STEPHEN BRUNSDON@ BT Murrayfield
A SCINTILLATING first half display, in which they scored three tries, allowed Edinburgh University to bury a four-year hatchet in this year’s RBS Scottish Varsity Match at BT Murrayfield.
For the 10,226 in attendance, the match was, unfortunately, too one-sided to be a thriller, but via Edinburgh, they were treated to an evening of high skill, precision and tries galore.
The travelling Saints were left to rue a catalogue of missed opportunities which ultimately derailed any chances of picking up their fifth successive Varsity title.
In orchestral terms, Edinburgh were led by a more-than-able conductor in James Small-Edwards at fly-half, while their virtuoso winger Ben Rose produced a brace of superb solo tries in a spell-binding opening half. Edinburgh’s ball-retention was key.
“To hold the ball for over four minutes from the kick-off was quite special and it speaks volumes of the work we have done in preparing for this match,” said Edinburgh head coach David Adamson. “Our physicality put St Andrews under a lot of pressure and they were made to work a lot more in the tackles they had to make, so I think it took its toll in the end.”
Man-of-the-match Rose was a potent threat throughout and scored his first try at the end of a dizzying attacking spell which left Saints desperately short in defence. A change of direction combined with a superbly floated pass from Small-Edwards sent the rangy winger in at the far corner to open the scoring after 16 minutes.
His second effort demanded less of his team-mates, and instead showcased electrifying pace as he rounded Saints captain Roland Walker and several others with ease to streak under the posts.
“Ben’s always had that sort of game in him and it was just a case of bringing that out on the big day. At times he was unplayable out there and he could have got a hat-trick tonight,” said Adamson. “He gets a lot of credit but from one to 22, the boys put in such a good shift and I was really pleased that we could finish the game with a try too.”
Scrum-half Bruno Smith added a third score for Edinburgh to extend the hosts’ lead, while Robbie Kent slotted his second conversion to take a 17-0 lead in at the break.
Saints, by all accounts, fluffed their notes and the fact the four-time reigning champions failed to get on the score-sheet until the 73rd minute was, in reality, a poor reflection of their ability.
Their reaction following Rose’s opening score was positive, but any hopes of victory were quickly extinguished through a series of sloppy handling errors.
They coughed up four try-scoring opportunities, most notably Scott MacGregor knocking on within yards of the Edinburgh line.
Edinburgh were still under pressure and struggled to escape their own 22, but Saints again failed to take their chances when they appeared as MacGregor once more fumbled the ball with the line in sight.
Saints couldn’t shake off the inaccuracies which dogged them in the first half and they conceded early in the second – Edinburgh’s captain Nick Stephen crashing over after some neat hands from Small-Edwards.
Saints winger Richard De Rome had a try disallowed and it wasn’t until there was only seven minutes remaining that they eventually crossed the line through Rob Lind for a deserved consolation.
Elsewhere, it was another comfortable victory for Edinburgh in the ladies clash as they defeated St Andrews 53-5. The home side ran riot but a rallying performance from Saints made sure a repeat of last year’s 97-0 mauling was not on the agenda.
Edinburgh University: J Smerdon; P Howard, R Kent, J Smith, B Rose; J Small-Edwards, B Smith; O Poweel, R Thomas, M Young; B Cogley, T Robertson, J Carson, N Stephen, S Burnside. Subs used: J Boyle, J Alcock, E Russell, H Ryan, A Dunnill, D O’Sullivan, J Price.
St Andrew’s University: J Sharman; R Walker, S MacGregor, T Hall, R De Rome; F Murphy, C Davies; D Cox, M Wood-Downey, D Berezford; S Tue, M Sutherland, A Whyte, A Hodgins, TJ Akinjobi. Subs used: M Kaufman, J Morrison, B Peddie, A Kulukundis, R Lind, K Chen, H Payne.
Edinburgh University: Tries: Rose 2, B Smith, Stephen, Kent; Cons: Kent 2; O’Sullivan.
St Andrews University: Tries; Lind: Cons Murphy.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh University first): 5-0; 10-0; 12-0; 17-0 (h-t) 22-0; 24-0; 24-5; 24-7; 29-7; 31-7
Referee: F Brown
Man-of-the-Match: Two sensational tries made it almost inevitable that Ben Rose claimed the gong, but his performance was far more than just that. His defensive work in the opening quarter was impressive, as was his decoy running off the shoulder of Small-Edwards. A real thorn in the side of St Andrews and a fantastic showing.
Talking point: Edinburgh’s razor-sharp attack and refusal to be bowled over was simply too much for St Andrews. Flashes of brilliance from the Saints promised much but the fire-power of Edinburgh extinguished any threat the visitors may have posed.