Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Ulster 24-18 Edinburgh

Blair Kinghorn is congratulated by Magnus Bradbury
Blair Kinghorn is congratulated by Magnus Bradbury and teammates after scoring for Edinburgh Rugby - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Edinburgh were unable to succeed in pulling off back-to-back victories against struggling Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium as the hosts ran away 24-18 victors.

In an attacking dominated first half, Ulster’s backline impressed by racking up a try bonus point in just over half an hour. Edinburgh meanwhile failed to complete what could have been unexpected comeback as Ulster’s defence held firm in the end.

Both sides were depleted by international call-ups but whereas Ulster were bolstered by the long awaited debut of South African international back row Marcell Coetzee, Edinburgh captain Neil Cochrane was forced to pull out shortly before kick-off.

Despite some injury issues Edinburgh got off to the dream start after Paul Marshall kicked the ball directly into touch outside his 22 in the first phase of the game.

From the resulting lineout, Edinburgh moved into a good position before the ball went wide to Blair Kinghorn. The full-back then straightened up and offloaded to Number 8 Magnus Bradbury who burst over the final Ulster defender to score within two minutes.

With Ulster looking to end their dismal recent record, what followed was around half an hour of quality attacking rugby from the hosts.

Paul Marshall was the first man in white to cross the line, diving over from short range following a clever pick and go and offload from Stuart Olding. Some may have questioned the clear-out at the previous ruck which seemed to impede Fraser McKenzie’s attempts to defend his line, yet the speed by which this try came was a sign of things to come.

Within ten minutes, Ulster returned to the opposition 22m and former Irish U20 star Jacob Stockdale showed his power, making 10 metres with the added weight of three Edinburgh defenders hopelessly failing to drag him down. The home side then drew in defenders through multiple forward phases before Darren Cave made the most of an overlap for a simple score.

Charles Piutau had remained quiet so far, although was quick to show his devastating impact. With limited space on the blindside, the All Black delivered one of his trademark shoulder charges (Damien Hoyland the victim) before stepping Kinghorn and delivering a simple two-on-one pass for Louis Ludik who scampered the final 20m.

The clock had barely reached the half hour mark before the try bonus point came in sight for the Ulstermen. Until now, most of their attacking pressure had come from poorly missed Edinburgh tackles, although that magical fourth try was the result of a clever move.

Olding and Cave combined well to draw in the defence before the miss pass to Robbie Diack on the wing offered up some space. From there, the ball came back inside to winger Stockdale who displayed his impressive speed to outpace Sean Kennedy to the line.

Edinburgh certainly had their chances during this 20 minute demolition job; Hoyland dropped the ball after a failed switch move with Jason Tovey within diving distance of the line and minutes later only a superb tackle by Ulster’s pocket-rocket of a scrum half Marshall could stop him finishing Tovey’s excellent cross kick.

Nonetheless, Edinburgh’s moment came five minutes from half time when, following a stable lineout drive close to the Ulster line, Stuart McInally was fastest to react after Tom Brown went to ground, diving over from short range.

Although Tovey missed the relatively easy conversion, Edinburgh went in at the break down, but not quite out.

Half-time: Ulster 24-10 Edinburgh

Compared to the six try fest of the first half, neither side appeared desperately willing to do much when in possession when they returned to the pitch. Indeed, we had to wait until the 57th minute for any real action, and an attempt from Edinburgh to push themselves back into contention.

Replacement scrum half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne took over kicking duties after coming on and although his touchline conversion attempt drifted short, the Scottish internationalist redeemed himself with a 40m penalty kick – the first of the match.

With the game nearing its conclusion, Edinburgh had somehow worked their way back into losing bonus point territory.

Frustratingly for both sides, a number of serious-looking injuries slowed down the pace of the second half. Worrying for Edinburgh will have been seeing second row McKenzie stretchered off following a knock to his back. Michael Allan lasted no more than ten minutes against his old club following a head knock.

With Edinburgh still chasing a win, the backline began to throw some rather hazardous passes in a now desperate attempt to unlock the miserly Ulster defence. Nonetheless, despite some clever footwork from Phil Burleigh and Rory Scholes, the ball was eventually knocked on and kicked into touch.

Although Ulster remained fairly dominant throughout, this was a game Edinburgh had opportunities to snatch control of. Two missed opportunities within metres of the try line as well as a couple of missed conversions proved to be the difference tonight, yet it demonstrated Edinburgh’s ability to perform despite a seriously depleted bench.

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)

Attendance: 15,462

SRBlog Man of the Match: Edinburgh’s defence struggled against the sheer talent of Piutau et. al. but their attack was more promising in parts. Jason Tovey looked exciting with the ball in hand whilst Hidalgo-Clyne brought much-needed stability when he came on. However, for another superb display, demonstrating ball-carrying prowess and some decent turnovers, Magnus Bradbury was our standout Edinburgh player.

