EDINBURGH had their chances to win their first game of the new PRO14 season – more than enough chances had they been at their best – but in the end they travelled home from Swansea with only a losing bonus point to show for their efforts. A finely balanced game was tipped in Ospreys’ favour by two second-half tries from George North, and although a Blair Kinghorn score threw the outcome back into the melting pot until the end, Richard Cockerill was in no doubt that the final score was a fair reflection of the game.
“I don’t think it’s a tough one to take, because we didn’t deserve to win – we didn’t play well enough,” the Edinburgh head coach said. “Twenty-plus turnovers – we had our opportunities and we didn’t take them, and we probably gifted certainly the second try for George North. We turned the ball over, it’s pass-pass, and he’s going to score from there.
“I was pleased that we actually stayed in the battle, we didn’t capitulate, and we take a point away. We put ourselves in a position to win it at the end, but the reality is we got exactly what we deserved.
“It’s ridiculous, really,” Cockerill continued when asked to analyse his team’s high error count. “Because we played Bath three weeks ago, turned the ball over 20-odd times and lost by a couple of points. Three weeks later we turn the ball over 20-odd times and lose by four points.
“It’s frustrating. We’ve got to learn our lessons quickly. We’ve been brought down to earth a little bit. Reality bites, but it’s game one away from home, it’s always going to be a tough start.
“However, if we’d done things a little bit better, the result could certainly have been different. We were right in the game: you make errors and you get punished.
They deserved to win in the end. There’s no complaints around that. A point’s a point and we’ll take it.”
It was a frustrating outcome to a match in which for large passages of play Ospreys were the ones who saw their efforts thwarted. They threw everything at Edinburgh throughout an opening spell of heavy pressure, for example, but Henry Pyrgos denied them an early try when he just beat Dan Evans to the touchdown after Scott Williams had kicked ahead. Luke Price then sent a penalty attempt wide after Matt Scott had deliberately knocked on.
Ospreys continued to press throughout the first 10 minutes and more, and when Edinburgh did break out through a Kinghorn kick ahead, North got back to snuff out the danger. The first quarter was almost at an end by the time Edinburgh were able to mount their first sustained attack, but it ended when Simon Berghan was stripped off the ball on the edge of the home 22.
Eventually, just after the half-hour, Simon Hickey gave the visitors the lead with a penalty after Tom Botha was offside, but Ospreys were level within two minutes after Grant Gilchrist was penalised for not releasing as Edinburgh tried to break out of defence. With half-time approaching, Price was replaced by Sam Davies after being taken off injured, and in time added on the new man failed to give his team the lead with a penalty from the 10m line.
Cockerill’s team were on the back foot again in the early stages of the second half as Ospreys upped the tempo, but the defence again held firm against an attack that, while full of endeavour, was short of both incisiveness and invention. However, although they were adept enough at soaking up the pressure, Edinburgh were not so clever when it came to making the most of their own possession, too often coughing up ball needlessly.
Murray McCallum came on for Berghan after 45 minutes in the first change of the night by the visitors, and was soon in the thick of things as Edinburgh began to get the better of the arm wrestle. One very promising drive petered out when Pierre Schoeman dived in after Alun Wyn Jones had snaffled a loose ball, then the next was ended when Luke Hamilton dropped the ball.
Edinburgh were not to be denied tomorrow, and they were soon back deep inside Ospreys territory with a well-orchestrated drive. Although it ended when McCallum was held up on the line, referee John Lacey had been playing penalty advantage, and Hickey had no difficulty in restoring his team’s three-point lead.
Ospreys hit back quickly, and after a Sam Davies touchdown was chalked off because of an offence at a quick throw-in, North at last provided the cutting edge his team had been lacking. An attack down the right found the winger tucked in tight to the touchline, but a rapid swerve wrong-footed the defence and seconds later he had scored. Sam Davies added the two points to take the tally into double figures.
The score was a massive boost to the Ospreys’ morale, while Edinburgh momentarily looked shell-shocked. Just as the Welshmen had failed to capitalise on their possession in the first quarter, so the Scots had been unable to make the most of their own periods of domination.
With quarter of an hour left, a buccaneering break from Hamish Watson set up excellent position, but yet again the ball was lost forward, allowing Ospreys to clear from the scrum. The costliness of such moments was highlighted just two minutes later, when North used his speed to score his second try from broken play. Sam Davies converted, and with 11 minutes to play Ospreys were 11 points ahead.
Edinburgh soon had a big chance to get back into the game, but it was snuffed out when Scott Williams robbed Duhan van der Merwe of the ball in a finely-timed tackle. With five minutes to go, however, they at last scored a try when a break by substitute Jamie Ritchie ended with Kinghorn crossing. Jaco van der Walt, on for Hickey, converted to make it a single-score game.
When Dougie Fife forced a sliced clearance, Edinburgh had one last opportunity to claim victory. They set up the lineout drive well enough, but yet again were unable to execute as the referee ruled that the maul had been held up.
Ospreys: D Evans; G North, S Williams, O Watkin, H Dirksen; L Price, A Davies; N Smith, S Otten, T Botha, B Davies, A Jones, D Lydiate, J Tipuric, J King. Substitutes: S Baldwin, R Jones, A Jeffries, A Beard, S Cross, T Habberfield, S Davies, J Thomas.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Fife, M Bennett, M Scott, D van der Merwe; S Hickey, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, S McInally, S Berghan, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, L Hamilton, H Watson, V Mata. Substitutes: R Ford, A Dell, M McCallum, F McKenzie, J Ritchie, S Kennedy, J van der Walt, J Johnstone.
Referee: J Lacey (Ireland).
Ospreys: Tries: North 2. Conversions: S Davies 2. Pen: Price.
Edinburgh: Try: Kinghorn. Con: Van der Walt. Penalties: Hickey 2.
Scoring sequence (Ospreys first): 0-3, 3-3 half-time, 3-6, 8-6, 10-6, 15-6, 17-6, 17-11, 17-13.