URC: Edinburgh v Scarlets: hosts return to play-off places with second half blitz

Bonus point win lifts capital side back into play-off places with four games to go, but there is very little margin for error in tight league table

Viliame Mata celebrates scoring Edinburgh's sixth and final try against Scarlets at Hive Stadium. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Viliame Mata celebrates scoring Edinburgh's sixth and final try against Scarlets at Hive Stadium. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Edinburgh 43

Scarlets 18

DAVID BARNES @ Hive Stadium

AFTER a clunky opening 40 minutes, characterised by a malfunctioning line-out and basic inaccuracies in the strike-zone, the hosts trailing by eight points at the break – but Edinburgh turned on the after-burners during the second half to run in five unanswered tries and scorch any hopes struggling Scarlets harboured of securing only their fourth win of this URC campaign.

This result lifts the capital outfit back up to eighth in the table, and therefore in line (just) for qualification to the end-of-season play-offs. There is, however, only one league point separating sixth placed Stormers and 11th placed Lions, so there is not much margin for error in the four remaining matches, which are away to Cardiff next week, at home to Zebre, at home to Munster and away to Benetton. There will need to be an awful lot more of what we saw in the second half here, and an considerably less of what we witnessed in the first half.

“It was a plan of ours, we knew we could get ascendancy up front,” said head coach Sean Everitt, when asked about the impact of his half-time front-row ‘bomb-squad’ of Pierre Schoeman, Ewan Ashman and WP Nel.


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“It was a difficult first half for us, I think we had 10 line-outs and only one clean delivery, and by that I mean from the ball being thrown in until the first breakdown. The lads sorted out the line-out strategy at half time and we got momentum with the front-row coming on and playing an integral part in the power game.”

“The second half is pleasing because it’s everything we spoke about during the week. We chatted about our discipline and that improved tremendously. We only gave away two penalties in the first half and three in the second half so that does help.

“When we got into the 22 in the second half we managed to score and the boys were patient with ball in hand, the forwards did a good job building pressure on the defence and that’s something we didn’t do in the first 40 [when] we had seven entries into their 22 and only managed to score once. It’s a good review for us on Monday, if we can get the small things right we can win comfortably.”

“We talk about resilience and putting together performances,” he added. “It’s not an 80 minute performance and we seem to be talking about that a lot. We can certainly build on the second 40. There were some good individual performances, Wes Goosen was man-of-the-match and was a threat on the counter attack, I thought our kicking game was good, Jamie Ritchie was outstanding and it was one of his better games for the club ,so things are looking up for us at an important part of the season.”

It started brightly enough for Edinburgh, and they could easily have taken a second minute lead had Boan Venter not lost control of the ball as he stretched for the line, but instead the hosts found themselves trailing just two minutes after that when an unorthodox American Football style pass from Vaea Fifita sent Tom Rogers over on the left, with Sam Costelow nailing the touchline conversion.

An excellent collection and counter fromGoosen ripped Scarlets wide open, but Matt Currie couldn’t quite make the line off a well-timed inside pass, and then some laboured or inaccurate passing meant the capital side failed to punish their opponents’ bedraggled defence.

But Goosen was clearly in the mood to do some damage and, after the New Zealander had again asked questions on the right touchline before running out of space, he eventually swept over the line with a dummy and elegant arcing run, to set up a Ben Healy conversion which squared the contest on 18 minutes.

Mark Bennett was perhaps harshly penalised when he jumped back on his feet to compete for the ball after a thumping tackle on Tomi Lewis and was judged to have not let go of the player before going into the jackal, that allowed Costelow to nudge the visitors back into the lead.

With Edinburgh’s line-out in all sorts of bother, Scarlets dominated possession and territory for the next 10 minutes, and the hosts fell further behind when Sam Lousi charged down Ali Price‘s box-kick clearance, Alex Craig deftly side-footed the ball ahead and live-wire Gareth Davies finished off.

Edinburgh spurned a chance to narrow the gap from a scrum penalty in front of the posts with five minutes of the half remaining, which was a gamble given the way the touchline battle had gone so far. They did manage to win the ball in the air, but were then turned over in the maul, and the opportunity was gone.

The hosts had one final chance to reduce the gap just before the break when a ruck penalty was sent to the corner, but they again failed to control the ball in the maul, leaving Scarlets firmly in the driving seat at 15-7 at the break.

 

 

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Things started to look up for the hosts on 44 minutes when the previously anonymous Duhan van der Merwe burst into the life on a lovely switch move created off the base of a ruck by Ali Price, to streak unchallenged over the line. With Healy converting, it was back to a one-point game.

