Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Ulster 16-17 Edinburgh

Edinburgh celebrate
Edinburgh Rugby players celebrate victory - pic © ALASTAIR ROSS | Novantae Photography

Duncan Weir kicked an injury-time drop goal – quite possibly his last act in an Edinburgh shirt – to kick Richard Cockerill’s side to a dramatic win in Belfast.

Weir’s heroics came after tries either side of the break for the restored Jason Harries and outstanding young lock Lewis Carmichael, while Sam Hidalgo-Clyne had added the rest of the visitors’ points from the boot.

A valuable win in the end, but Edinburgh started on the back foot as strong work from Ireland centre Stuart McCloskey and South African Jean Deysel put the hosts on the front foot.

They took full advantage when stand-off McPhillips spotted Edinburgh numbers down in defence, and good backing up on the inside allowed scrum-half John Cooney to take an inside ball and dive over for the opening score. He converted, and the Ulstermen led 7-0.

Cockerill’s men, buoyed by last week’s win over Leinster, showed some nice touches, and should maybe have done better when a nice lineout move saw Chris Dean. . . yes, the inside centre – win the lineout, and Viliame Mata wrap round the front from 5m out.

The Fijian was bundled into touch, but Edinburgh did get on the board when Hidalgo-Clyne’s break and deft chip was finished by Harries, despite the close attentions of Tommy Bowe, who is retiring at the end of the season. Hidalgo-Clyne tied the scores with the conversion.

By the time the clock ticked past the 40-minute mark, the capital side were firmly on top and should have gone in ahead, but their forward drives on the stroke of half-time were repelled by the home side, who scrambled the ball into the stands after a magnificent tackle by Stuart Marshall on Jaco Van Der Walt.

Half-time: Ulster 7-7 Edinburgh

This was an encounter with much riding on it, and that was evident early in the second half as both sides battled for field position on a wet night at the Kingspan.

Ulster’s lead grew to six points thanks to a pair of Cooney penalties, on 42 and 55 minutes, but the hosts’ inability to kick clear – they had four box-kicks charged down – allowed Edinburgh precious territory.

Cockerill’s back three of Dougie Fife at fullback and wingers Duhan Van Der Merwe and Harries were constant threats, running the ball back hard at the Ulster defence, while Mata and Carmichael made regular inroads up front, as did industrious skipper Fraser McKenzie, who was named the sponsor’s man of the match for his efforts.

Edinburgh hit back when, after a period of sustained pressure on the outskirts of the Ulster 22, the aforementioned McKenzie slipped a lovely pass to his younger second row colleague, and Carmichael saw off two or three Ulster tacklers to dive over for a deserved score.

Hidalgo-Clyne’s conversion put Edinburgh a point in front  (13-14) going into the last quarter of an hour before they lost their captain to a HIA – Cornell Du Preez returning after he had earlier made way for Magnus Bradbury.

Without their skipper, Edinburgh’s discipline creaked a bit and they spurned a couple of good attacking opportunities before they fell foul of Nigel Owens’ whistle and were penalised for not rolling away at the breakdown. Cooney nudged over the penalty to put the Ulstermen ahead, but the dramatic night was far from over.

Cockerill’s men huffed and puffed, Du Preez showing signs of what he can do with ball in hand as he, Bradbury and Mata smashed their way back into the Ulster 22 to allow their pack colleagues a few goes at the Ulster line.

They drove, and drove. . . edging ever closer with each carry, only for ref Owens to judge that Bradbury was held up with two seconds left on the clock. There was just time for the 5m scrum.

Channel one ball was secured by Cammy Fenton, Du Preez crashed into the Ulster defence and Fowles whipped the pass backwards. Duncan Weir – who is heading to Worcester on loan and was recalled after just a few days for this fixture – brought back memories of Italy 2014 with a winning drop goal from close range, sparking scenes of jubilation among the visiting ranks.

Edinburgh now leap-frog Ulster into third place in Conference B, and on the evidence of their last two performances at least, deserve a place in the end-of-season play-offs.

SRBlog Man of the Match: A mention to the whole Edinburgh pack but for his impressive carrying and a great shift in defence, Bill Mata edges my man of the match award.