10 Responses

  1. They say that consistency is one of the keys to good refereeing — yet I remember in the first half of the Edinburgh game two Ulster players literally diving over a ruck in full view of Nigel Owens, with impunity. Conversely, when Edinburgh were mounting a final attack in a magnificent second-half comeback, Owens penalised them for going over the top in a ruck they were winning near the Ulster 22. Even without comparison with the Ulster skydivers, the Edinburgh forwards were not infringing. The penalty snuffed out a promising attack which might have resulted in a stupendous victory.
    Another thing which emerged from the game was the style of rugby Duncan Hodge is instilling — both attractive and effective. The Edinburgh backs looked very threatening when they had the ball. Why therefore the calls for a new coach to be brought in and the constant sniping at the Edinburgh backline?

    1. Good brave effort, particularly with players dropping like flies in the second half. In typical Scottish style Embra played their best rugby after the game was lost ( everyone thought ) and try BP had been conceded in the first half , and you have to think the Ulster foot came off the gas a bit. The other negative was the kicking game – dire throughout.

      The positive was the intent and promise of a number of the Embra players – as always, Bradbury and Ritchie to the fore. There was some good running and handling rugby, and the 2 young props stood up pretty well. A pretty well deserved LBP, and it got close enough at the end to get exciting, and to get excited about some of O’wens decisions.
      O’wens is consistent in that he’s always inconsistent – suddenly pinging technical offences that he’s let go for 70 minutes. Other refs do the opposite – ping early to try to stop offences, and then generally relax. And if a team have a knock on advantage and choose to kick possession away, that’s advantage over – or not, according to TBRITW.

      1. Did wonder about the advantage call last night. Law seems to be a little vague, but at pro level I would always have expected ref to call advantage over soon as they choose to kick. Can also see why ref may see it differently. What a beezer of a finish that would have been though…. and a bit of natural justice!

      2. Usually with a scrum advantage resulting from a knock on or forward pass, when the ball is kicked away that will be the end of advantage. However, this only applies if the player is ‘free’ to get the kick away – i.e. they are not under pressure. In this case, the player who kicked it was only able to take a couple of steps backwards before getting the kick away, hence the ref’s description of him being under pressure.

  2. (continuing on Nigel Owens) Earlier in that final phase of the Edinburgh game, the Edinburgh pack had set up a promising maul metres from the Ulster line but Owens allowed Ulster players to be offside round the fringes and to pull down players, eventually penalising a breakaway Edinburgh player for holding on the ground. Another opportunity unfairly snuffed out. Throughout the game he allowed Ulster a possession procession while being ever-alert to means of disrupting Edinburgh continuity.

  3. I think anyone with two eyes could see the penalty at the ruck just before Ulsters first try. Two players doing their best superman impersonation and Owens six feet away ignored it.

    The end of the game was a farce. Edinburgh knock on, Ulster kick for touch and miss but Owens says advantage NOT over because the kick was “under pressure”? What kick is those circumstances is NOT under pressure? At any other time of the game, that was advantage over and Edinburgh ball.

    Listening to Owens on Five Live earlier, he is obsessed with his own importance to the game and loves hearing that players and coaches are talking about him in the build up to a game. This is a bad sign of a ref who wants the limelight and last night was not his best game by any stretch. A lot of very favourable calls to Ulster and very few to Edinburgh. I hope Hodge and the players take from this game that they were not walloped and on another day with another ref may well have won the game.

    Bradbury, Toolis, Kennedy, Ritchie, Kinghorn and Burleigh had excellent games. Edinburghs defence needs work but they are a different team going forward nowadays. So much more threatening with the ball.

  4. Al, your analysis of both Edinburgh and the referee replicates mine exactly. I agree that defensively Edinburgh need to improve but their attacking play is a credit to both players and coach. The accuracy of their passing in this game was superb. However, our sides as a whole need to match the Irish in their ability to recycle the ball 0ver many, many phases. All Irish sides have this ability, and their game strategy is based on constant direct running from depth and recycling — in boxing terms like pummelling your opponent into submission — effective but hardly attractive. We need to achieve greater parity in terms of possession

  5. Things seem to be moving in the right direction for Edinburgh, but not quickly enough. They seem to have forwards that have a better head for attacking than a lot of the backs. Which is apparent when you see the tries they have scored recently. Quins away as well as the tries last night come from enterprising play from forwards (both tries from forwards passing and beating the opposition, other examples on request)

    There still seems to be long passages of play where the backs really don’t know where they are going, or what they are trying to achieve. Sean Kennedy is really starting to get some form at 9 and getting the forward pack rolling on the front foot, but time and time again the play outside descends into a farce. Each player is quality, but but operating as individuals at the moment.

    I’m really hoping that come the end of the season, Mike Blair gets a shot as their backs coach at the very least!

  6. Pity that the SRU did not produce referees ofthe required standard and then we could have a greater variety of referees in the Pro12.
    Seem to be plenty of would be expert refs on the Scottish websites but few on the field, unless borrowed from Ulster.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion