Edinburgh A 33
GARY HEATLY @ Myreside
THREE converted tries before the break set up Edinburgh Rugby A for their second successive bonus-point victory in the Super Series Sprint, but they were made to work for it.
Watsonians, winners of the Sprint and Championship in 2022, have not been used to losing in the last 12 months, so this will have been just the kind of test they would have wanted at Myreside against an opposition 23 including a large number of professionals.
The home side started the game reasonably well, certainly had plenty of possession in patches of the second half and were always in the fight, but experienced campaigners like loose-head Murray McCallum, back-row Glen Young andcentre Cammy Hutchison alongside younger players like winger Finn Douglas and full-back Nathan Sweeney got Edinburgh over the line in an entertaining game. A key moment came just before half-time when Edinburgh went 21-3 up despite having a man in the sin-bin.
“As coaches we challenged the boys to put in a dominant performance and, for parts of the game, we did that,” said Edinburgh academy manager Rob Chrystie, who will take his team to the Greenyards to play his old club, Southern Knight, in their final match of the campaign next Saturday. “We created a lot of chances, but when players aren’t playing together regularly sometimes things aren’t as smooth as they could be and we didn’t take them all.
“However, we were happy with three tries before half-time and we wanted the guys to again show dominance in the second half and, again, we did that at times.
“These games are great for young players like Finn Douglas and Nathan Sweeney, to play alongside experienced guys will only benefit them going forward. We want to put in another good showing against the Knights now.”
Edinburgh took the game to Watsonains early on, but a scrum penalty won by the hosts gave them a boost. Then after five minutes Edinburgh winger Ben Evans was forced off with what looked like a cut to the head and Will Butler replaced him.
A minute later Watsonians won a kickable penalty and skipper Lee Millar did the job to give his team a 3-0 lead. Edinburgh were yet to get a foothold in the game, but a neat kick into the ‘Sonians 22 from centre Hutchison gave them some territory. The hosts exited well though and when centre Cammy Scott threw a forward pass to hooker Patrick Harrison on the halfway line the visitors were looking slightly rattled.
A very strong line-out drive gave Edinburgh the field position they needed to score their first points on the 20-minute mark, with a neat midfield run by Hutchison setting up the try for scrum-half Cam Jones. Stand-off Bruce Houston converted and it was 7-3.
That score got Edinburgh going and, in the 28th minute, their second try came. Again, the forwards made valuable metres and then Hutchison’s delayed pass put Butler under the posts. Houston again converted.
A couple of phases after the restart, Millar’s cross-field kick was plucked out of the air by Watsonians winger Lomond MacPherson and he looked like he was going to run in for a try, but he lost control of the ball and the chance was lost.
In the 32nd minute, near the Edinburgh line, there was a fracas which seemed to have been instigated by a late hit by visiting skipper Liam McConnell on Watsonians second-row Luis Ball. Referee Finlay Brown conferred with his touch judge and yellow-carded the Scotland under-20 man.
A couple of minutes into the sin bin period, the hosts nearly scored a try, but Scott produced a great cover tackle on winger Scott King. Scott, Jones and others then teamed up to win their team a crucial penalty and the danger was averted.
Shorthanded Edinburgh then got a crucial third try bang on the stroke of half-time. Young caught the lineout from hooker Harrison and the latter went over for the five points with the help of his pack mates. Houston again added the two points.
Watsonians had plenty of possession early in the second half, but had nothing to show for it until a guddled line-out saw No 8 Neil Irvine-Hess charge through. He was stopped just short of the line by a great cover tackle from Douglas, but replacement back-row Jonny Morris was alert and he went over. Millar converted to make it 21-10 with the hour mark approaching.
Any hopes of a comeback for Watsonians weredashed in the 63rd minute when Sweeney fielded a bouncing ball on the halfway line and showed good pace to score a solo try. The try bonus point was in the bag and Houston converted for 28-10.
This Watsonians squad is made of stern stuff, though, and with 10 minutes to go replacement winger Ben Riley, on debut, squeezed in at the corner for their second try. Centre Jason Baggott converted from out wide and it was 28-17.
Edinburgh did have the final word, though, when youngster Douglas showed great athleticism to score in the corner late on. Houston missed his first kick from the tee of the night, but it mattered not.
Watsonians have now won one and lost one in the Sprint ahead of an Edinburgh derby at Heriot’s next Saturday. “I am just disappointed, not in the effort and application of the guys because they kept going for 80 minutes and worked ever so hard, but in the number of chances we squandered,” their head coach Stevie Scott said.
“We were in their ‘gold zone’ a number of times in the first half, but came away with just three points and we had to be more clinical. In the second half we then got back into things before panicking as we chased things and gave away a soft try.
“It was a good contest, though, and we will take plenty of things forward from this game.”
Watsonians: D Coetzer; L MacPherson, A Guthrie, J Baggott, S King; L Millar©, M Scott; H Courtney, C Davies, M Wilson, L Ball, J Berrisford, S Cecil, C Wilson, N Irvine-Hess. Subs: F Duraj, C Davidson, G Scougall, K Watt, J Morris, K Main, F Thompson, B Riley.
Edinburgh A: N Sweeney; F Douglas, C Scott, C Hutchison, B Evans; B Houston, C Jones; M McCallum, P Harrison, A Williams, J Campbell, P Phillips, G Young, L McConnell©, R Brown. Subs: A McBurney, R Deans, D Gamble, M Badenhorst, A McCallum, F Burgess, W Butler, L Wells.
Referee: Finlay Brown.
Watsonians: Tries: Morris, Riley. Pen: Millar. Cons: Millar, Baggott.
Edinburgh A: Tries: Jones, Butler, Harrison, Sweeney, Douglas. Cons: Houston 4.
Scoring sequence (Watsonians first): 3-0; 3-5; 3-7; 3-12; 3-14; 3-19; 3-21 (ht) 8-21; 10-21; 10-26; 10-28; 15-28; 17-28; 17-33.
Yellow card –
Edinburgh A: McConnell (32 mins).
Man of the Match: For the home side second-row Luis Ball and No 8 Neil Irvine-Hess impressed while for Edinburgh their pack stood up when needed. Centre Cammy Hutchison, winger Finn Douglas and full-back Nathan Sweeney showed some nice touches, but scrum-half Cam Jones gets the nod for getting the backline moving in a pacy second quarter and beyond.
Talking point: It will be interesting to see where Finn Douglas’ and Nathan Sweeney’s careers go from here. The Edinburgh Rugby Academy duo are exciting young back-three players and, on this evidence, have that bit of ‘X-factor’ about them if given the right platform.