46 Responses

  1. Ballsy, gutsy performance in Belfast tonight from Edinburgh. Against a stiff wind in the second half too. Cockerill is doing a great job with this side. A world away from the flakiness of last season and a few seasons before that. Super win tonight.

    1. Presumably all the players that are leaving did well?
      Great to win at Ulster – not an easy task at any time.
      How did Bennett look?

      1. Ironically, SHC played very well. Bennett looked like the pre-injury Bennett tonight. And CDP put a decent shift in too!

      2. Actually one of my best moments was when Bennett went round Rodney Ah You, and the paddy commentator went ballistic. Ah You mightn’t be the quickest, but against Bennett, only one winner.???

    2. Agree, kept the heid at the death, and Weir did the needful. Great win. Kingspan is not an easy place to get a Win.

  2. I was hoping a Weir drop goal would win that game when he came on and the wee man duly delivered. The Edinburgh forwards and SHC were superb, there is still some work to be done in the backs. Bradbury was a beast when he came on.

    The Glasgow game was just the standard performance for this season, tries being run in from everywhere and some silly mistakes. Swinson was my MOTM, he’s been a big miss this season. Hastings’ kicking was very good but he’s a long way away from being the Glasgow first choice 10 or Scotland back up with ball in hand.

    1. I don’t mind that about Hastings at this stage. Thinking about Scotland as a whole over the next few years, I would much rather we had a jr stand off coming through who could already had the kicking and running game but needed work ball in hand. With Finn and Toonie to learn from, he couldn’t ask for much better tutors in that respect.

      1. Yes, have to agree, Hastings needs some development before he gets to play for Scotland (except summer tour). His kicking was reasonably good but passing was poor. Invariably he was hesitating slightly and then passing to a player just about to be enveloped by a defender. This put tremendous pressure on the receiver and it was surprising that there weren’t more knock-ons or turnovers. Admittedly, the Cheetahs rush defence was good and made life difficult.

  3. Excellent performance all-round, late points but overall it was deserved.
    Duncan Weir should be parachuted in to the Scotland squad with a view to him playing against England. I got shouted down for saying it on another article during the week but he is the steady hand needed and has balls of steel, Russell on the other hand can’t kick for touch or drop goal, and is flaky.

    What a difference for Edinburgh this season, serious mettle and Cockerill deserves a lot of credit.

    1. That’s crazy.

      Weir deserves credit for the drop goal but real bravery for a 10 is to stand near the gain line and pass flat. Russell does that every game.

  4. Serious show of guts and grunt there, with ironically some departees really stepping up to the plate. Well done all – no doubt that is a game Embra would have lost in previous seasons.

    Was anybody else absolutely bursting their boilers that the DG wasn’t taken in the previous play, leaving a risky scrum under the increasingly ratty officiating of TBRITW ?

  5. Great to see the Scottish clubs doing well. Edinburgh’s away victory to Ulster is all the more incredible when you consider Ulster were only missing Best, Henderson and Stockdale on international duty as well as Pitau through injury whereas Edinburgh had Berghan, McInally, Toolis, Gilchrist, Watson and Kinghorn unavailable due to international duty as well as Dell, Dickinson, Nel, Hunter-Hills and Darcy Graham all out through injury and they still won.

    Who knows now they are just 7pts behind Leinster/Scarlets and with them playing each other tomorrow they could quite easily usurp one of them into 2nd to set up a quarter final with either the Cheetahs or Cardiff Blues instead of Munster and if they were to come 2nd and win their quarter-final they would set-up an all Scottish Pro-14 semi-final which would be great for Scottish Rugby.

  6. An Edinburgh pack dominate Ulster in Belfast, with 10 front five forwards unavailable. Not many would have thought that that would happen at the start of this season.

    SRU completely vindicated in their appointment of Cockerill, who has been a great success, just as I thought he would be. Wonder will anyone credit Dodson and co. for that?

    I also wonder whether the stay away fans who only turn up for glory games will pitch up now? Munster, Scarlets, Ulster and Glasgow at home in the league plus Cardiff in the Cup….this team deserves all the support we can give it.

