Edinburgh’s Confident Performance Overpowers Strong Scarlets Side
A dominant performance saw Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh men trump PRO14 Conference B leaders Scarlets 46-7, claiming the bonus point win at BT Murrayfield on Saturday night. The win sees Edinburgh progress to third in the table. Erin McRitchie reports.
Ally Miller (centre) displayed a strong performance starting on the blindside flank. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)
It was a bitterly cold night at BT Murrayfield on Saturday as Edinburgh Rugby prepared to welcome Pro14 conference B rivals Scarlets. The Welsh province arrived as conference leaders, but seemed to be quickly humbled as Cockerill’s home side played a rounded game to control the scoreboard from start to finish.
The win sees Edinburgh advance to third in the table, whilst Scarlets drop to fourth with Connacht and Munster claiming the top two spots respectively.
The final score line will not have been one many would have been expecting going in to the fixture. Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill admitted after the match: “We didn’t really know what to expect from Scarlets apart from they were unbeaten and have had some pretty good results.”
“I’m delighted with the win,” Cockerill said post-match. “We did some really good things with ball in hand. Our game’s developing well and the foundations of our game are strong – our exits, our scrum, our driving game.”
Ally Miller – starting on the blindside flank for this match as the team still awaits the return of internationalists Jamie Ritchie and John Barclay – was one of the first forwards to make an impact on the match, doing it rather confidently as he went on what can only be described as a small rampage.
He took the pass from Blair Kinghorn, before finding space to run it in to. Staying alive in the tackle just long enough to offload to his scrum half Henry Pyrgos – who had replaced Nic Groom in the starting line-up as Groom’s wife went in to labour – who then spotted the wide pass option was on to Duhan Van Der Merwe with the winger running in the score effortlessly.
With Simon Hickey’s conversion, Edinburgh had the first points on the board and the upper hand on the conference leaders.
Edinburgh didn’t seem willing to tone down their determination as they had the Scarlets on the back foot as Nick Haining collected the restart and broke to over half way. His support came in the form of hooker Mike Willemse – out-running the backs – who quickly fed Van Der Merwe.
The winger couldn’t get through the tackle and so the ball began its journey through the phases. A journey which paid off as Matt Scott found himself in space, with his centre partner Mark Bennet taking the offload to serve a pass to Van Der Merwe which sent him across the line again in near the exact same manner as his first was scored. With Hickey’s conversion going over once more, Edinburgh found themselves with two converted tries on the board within minutes of each other.
Scarlets looked to subdue Edinburgh at the restart as the visitors fought to retain the possession and build an attacking front. Their efforts remained fruitless as the Edinburgh defensive line held strong and the Welsh side were unable to proceed much further than ten metres into the home half.
Having won back possession, Edinburgh went in to a lineout mere metres from the Scarlets line after a panicked Scarlets defence – which, in fairness, had Kinghorn and Van Der Merwe racing down on them – butchered a clearance kick.
Willemse sent the ball to the back of the set piece, and the well renowned Edinburgh driving maul was on. It was Willemse in charge of the ball at the back, and having spotted daylight between the Scarlets defenders, the South African broke away to crash over for a try.
Kinghorn, freshly back from international duty with Scotland at the Rugby World Cup, looked to want in on the try action, and for it to be an individual try effort all the way from his own 22 as he tore through a scattered Scarlets defence, chipping a kick over the remaining defenders in his way. Having collected it on the halfway line, he fumbled it however and Murrayfield groaned as the young fullback denied himself a comeback score.
Scarlets thought they had scored before the end of the half as Taylor Davies fed Kieran Hardy in the wide channels, but as Dan Jones prepared to take the conversion, referee Frank Murphy was informed by his TMO Olly Hodges that the pass had gone forward, and so the Welsh side returned to being scoreless on the scoreboard.
The half came to a close with another Edinburgh converted try finished by Mark Bennett but produced by the quick work of Pyrgos, Hickey and Scott. Never to do things the easy way however, the side resigned themselves to starting the second half with only 14 men after Fraser McKenzie was shown a yellow card for a tackle at the ruck which saw him make contact with a Scarlet’s player’s head.
Second half scoring began with an Edinburgh penalty slotted confidently through the uprights by Hickey as the home side managed to weather the opening ten minutes without McKenzie.
Scarlets finally saw their first points of the match approaching the hour mark as the visitors recycled the ball, and with some heavy grunt work from the forwards, replacement hooker Marc Jones hit the ball to the bottom of the posts pads to score. Surname namesake Dan Jones was able to add the extras.
The final score moves Edinburgh to third in the table whilst dropping Scarlets to fourth. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)
That would prove to be their one and only score of the game whilst Edinburgh added a further three to their tally. Willemse pulled his break off from the rolling maul trick to cross the whitewash for a second time in the night, Van Der Merwe took a pass from Van Der Walt to run in freely on the wing, and debutant Eroni Sau was able to close the night – complete with a kiss to the ball before dotting down.
Cockerill was pleased with his side’s all-round performance, and the impact it could have on their season. “We want to be competing in the play-offs if we can get there.”
He added: “We’re only four rounds in, so a long way to go, but we’ll just keep picking points up, as many as we can wherever we can.”
Edinburgh’s next opportunity to collect some conference points will come when they travel to face Benetton at Stadio Monigo next Saturday, November 2nd.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; E Sau, M Bennett, M Scott, D van der Merwe; S Hickey, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, M Willemse, P Ceccarelli, F McKenzie, M Douglas, A Miller, L Crosbie, N Haining. Subs: C Fenton, J Bhatti, M McCallum, S Thomson, M Bradbury, C Shiel, J Van Der Walt, G Taylor.
Scarlets: J McNicholl; R Conbeer, S Hughes, I Nicholas, T James; D Jones, K Hardy; R Evans, T Davies, S Lee, S Cummins, J Kruger, T Phillips, J MacLeod, U Cassiem. Subs: M Jones, P Price, W Kruger, J Helps, D Davis, J Evans, A O’Brien, K Fonotia.
Referee: Frank Murphy.
Edinburgh: Tries: Van Der Merwe 3, Willemse 2, Bennett, Sau. Cons: Hickey 3. Pen: Hickey.
Scarlets: Tries: M Jones. Cons: D Jones.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): (0-0), (5-0), (10-0), (12-0), (17-0), (19-0), (24-0), (26-0) HT (29-0), (29-5), (29-7), (34-7), (39-7), (41-7), (46-7) FT.
Man of the Match: Duhan Van Der Merwe.