Edinburgh were beginning to boss proceedings and they took the lead for the first time on 52 minutes when Healy kicked the points after Davies pulled off a brilliant diving interception but was then penalised for holding onto the ball on the deck.

The home lead was short-lived on this occasion because Edinburgh were promptly penalised twice in quick succession, first for a deliberate knock-on by Price, and then when Luke Crosbie didn’t release his grip on the ball after the tackle had been completed. That second one was right in front of the home posts and Costelow was happy to take the three points.

That was frustrating from an Edinburgh perspective, but they rolled up their sleeves and got themselves back in front, mounting a ferocious onslaught on the Scarlets line which eventually found a way through some heroic defence when Healy sent Matt Currie under the posts with a nicely delayed pass.

That seemed to be the score which cracked Scarlets’s resistance and after another sustained onslaught, Schoeman muscled over from close range to secure the bonus point, and Healy fired home the conversion.

Van der Merwe thought he’d claimed his second when he scooped up a loose ball, chipped ahead, then gathered himself and ran it home, but a referral to the TMO identified a knock-on by the big winger right at the start of the move.

It was only a temporary let-off for Scarlets because some great counter-rucking from Marshall Sykes moments later earned Edinburgh a turnover on their own 22 and Bennett set off like a hare up the left touchline. It looked like Fifita was going to close the centre down and at this point Lady Luck intervened in the home team’s favour, because Bennett’s attempted pass back inside rebounded off his pursuers shoulder and right back into the Scotsman’s hands. Fifita lost his footing and Bennett scurried home.

Edinburgh’s final flourish was a wonderful sweeping try, initiated by a Chris Dean on the right, followed by an excellent backhanded offload from Connor Boyle, and a dancing finish from Viliame Mata.

 

Teams –

Edinburgh: W Goosen; M Currie, M Bennett, J Lang (C Dean 67), D van der Merwe (C Scott 72); B Healy, A Price (B Vellacott 58); B Venter (P Schoeman 41), D Cherry (E Ashman 41), J Sebastian (W Nel 41), J Hodgson (M Sykes, 56), G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, L Crosbie (C Boyle 67), V Mata.

Scarlets: I Nicholas; T Rogers (R Conbeer 67), J Williams, E James, T Lewis; S Costelow (D Jones, 73), G Davies (v 73); K Mathias (W Jones 53), R Elias (S Evans, 67), S Wainwright (H O’Connor, 53), A Craig (M Jones 69), S Lousi, T Plumtree ( C Tuipulotu 65), D Davis, V Fifita.

Referee: Eoghan Cross (Ireland)

 

Scorers –

Edinburgh: Tries: Goosen, van dr Merwe, Currie, Schoeman, Bennett, Mata; Con: Healy 4; Pen: Healy.

Scarlets: Tries: Rogers, Davies; Cons: Costelow; Pen: Costelow 2

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 7-10; 7-15 (h-t) 12-15; 14-15; 17-15; 17-18; 22-18; 24-18; 29-18; 31-18; 36-18; 38-18; 43-18

 

Attendance: 6,887


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About David Barnes 3957 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

12 Comments

  1. How good was it to see 3 Scottish wins over the weekend !

    Edinburgh I thought were savvy, again like to see Everitt doing the right thing, run the Scarlets down then bring on the bomb squad to grind them out of it..

    Glasgow looked good, hoping they are finalist quality. Then the final could go either way.

    Scotland women were excellent, game on v Ireland, win that and they book their place.

  2. As others have said it was a poor first half and i was worried we were going to find a way to lose this one. The tone was set in the first few minutes when we were camped on their line yet lost the ball and then 5 minutes later they scored.

    The 2nd half was probably our best 40 of the season. I know its only Scarlets who are a pale shadow of their former selves and apart from Lousi and Fifita they are a bit of a rabble. It was good to score a few tries and we played with a lot more zip and fluency. It was also good to see Healy take the ball to the line and offload for the Currie try. The tempo was so much better in the 2nd half with quick ball and more variety and a few offloads. I hope this will give the players some more confidence and show that they can play some rugby.

    Regards Price – I agree with earlier comments. I think he’s so slow to move the ball from the ruck that he often just loses any space the backs have. Also got charged down a couple of times. I dont get what he brings to the team – reminds me of Pyrgos at his worst. Ive always preferred Shiel who brings a real running threat. I know some will say his box kicking is not as good but Id rather have the other strengths.

    Its going to be an exciting end to the season with 6 – 11 in URC separated by a point.I think we must win at Cardiff next week and then should beat Zebra but Munster and then Benetton are a tough 2 to finish on.

    • isn’t it odd how edinburgh nick not one but2 class 9s from glasgow and turn them into plodders?
      Nothing to do with, as the commentators pointed out, edinburgh forwards delivering the 2nd slowest ruck speed in the league.

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  3. At half-time I was mentally drafting an email to the club to say I wouldn’t be bothering renewing my season pass, the first half really was that demoralising.

    The decisions to keep going to the corner with penalties rather than taking three points was bordering on arrogance, given how bad the lineout and ‘driving’ mauls were.

    The second half was obviously a good deal better but we have to bear in mind the limitations of the visitors, who were very poor. Gareth Davies has always been a terrific player but none of their other backs are up to much.

  4. That first half showing was possibly the worst half of professional rugby I have ever seen. (Wales’ first 30 minutes v Scotland this year was probably worse but at least they had a decent 10 minutes before half time).

    It seemed like Edinburgh were working through the list of all possible rugby errors then, when they had ticked them all off, they went back to the top of the list and started again.

    Although he can’t be expected to turn bad ball into good ball, Price was woeful with what ball he did get. Are we really saying we should be funding another year of that dross? This is one of these situations where the coaches are hamstrung by decisions taken in the ivory towers behind the Hive. It’s about time those responsible stood on the terraces with real supporters to understand how poorly they are serving OUR game.

    The second half was much improved. I was sceptical that the front row change was the right move but all three gave us much needed go forward and contributed to a much more direct and controlled attack.

    As I have often said here, our attack is really not as bad as people think but it needs decent ball and a decent platform because without Darcy and Boff, Duhan is the only back that can create something from nothing (and he has been strangely reluctant recently although, by the looks of things last night, he may have been nursing a hamstring).

    Once the pack generates decent positions, the backs are more than capable of scoring tries; we have now scored 11 in our last two home games despite being nowhere near our best.

    BUT, we are still not sensing when to move the ball to the backs consistently. Far too often, our phase play loses momentum and we ship the ball to Healy when we are static and the defence is reorganised. We need to be giving him the ball when the defence is stressed and moving backwards instead of continually recycling through the forward until we come to a grinding halt.

    I agree with the comments about needing to give ‘second-stringers’ more of a chance. It’s almost as if there are people behind the scenes standing in the way who need their contract and salary decisions to be seen to be delivering value for money.

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    • Wasn’t fair to Goosen there, he can create something from nothing too. In fact, he has probably been our best player this season.

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    • Garry, worst half of Rugby you have ever seen? Are you new to Scottish Rugby or is it just recent bias because there have been many many worse.
      I’ take your examples and raise you Scotland Italy 200.

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    • you are absolutely spot on Garry about people behind the scenes having to justify the signings of players, contract and salary decisions to be seen to be delivering value for money. We all know that the head coaches and Edinburgh and Glasgow are controlled by Murrayfield and all players are under SRU central contracts and can be switched at will between the two.

  5. I know it was pro and academy against semi pro on the Friday night but surely we must be seeing more of the likes of Muncaster and Dodd who were physical and had strong games.

    Another but not so obvious standout in the forwards was Rae who was totally dominant in the set piece and his physicality with the likes of the afore mentioned over the ball secured quick ball.

    The line out was flawless and they ran set piece strike moves that worked with perfection and the backs moved the ball at pace and very rarely kicked the ball.

    Complete opposite of what we witnessed in the first half last night and it is time that the so called “second stringers” are given their opportunity to show what they can do.

    IMHO there is a lot of quality that is not being tapped into by the coaching team and that starting pack should have a look at themselves in the mirror and thank god for our own version of the bomb squad.

    We won and that is what matters but like everyone else I did not think that would be the result at halftime and I hope we see some of the A team involved in the next 23

  6. All very messy in the first half and the lineout and maul were awful. A number of times close to their line we could have gone wide and easily scored. A good win and a BP but so many lessons we need to learn.

    • What a difference the front row change made.
      First half was very poor the line out was abysmal (very unlike Cherry to miss his targets like this) no base for attacking play and I worried this game was getting away from Edinburgh.
      Schoeman Nel Ashman ensured front foot ball with Ritchie carrying hard. Some lovely tries in a dominant 2nd half. Goosen Is a very good player and the balance in the centres was better.
      Healy continues his excellent kicking form.

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