An All-South African Affair in Edinburgh as Cockerill Slams Referee After Edinburgh Win

Friday night saw Edinburgh Rugby run out at BT Murrayfield for the first time this season. The match, against Connacht, was error strewn but this was not reflected in the penalties given – a fact which did not sit well with Edinburgh’s Richard Cockerill.

Duhan Van Der Merwe and Matt Scott in action for Edinburgh in their win over Connacht (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)

Edinburgh Head Coach Richard Cockerill slammed referee Ian Davies after his side scraped a win over Irish outfit Connacht to claim their first victory of the season. Tries from South Africans Duhan Van Der Merwe and Pierre Schoeman put the home side 17-0 in the lead, but costly decisions at the break down and the scrum allowed the visitors to fight back with the score finishing 17-10.

“I thought we deserved to win,” he said. “I thought we were the positive team – we had all the intent. It was a disappointing spectacle in the end: some of that is our own fault, because we have to do things better, but the officiating hasn’t been great in the last two weeks and tonight was even worse. Fifteen penalties to four and just one yellow card.”

“We’re trying to play out there. If they can’t scrummage out there, that’s not my fault. Referee what you see. Their number 16 should have gone to the bin for a cynical moment in the game and we should have had a penalty try.”

“If you’re going to let teams cheat like that, then that’s what you get. It threatens the credibility of the competition 100 per cent. I’m sending in reports every week back to Greg Garner who is charge of the refs, but things have to improve.”

Early Possession

Edinburgh began the match on the front foot, looking like they had seized the home field advantage, as the capital side stepped up to the plate and won the early encounters. Dominating the possession, Jaco Van Der Walt made a breakthrough in the first 10 minutes to supply the hosts with their best opportunity of the half.

Replacing Simon Hickey at fly half last minute before kick-off, Van Der Walt looked eager to get his side on the scoreboard. Two penalties for Edinburgh within the first 15 minutes of the game, both within the opposition half, he opted for the kick for touch. Two chances missed.

Already evident after Edinburgh’s two opening fixtures, the home sides defence has been the strongest trait, managing to hold up a fully packed Ospreys and Ulster, it was now time to bash horns with another strong Irish outfit. They dominated the break down, and thanks to new signing Pierre Schoeman and Scottish international WP Nel, scrum time was all about Edinburgh.

After a surprisingly quiet two matches, Blair Kinghorn turned up, and demonstrated why he was Edinburgh’s most valuable player last season. Making a 30 yard break before setting up Hamish Watson on the 10 metre line, Edinburgh looked set to get their first points of the match. Connacht captain, Jarrad Butler spoiled the attack after the referee judged a deliberate knock on, sending him to the sin bin for 10.

Edinburgh took full advantage of the extra man, with a penalty scrum on the five metre line eventually pushing the ball out to Van Der Merwe. It was a typically fast and relaxed finish from the South African who last season was the club’s leading try scorer. His South African counterpart, Van Der Walt, converted the kick leaving the score 7-0.

Connacht had their best attack of the half finally reaching the Edinburgh 22-yard line, but some fine defence from the hosts saw the turnover happen. A penalty kick left the score at 10-0 at the halfway mark, but the score should have been more. Four missed opportunities for the hosts to get on to the scoreboard within the half, left Connacht with an easy way back into the match.

Saved by the Bell

The second half continued the games mild manor and tempo. Both sides getting their share of possession, eventually resulting in a penalty to Edinburgh. However, it became another opportunity missed for the hosts, this time try scorer Van Der Merwe dropping the ball in the try zone after Kinghorn set up another easy try opportunity.

From one South Africans mistake to another’s success. Three minutes later, Edinburgh were in the exact same position with a line out on the five metre line, opting for the line out drive, with Schoeman delivering the ball to the try line. Van Der Walt converted, the score now a more comfortable 17-0.

With the target set, Connacht’s attack arrived into the game and got off the mark with a try in the corner by Niyi Adeolokun, Jack Carty added the conversion leaving the score at 17-7. The Edinburgh defence quickly became lackadaisical and the control they had over the game had become a thing of the past.

With the pressure increasing right into the death, the Murrayfield crowd were hoping not to have a repeat of last week’s last-minute defeat against Ulster. The away team were handed a penalty with 7 minutes on the clock. Carty added the three points and the score sat at 17-10.

With five minutes left on the clock Connacht ran out of ideas and Edinburgh did enough to earn a penalty in their own half to secure the ball before the buzzer.

The control at the end of the match would have given Cockerill a smile, but his views on the referee felt entirely justified. With the penalty count leaning strongly to Edinburgh and the scrum dominated by Edinburgh, Cockerill had every reason to feel hard done by.

However, after losing their opening two encounters, securing their first victory of the season was of the utmost importance. With an away trip to the league and European champions Leinster next weekend, Edinburgh will have to scale their biggest mountain yet to continue their forward momentum in their Pro 14 campaign.

MOTM – Grant Gilchrist

Attendance – 5,329

Referee – Ian Davies

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