Southern Knights 21
Edinburgh A 47
ALAN LORIMER @ The Greenyards
EDINBURGH A backed up their wins in the first two rounds of the Super Series with what was perhaps a predictable result against Southern Knights but the Greenyards men will take much from their defiant second half performance that could mark the turning point in their confidence battle.
The visitors looked set for a basketball score in the opening thirty minutes of the game when they scored freely through powerful forward play and skilful handing behind the scrum, complemented by accurate goal kicking from stand-off Bruce Houston.
But Southern Knights found their mojo to score just before the interval to provide the springboard for a second half transformative display that will have been a major morale boost for home supporters and, above all for head coach Alan Tait.
“I was absolutely delighted with the performance in the second half” said former Scotland and Lions star. “You’ve got to put that down to the guys who are coming on and trying to impress – and they did. The way they stuck in at the end and kept them out was great. It’s Edinburgh A, they’re physical men, they’re big powerful lads.
“The first half we sat back and let them play to their strengths. They should be beating us by that score. We’ve got a home game next week against Ayrshire Bulls and so we just have to build on that second half and take it to them next Saturday.
“You need momentum,” he added. “Once you get a couple of wins that’s where the buzz comes from. This Sprint Series is about finding out. We’ll look to bring guys in for the Championship.”
When Edinburgh A showed their strengths they looked unstoppable, but they also showed that they had vulnerabilities when the opposition upped their game.
Head coach Rob Chrystie was quick to praise the efforts of his former team, saying: “I thought Southern Knights did really well in that second half. They came back into the game and there’ll be loads to build on. They showed good spirit.”
He continued: “From our point of view, we did what we needed to do. I would have liked a little bit more. However it was good to finish with a win. Some of the young guys were really good – I thought Dan Gamble played well in his last game for Edinburgh and Finn Douglas is getting better the more he plays. And I think some of the club guys who came in deserve a special mention.”
It took Edinburgh A only two minutes to register their first points, the score coming from a penalty kicked to the corner, a line-out take and then the inevitable power maul to the line to create a try for Patrick Harrison, the conversion points added by Houston.
Further penalties followed, allowing Edinburgh A to try out a range of training ground moves, and add to their points tally, this time from a clever piece of handling and soft hands from Cammy Scott which sent Matt Currie en route to the line.
Houston added the simple conversion goal and when scrum-half Cameron Jones showed exceptional pace after intercepting inside his own half the Ulster-born Edinburgh A stand-off, who is also leaving Edinburgh this summer, made it three from three off the tee.
The imbalance between the two sides was again evident when Edinburgh A used both backs and forwards to attack in the Knights’ red zone, ending with prop Angus Williams taking a short pass to stroll over for his side’s bonus point try, the unfailing Houston almost robotically making it a seven pointer.
Then, when Knights conceded yet another penalty, Houston kicked the ball up the touchline to gain a five metre line-out for his side. From such a close distance Edinburgh A could not resist the obvious and duly produced a second maul try for Harrison, but this time unconverted.
Finally after being target practice in the first half, the Knights found the confidence to attack their professional opponents after Kieran Clark beat several defenders with a run out of defence. The move was halted by a high tackle on Rory Brand by Ethan Reilly, earning the Edinburgh full-back 10 minutes in the sin-bin.
Knights made their extra man count with pressure rugby close to the Edinburgh A line ending with flanker Alan Ferrie forcing his way over for his side’s only try of the first half, stand-off Callum Grieve kicking the conversion goal to leave his side trailing 7-33 at the break.
The home side looked much more positive at the beginning of the second half and when they ran a penalty in front of the Edinburgh posts the forwards attacked their opponents’ try-line before live-wire scrum half Brand dotted down, Grieve , again, supplying the extras.
Buoyed by this score Knights went for a further score, the reward coming from a forward effort and a try attributed to Ben McLean, Grieve achieving his third success off the tee to narrow Edinburgh’s lead to just 12 points.
But from the restart, Edinburgh back-row Jerry Blyth-Lafferty gained possession before darting through a gap to score his side’s sixth try, converted by Houston.
Then when replacement Nathan Sweeney put in a cross-chip, Lewis Wells gathered before romping over for try number seven. And, yes, converted by Houston.
Knights, however, showed further resilience by attacking through their replacement scrum-half Callum Davidson, who chased his own skilful kick ahead before being caught two metres short of the Edinburgh line, and in the ensuing pile-up Edinburgh’s Sam Wallace was penalised and yellow carded for preventing fair release.
In the final few minutes of play, Clark Skeldon picked up a yellow card for obstruction but Knights were able to hold on without further scores against them to finish beaten but lifted by their second half display.
Southern Knights: K Clark; A Cross, R Chalmers, A Hall, P Anderson; C Grieve, R Brand; J Dobie, R Anderson©, C Bachurzewski, C Skeldon, E Demirel, C Thompson, A Ferrie, S Derrick. Subs: J Bett, F Barry, E Harrison, B Fotheringham, B McLean, C Davidson, H Rutherford, M Wilson.
Edinburgh A: E Reilly; F Douglas, M Currie, C Scott, J Blain; B Houston, C Jones; M McCallum, P Harrison, A Williams, J Campbell, M Badenhorst, L McConnell©, J Blyth-Lafferty, R Brown. Subs: M Jones, D Gamble, T Smith, D Redpath, S Wallace, N Sweeney, L Wells.
Referee: Finlay Brown
Southern Knights: Tries Ferrie, Brand, McLean; Cons: Grieve 3.
Edinburgh Rugby A: Tries Harrison 2, Currie, Jones, Williams, Blyth-Lafferty, Wells; Cons: Houston 6.
Scoring Sequence (Southern Knights first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-14; 0-19; 0-21; 0-26; 0-28; 0-33; 5-33; 7-33 (h-t) 12-33; 14-33; 19-33; 21-33; 21-38; 21-40; 21-45; 21-47.
Yellow cards –
Southern Knights: Skeldon (72 mins)
Edinburgh Rugby A: Reilly (37 mins), Wallace (66 mins)
Man-of-the-Match: Edinburgh youngster Jerry Blyth-Lafferty slotted in well to his new role in the back-row that points to a versatility that could be useful in his career. At the Greenyards, the Boroughmuir man was non-stop action putting in some telling tackles and capping a good performance with a fine solo try.
Talking point: Edinburgh A made the gap between pro and semi pro really tell in the first half hour of the game but thereafter Southern Knights did their best to wipe out any advantage the full-timers may have possessed. This could be the match that provides the turning point for a Knights side that may be emerging from the debris of defeat.