites against a GHA side fielding a number of exciting young talents, but initially fell 7-0 behind and also had to deal with losing stand-off and skipper Jamie Loomes to what looked like an ankle injury.
But they weathered the storm to emerge as comfortable victors in the end. “We are delighted to get the win,” Accies head coach Iain Berthinussen said. “The first 20 minutes shocked us a bit, losing Jamie and then going behind, but we adapted really well from 7-0 down.
This weekend’s other Premiership match reports:
“We started to take control of the game and I thought that when we raised the tempo we caused them issues. We were maybe a bit sloppy in the second half, but for the first game of the season it was a pleasing performance.”
Three of their five tries were shared by winger Lewis Wells and replacement winger Fraser Lindsay (2), and Berthinussen praised them as well as teenage second-row Euan McVie.
“Lewis is a young guy who has come to us from Linlithgow and we are pretty excited about him,” he stated. “He took his try well, he is still raw, but if we get him on the ball we know what he can do, while Fraser has been at the club a while and often plays in the back three for the seconds, but he stepped up and took his chance well.
“Euan got about 65 minutes which is great for someone who is still just 17, he has done well in pre-season and in this game, and we just have to manage him properly going forward.”
It was the visiting side, sixth in the regular season table last time around, who got off to a better start here. The likes of captain Dario Ewing and No 8 Luke McCutcheon carried well to put their side onto the front foot, while teenage stand-off Aminio Bogidrau, out of Queen Victoria School, settled quickly with some nice touches.
His opposite man Loomes went off after just seven minutes with inside centre Vincent Hart, the Belgian international, moving from 12 to 10 in a re-jigged backline which saw Lindsay coming onto the wing.
GHA should have probably been ahead earlier had they looked after the ball better, but the opening try did come in the 20th minute when full-back Luca Bardelli nicely set-up winger Amena Caqusau, the Scotland under-18 man who is also out of Queen Victoria School, to go over on debut. Bogidrau converted and it was 7-0.
Just before the half hour mark Accies scored a try from close range through second-row Cameron Bain which Hart converted and it seemed to lift them.
It also hurt GHA as did the fact that experienced tighthead prop Michael Fox had to come off soon after with a back injury.
If the first try for Accies was just a case of getting over the line from a short distance, their second score in the 33rd minute was much more pleasing on the eye. Hart’s pass in the midfield just approaching the GHA 22 went to Wells perfectly as he came off his wing, who then showed good pace and power to finish it off. Hart converted again.
Hart added a penalty for Accies four minutes before half-time to make it 17-7 while GHA, who were now starting to make silly errors, were perhaps fortunate to not lose centre Max MacFarlane to the sin-bin for a high tackle just before the break. A stern talking to was all that came from referee Ross Mabon on this occasion.
GHA needed a good start to the second half but it did not come. In fact, Accies had their third try through Lindsay within 90 seconds of the restart. The forwards put in the hard yards to create a mismatch out wide and then centre Robbie Kent put the sub winger in for the score which he finished off well. Hart missed the extras, but it was 22-7.
Two minutes later, Caqusau showed that if he gets space out wide he will be dangerous this season, skipping around a couple of defenders before being bundled into touch.
That was as good as it was going to get for GHA though and in the 59th minute Lindsay’s second try gave Accies the bonus point. He kicked ahead and the onrushing last line of the GHA defence, tiring by this point, seemed to just run past the ball allowing Lindsay to pick it up and go in unopposed for try number four. Hart converted and it was 29-7.
With the game over as a contest GHA – who also lost loosehead prop Josh Low to a foot issue in the second period which forced Fox back on – took the opportunity to blood a schoolboy. St Aloysius’ College pupil John Ventisei, 17, played for the last quarter and looked assured at scrum-half as he linked up with fellow young talent Bogidrau.
The last points of the day came in the 73rd minute when Accies scrum dominance saw them awarded a penalty try.
The hosts are now getting ready to host Marr next Saturday and know they cannot afford as sloppy a start in that one as they were guilty of here, while GHA are on the road again in week two at Heriot’s Blues.
“I thought for the first 20 minutes we came out of the blocks and played some really good rugby,” losing head coach Trevor Carmichael said. “However, at this level you have to be clinical when you have a lot of possession and chances, and we didn’t put enough points on the board in that spell. If we had then things might have been a bit different.
“After that we compounded error after error and in the second half we didn’t really fire a shot if I am honest.
“There are still positives to take from the game though and the young guys coming into this environment showed some nice touches and will also have taken a lot of learnings from this. We will now refocus ahead of the Heriot’s game.”
Edinburgh Accies: K Gossman; M Wallace, R Kent, V Hart, L Wells; J Loomes, M Love; C Imrie, R Montgomery, C Taylor, E McVie, C Bain, F Simpson, M Walker, T Drennan. Subs: H Campbell, C Lacour, M Crowther, B Grainger, F Lindsay.
GHA: L Bardelli; S Derrick, C Lonergan, M MacFarlane, A Caqusau; A Bogidrau, R MacFarlane; J Low, A Falconer, M Fox, A Kerr, S Callaghan, J McEntegart, D Ewing©, L McCutcheon. Subs: C Williamson, R Hay, A Flynn, G Baird, J Ventisei.
Referee: Ross Mabon.
Edinburgh Accies: Tries: Bain, Wells, Lindsay 2, Penalty Try; Pen: Hart; Cons: Hart 3.
GHA: Try: Caqusau; Con: Bogidrau.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh Accies first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 12-7; 14-7; 17-7 (h-t), 22-7; 27-7; 29-7; 36-7.
Man-ot-the-Match: When Accies lost captain and playmaker Jamie Loomes early on through injury and then went behind they needed someone to steady the ship at 10. Vincent Hart did just that and gets the nod while notable mentions go to his team mate Robbie Kent and GHA’s Luke McCutcheon.
Talking point: It was great to see a number of young players on both sides backed by their coaches and given a chance at this level. Sure, the likes of Lewis Wells and Euan McVie for Accies and Aminio Bogidrau, Amena Caqusau and Archie Falconer for GHA made some errors, but they also had bright moments and that bodes well for the Premiership generally going forward.