    1. I always wonder how Edinburgh only get 3-4000. Half the team is the Scotland team and they get 68,000 every home match. It’s good live sport. It’s disappointing it takes a good run of results but hopefully attendances go up at this point.
      By the way how is he wage bill sustainable on such small home gates? How much do these players earn roughly?

      1. Busy Little Bee – I think a lot of it is to do with how few Scotland Internationals Edinburgh were producing for such a long time. You look at Scotland squads from recent times say from 2012 to 2016 and the only Edinburgh players who regularly made the first 15 were Ford, Dickinson and Gilchrist as well as Scott, Laidlaw, Denton and Visser who all moved onto new pastures.

        Whereas the current Edinburgh squad is just full of players such as; McInally, Marfo, Dell, Nel, Berghan, McCallum, Gilchrist, Toolis, Carmichael, Hunter-Hills, Watson, Bradburry, Ritchie, Crosbie, Darcy Graham, Bennett, Kinghorn, Barclay(next season) etc. in and around the Scotland squad with many others pushing all the way to be considered for international duty or showing incredible future promise i.e Crosbie, Ritchie, Bradburry, Darcy Graham, Kinghorn, Carmichael, Hunter-Hills etc.

        The key thing for Edinburgh is to keep their international stars, get coaches in who can help get them playing to their full potential which they have with Cockerill and co and then as they rise up the table their stature as a club will only grow and the fans will soon flow through the doors in a similar fashion to how Glasgow Warriors ticket sales suddenly went through the roof when they started regularly competing near the top of the Pro14 and now they are desperate to expand their stadium.

      2. “Whereas the current Edinburgh squad is just full of players such as; McInally, Marfo, Dell, Nel, Berghan, McCallum, Gilchrist, Toolis, Carmichael, Hunter-Hills, Watson, Bradburry, Ritchie, Crosbie, Darcy Graham, Bennett, Kinghorn”

        Caps won with Edinburgh

        14, 3, 10, 19, 6, 1, 20, 9, 0, 0, 17, 2, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0

        Not much has changed outside the front row.

  7. How the Pro14 play-offs will look like depending on the different likely outcomes of the league table:

    Glasgow win Conference A, Munster come 2nd and Cheetah’scome 3rd. Leinster finish 1st, Scarlets 2nd and Edinburgh Finish 3rd; Edinburgh will play Munster in their quarter final and Scarlets play the Cheetahs to determine who plays Glasgow in the semi’s. Should Edinburgh win they go on to face Leinster in the Semi-final. If the Scarlets beat Leinster to the top spot then Leinster must play the Cheetahs to determine who plays Glasgow in the Semi’s leaving Scarlets waiting for the victor of Edinburgh Vs Munster.

    Glasgow win Conference A, Munster come 2nd and Cheetah’s come 3rd. Leinster finish 1st, Edinburgh 2nd and Scarlets 3rd; Edinburgh’s path to the semi’s is far easier as they will play the Cheetah’s (or Cardiff) which should they win will lead to all Scottish semi final. With Scarlet’s playing Munster to determine who plays Leinster.

    Munster win Conference A, Glasgow come 2nd and Cheetah’scome 3rd. Leinster finish 1st, Scarlets 2nd and Edinburgh Finish 3rd; Unlikely to happen but all it means is Glasgow and Edinburgh play each other to determine who plays Leinster in the semi’s. Scarlets or the Cheetah’s would play Munster in the other semi-final. Hope this informative to anyone wondering how the play-offs will work.

  8. A brilliant win for Edinburgh! It’s one game at a time, but with every game the team are producing the goods. These last two fixtures would probably have been predicted to have been losses. The pack are immense. Of the rising stars Carmichael has a fair bit about him and Bradbury has something of the essence of the Irish backrow that Scotland could do with. Backs looking much better too. If Matt Scott is coming back then he, Bennett, Christine, JJ, Burleigh, Rasolea are decent midfield options. Fife, Hoyland, Kinghorn, Van1, Graham, all good back 3 options. I think SHC will be a loss and we’ll need a quality replacement there. And as always – thin at 10.

