STEPHEN BRUNSDON @ Riverside Park
EDINBURGH ACCIES produced a consummate second half display to record a six-try bonus point victory over a spirited Jed-Forest as the Premiership season got underway.
The visitors won the first half by two tries to one but managed to cut loose in the second period as Jed began to feel the effect of a limited pre-season and a number of returning players forced back into action.
Jed rallied well amid adversity in the second half but a further four scores from Accies ensured a comfortable victory for the capital side, at least on the scoreboard.
“I’m really pleased with the way our boys stuck at it, we knew it would take time to build the score, but I think we did that in second half, and we’ve come away relatively unscathed,” said victorious head coach Iain Berthinussen. “We’ve got seven new players in the first team this season and you’re always going to get a tough game at Riverside, so it was about controlling how we react to stuff, but it was a good performance all-round.”
This was the first day back at school for both sides, with Accies having last played 25 weeks ago in the Premiership play-off defeat to Currie. For Jed, it was an even longer break from action and an error-strewn – albeit entertaining – first half certainly was proof of that.
Warm temperatures and an almost pristine Riverside Park surface produced ideal conditions for running rugby, and that is exactly what Accies delivered before opening the score on five minutes thanks to a quick tap penalty from out-half Jamie Loomes which caught the home defence cold.
A stray kick-out on the full, from Jed fly-half Lewis Young gave Accies early possession and they raced into the Jed half via winger Max Wallace, who burst down the line. More quick ball sent Jed’s defence into panic, resulting in a penalty deep inside their own 22.
Loomes then darted from short-range to dive over for the try, with his conversion taking the visitors into an early 7-0 lead.
Jed had plenty of chances of their own to hit back, but a lack of precision on more than one occasion cost them dearly. A misfiring line-out kiboshed two potential try-scoring opportunities while indiscipline two yards out gave Accies an easy escape.
By the time the home side did score via replacement Rory Marshall – achieved through finally getting Accies on the back foot following a couple of penalties in quick succession, the visitors had already doubled their tally.
Jed’s main problem in the opening half was ball retention, as an inordinate amount of handling errors stopped promising periods of attack. A poor clearance kick from Young after a line-out deep in the Jed half allowed Accies a set-piece of their own. Off the top, Loomes fed Neil Armstrong who, after a line break, released winger Fraser Lindsay, who in turn sent Robbie Chalmers in almost untouched for Accies’ second.
With Loomes’ successful conversion, the hosts were forced to react. Young opted to run Jed’s latest penalty which seemed to have caught Acciess off guard. A further penalty for not retreating 10 yards gave Jed more ground and was proof that when the hosts put ball to hand, they can be potent.
Keen to ensure Jed’s score wasn’t a sign of the tide turning against them, Accies were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half, scoring via Jamie Sole’s pick-and-go effort from short-distance.
Loomes’ conversion made it 21-5, but again Jed fought back and occupied Accies’ territory for large periods, alas without reward. Too often, passes were to team-mates rather than for them and the home side lacked the necessary zip to their game in the red zones.
Discipline was an issue in the second half, as both sides lost a player to a yellow card. Lewis Young was sin-binned for retaliation while Accies debutant prop Calum Crookshanks was also binned for a late tackle.
On the other side of these yellows, Accies stretched further clear as Loomes added a penalty and then replacement Gregor Woods completed a coast-to-coast bonus point try following another Wallace break.
The fractured game played into Jed’s hands, and they scored a pair of well-worked tries, for Lewis Young and Jamie Hynd, but it was not enough as Accies bagged two late tries through Fraser Lindsay and Alistair Wood.
“We’re a bit surprised to come down here and get ourselves a bonus point victory, really pleased with the effort and how we wore them down in the end,” reflected Bertinussen. “The first half was really close, and we didn’t score for another 30 minutes or something after the first try, and I thought we would kick on after the second. But Jed came back as they always do and it was important that we scored at the start of the second half because it would have been really close if Jed had scored first after the break.”
Jed-Forest: L Elder; S Paxton, G Young, O Cranston, R Shirra-Gibb; L Young, M Glen; G Slorance, M Weekley, H Meadows, C Skeldon, D Wardrop, B Roff, J Howe, B Fotheringham. Subs: J Ferguson, P Ferreira, J Hynd, E Lauder, R Marshall.
Edinburgh Accies: S Wells; M Wallace, R Chalmers, N Armstrong, F Lindsay; J Loomes, P Ritchie; C Imrie, G Hall, C Crookshanks, R Thompson, S Whittaker, F Simpson, A Wood, J Sole. Subs: H Campbell, A Hain, K Slingsby, B Grainger, G Woods.
Referee: D Young
Jed-Forest: Tries: Marshall, L Young, Hynd; Cons: Cranston.
Edinburgh Accies: Tries: Loomes, Chalmers, Sole, Woods, Lindsay, Wood; Cons: Loomes 4; Pens: Loomes.
Scoring Sequence (Jed-Forest first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-14; 5-14 (h-t) 5-19; 5-21; 5-24; 5-29; 10-29; 15-29; 17-29; 17-34; 17-39; 17-41.
Yellow cards –
Jed-Forest: L Young
Edinburgh Accies: Crookshanks
Man-of-the-Match: Visiting skipper Jamie Loomes did everything you could ask for of a top-line out-half and controlled his side incredibly well throughout. His kicking out of hand was measured and accurate and he produced plenty of threats when he had the ball too. Barring an intercept after a superb line break, there were no real errors from the Accies 10, who took a couple of heavy hits from a keen Jed defensive line in the second half.
Talking point: At times, it risked being boys against men, but in the context of having had no pre-season matches, this was not a bad performance from Jed. The home side showed signs of promise in attack but simply hadn’t had the time together as a group to give Accies a real challenge. A fitter and more prepared Accies side eventually cut loose and the scoreline probably wasn’t reflective of how much of an arm-wrestle this game was early in the second period.