Edinburgh Put On Convincing Display to Halt Cheetahs in Bonus Point Victory
Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh squad secured victory over Cheetahs tonight, and there was a number of talking points, including: the impact of a menacing backline, try bonus points, and impressive young players.
Stuart McInally leads the Edinburgh players on to the pitch at BT Murrayfield (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)
Washing away any guilt carried from their lackluster victory against Benetton last week, Edinburgh secured a bonus point victory over the Cheetahs, with Fijian Viliame Mata starring in a thrilling encounter at BT Murrayfield.
Despite a fight back from the South African outfit, with winger Raza Maxwane scoring twice in the opening ten minutes of the second half to grab the lead from Edinburgh, the boot of Simon Hickey and tries from Jamie Richie and Mata sealed a 37-21 victory in convincing style.
Stating before the game the importance to improve if the side are going to “challenge in the league”, Cockerill was happy to see five points secured.
“It was a great five points for us but disappointing we did not score more points in the first half,’’ said Cockerill. “We had lots of opportunities in that half and we had a wobble in the middle of the second half but came back to win.
Slow and steady
The early encounters promised an open and dynamic game between the two sides, with the visitors arriving with an aim – much like their name suggests – to run fast. But despite the ambition, it was Edinburgh who built the early lead with Hickey knocking through two penalties within the first ten minutes. A safety buffer Richard Cockerill would be pleased to see after the defensive collapse last week.
Three knock-ons within the first 15 minutes from the Cheetahs denied them try scoring opportunities within the Edinburgh half, and with every mistake came wave after wave of relentless Edinburgh rugby.
Twenty minutes in and the Cheetahs defence finally succumbed to the pressure with Ben Toolis launching himself over the try-line to secure Edinburgh’s first try of the evening. A much deserved try for the player after strong opening accounts in the season. The score line was now 13-0 in the hosts favour.
With an uneventful first half coming to an end, the Cheetahs decided to flip the narrative and grab the spotlight thanks to a brilliant run from Rabz Maxwane, dodging defenders left right and centre.
Despite Duhan Van Der Merwe’s best efforts with a last ditch tackle, Rabz popped the ball up to Nico Lee for the try. It was the Cheetahs centres forth try of the season, with the score line now 13-7.
However, the capital side were determined to get the last laugh of the half. A scrum inside the Cheetahs ten metre line paving the way for Edinburgh’s Darcy Graham to score. Graham, making his first start for the club since Leinster at home in February, was answering his call up in convincing fashion, with the former Scottish Sevens star showing surprising amounts of strength in attack and a willingness to run forward. Hickey making his third conversion of the game, the half time score sitting at 20-7.
Cheetahs show off their pace
The Cheetahs got off to a flyer in the second half with a multi-phase attack finished by Maxwane in the corner. Edinburgh’s defence, although much improved from the Benetton clash, was looking nowhere near the exceptional standard set in their opening three encounters. The conversion successfully converted again by number 10 Tian Schoeman, the score line 20-14.
The ruthless South African rugby continued throughout the first ten minutes of the second half, eventually resulting in their third try, with star winger Tian Maxwane crossing the line again, this time driving himself through two defenders to score his second.
Schoeman added the points, with the visitors holding the lead for the first time, the score line sitting on 20-21. The lead, however, was short lived with Hickey successfully converting his third penalty of the night putting the hosts 2 points ahead.
Simon Hickey’s kicking boot was key to Edinburgh securing the win (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)
The to-and-fro nature of the match continued, with Edinburgh’s attack beginning to get into full swing. Hickey at number 10 looking the most settled he has since his arrival to the capital outfit, and the back line looking menacing with every stride forward. A sight the coaching staff will welcome before their return to top flight European rugby next week.
They showed their menace again with the two sides locking horns on the Cheetahs try line, and after two failed attempts with a line-out drive, a scrum delivered the ball to Viliame Mata for his first try of the season.
The Fijian number eight, known for his strong ball carrying, made a blistering 28 carries in last week’s encounter against Benetton – the try a deserved reward. Hickey again successful with the kick, the score line 30-21, and breathing space for the Edinburgh fans.
If at first you don’t succeed try and try again, and so the Edinburgh line out drive did, with a try from Jamie Richie to secure the bonus point and the victory for Edinburgh.
Despite an awkward opening ten minutes to the half, Edinburgh had controlled the second half well. Thwarting any sign of a second Cheetahs comeback, Edinburgh looked comfortable with ten minutes to go holding a 9-point lead. The arrival of substitutes Luke Hamilton, Jamie Richie and Murray McCallum into the forward pack allowed scrum time to belong entirely to Edinburgh.
With a French double header with an away trip to Montpellier and a home tussle against Toulon in the next two weeks, confidence will be crucial if they are going to impress on the European stage.
Speaking after the game, Richard Cockerill, although satisfied with the victory, was critical of missed opportunities from his side.
“We could have scored six or seven tries in that first half but we dropped the ball, we ran into touch, we did not execute. That nearly came back to haunt us a little bit but credit to the players for the way they came back.”
“If you leave the opposition in the game and don’t take your opportunities like we didn’t in the first half, you will struggle.”
His selection of Darcy Graham payed off with Cockerill seemingly unable to run out of compliments after his performance on the field. Knowing his side are about to go against two European titans it was crucial to grab the victory.
“We have young guys though like Darcy Graham who I thought was our best player tonight. For a young lad, he showed everybody on the field what grit and determination and a bit of devil can do.”
“We go into the two European games with our eyes open and will go and have some fun and see how good we are against two of the best teams around. Montpellier and Toulon next up does not get much harder.”
“In the south of France next weekend this side will go against one of the best sides in Europe in Montpellier. We will find out in the next few weeks where we sit with the big boys.”
Edinburgh – Ben Toolis, Darcy Graham, Viliame Mata, Jamie Richie
Cheetahs – Nico Lee. Tian Maxwane (2)
Scoring Sequence: 3-0, 6-0, 11-0, 13-0, 13-5, 13-7, 18-7, 20-7, 20-12, 20-14, 20-19, 21-20, 23-21, 28-21, 30-21, 35-21, 37-21
Man of the Match: Viliame Mata
Referee: Marius Mitrea