  9. I actually fancy Edinburgh to not only get to the play-offs but to pip the Scarlets to 2nd place. The Scarlets still have to play Leinster (twice) as well as Ulster, Munster, Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Dragons and will have to play Ulster and both matches against Leinster during the six nations despite having virtually no squad depth (comfortably beat by Bennetton last week) . Whereas Edinburgh’s 6 remaining fixtures are against The Dragons, Munster, Connacht, Ulster, The Scarlets and Glasgow.

    Ulster have the Scarlets, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and Munster and although it will be tight between all 3 teams I fancy Edinburgh getting wins against the Dragons and Connacht as well as the important home-ties against The Scarlets and Ulster and can see us being a challenge to both Munster and Glasgow (games which will be at Murrayfield).

  10. Can’t keep wee Dunc down. Delighted to hear this, last I heard Ulster had a penalty to retake lead with few mins left.

    Love seeing his effort being rewarded. Well done Edinburgh

  11. Edinburgh’s defence against attempted box kicks was very effective. I don’t think I’ve seen so many charge-downs or deflections in one game. It does make me wonder whether some players – in this case the Ulster scrum-half – are so conditioned by a pre-set game plan that they are unable to adjust tactics when that plan is plainly not working.

  12. Different thread but sad to see Cameron Redpath asked to come and train with England this week. I understand the England funding rules encourage players to opt for England until they declare otherwise but we seem to be losing the battle for dual qualified talent at the moment: Mercer, Redpath, Vellacott, Graham lost v Harris & Hamilton gained… I only hope that Vellacott and Redpath are being courted heavily behind the scenes… Rory please give us some confidence!!

      1. The problem is England tend to come out on top when both countries want the player: Mercer, Graham, Vellacott and now Redpath.

        We get guys like Marfo, Huw Jones, Price etc who are English born but not on the radar for the national team – although fwiw Jones and Price are both good enough to be in England’s squad. Adam Hastings is the only example I can think of who has chosen us when both countries wanted him. England apparently tried to tempt him into their u20 setup.

        I don’t think we need to be too sad about Vellacott (not as good as George Horne, doesn’t start regularly for Gloucester where the main competition is Willi Heinz who is bang average) or Gary Graham, who has one cap on an England summer tour written all over him. But seeing Zach Mercer or Cam Redpath play for the England seniors will be galling. Both great prospects, Mercer is at least as much a Scots product as an English one given he did most of his rugby development in Scotland, and Redpath obviously gutting because of who his dad is.

        Mercer is lost, although has no senior cap so technically still isn’t tied, but Mark Dodson should be rummaging behind the SRU sofa for some cash to put together a deal to try and tempt Redpath to Edinburgh or Glasgow. It’s difficult to get these guys back once the England u20s get their clammy hands on them, but Ross Moriarty opting for Wales after winning a junior world cup with England shows it can be done occasionally.

      2. The big sell is not cash. The likelihood of a cap for Scotland over England is much better.

        Today we have just about the same number of male teenagers playing (15k) as Wales, Italy (17k), France and Ireland both on 57k and England a stagering 600k.

  13. Wee Gregg starting for Clermont so wonder if that means that he won’t be starting next week? 6 day turnaround will be a challenge

  14. Taylor released but where is Dunbar? Nell, Strauss, Scott straight into the match day squad maybe. Makes the front row interesting.

  15. Nice to see Townsend calling in the cavalry for England, Looks like we could have some real impact coming of the bench in positions we have struggled.

    Just a shame R.Gray and Brown not back yet, poor mcinally can expect another 80 minute shift.

  16. I hope the scotland team keep away from the media this week, every time we big ourselfs up we seem to get destroyed, i would bring in Cockerill to help with the forwards and defence this week, seems to be the area we are lacking in.

  17. It looks like Dunbar is a goner for the England game if not the whole 6N. Would be tempted to play Scott with Jones rather than Horne but I suspect GT will disagree. I don’t think he’s a huge Matt Scott fan.
    I would also start with Denton at 6 or 8 with Wilson in the other position and Barclay at 7. I don’t think we can afford to start with Barclay and Watson against the England juggernaut, we’ll just get blasted out of the rucks. Watson off the bench would have a great impact in the last quarter.

    1. That’s an interesting viewpoint. Wilson and Denton should start, but Barclay is captain and if we have HW off the bench, then we have a reshuffle. For me, I agree with you, Denton can contribute more earlier to keep us in the game, swap anyone out for HW about 55 minutes. Tough call.

    2. Again, tough call at centre – prefer Scott to start at 12, but doubt we will see that, however makes bench selection a lot easier. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Visser start. Ah – it’s Toonie, who knows. Whatever stupid noise the poison dwarf comes up with, he hasn’t a clue what Gregor is thinking.

    3. Can’t believe you would consider even for a second dropping our best back rower against England. Hamish Watson is a class above the rest of our back row options – what are you thinking?

  18. This would be my team England

    1. Reid
    2. Mcinally
    3. Berghan
    4. Gilchrist
    5. Gray
    6. Wilson
    7. Watson
    8. Denton
    9. Laidlaw
    10. Russell
    11. Visser
    12. Horne
    13. Jones
    14. Maitland
    15. Hogg
    16. Malcolm
    17. Bhatti
    18. Fagerson
    19. Barclay
    20. Strauss
    21. Price
    22. Scott
    23. Seymour

    Front Row picks itself with only arguable Bhatti/Reid and i have went for Reid for continuity.
    Gilchrist/Gray easy picks as this is not the right type of opponent for Toolis who is abit lightweight and will not bring hard carrying.
    Wilson/Denton/Watson – Only clear starter is Waston, Denton is probaly the best ball carrier, Wilson for whatever reason seems to bring that balance in most teams he is in and does all the unseen work and bring energy, with Laidlaw in my side i see less merit to Barclay starting this one although i admit its a big risk.
    Laidlaw/Russell – Laidlaw for captaincy, Russell despite poor performances is in due to lack of class back-ups, he just needs to focus on doing the basics well for the first 20 minutes against a side who will put a ton of pressure on him, after that hopefully his nerves settle and he can do what he does best.
    Horne/Jones – They contained the French well for the most part and hopefully that combo clicks just a little more. Jones has a massive task on his hands containing Joseph.
    Visser/Maitland/Hogg – Hogg for the x-factor (and possibly kicks to touch ? )
    Maitland brings that balance and you need a mix of solid players and X-factor ones i have realised and it reflects in the top teams in the world. I.e. – Brown/Kearney/Halfpenny/Ben smith when he is back (all incredibly solid)
    Visser over Seymour just due to the fact seymour has not looked flashy for the most part and only solid, Visser can bring that x-factor finishing and has shorn up his weakness’s in the last year (Just need slightly more workrate now)


    (Nvm i have ran out of words -_- )

    1. Bench

      Malcolm – Townsend clearly does not trust in cochrane or lawson so lets give this kid a shot (If mcallum can do it so can this guy for 5-10 minutes)
      Bhatti – Picks itself
      Fagerson – Offers solid scrummaging and can carry hard with a big workrate, Welsh does not offer alot around the park and Nel is not as fit as him.
      (No lock replacements although i believe Wilson can cover if desperate.)
      due to none of them having the right attributes for this type of game England are going to bring against us.
      Barlcay – Offers leadership when laidlaw goes off and can cover all backrow positions to a class standard.
      Strauss – Big go forward ball against a strong english defense.
      Price – Only option and arguable starter.
      Scott – Can cover 12-13 is better than Harris and Bennett can not cover 12.
      Seymour – Experienced and Back 3 Cover.

      1. Sorry Neil that’s bonkers.
        Drop the captain? Against England you need to have as many leaders on the pitch as possible.
        No lock replacement? So if either one get’s injured you’ve got Wilson – who’s never played there – trying to shore up a scrum which the English are already targeting?
        Malcolm? Seriously? You’d throw a rookie into playing in the Calcutta Cup?
        Sometimes I think you pick a side just to generate comments. You cannot really believe your picks would give us a chance against the #2 side in the world?
        Strauss – “Big go forward ball”??? When has he shown he can do that (recently)?

      2. Ok so Nel comes onto bench.
        Merlot – Lets be honest, take away the captaincy from Barclay for a moment and its fair to say he has been underperforming so far, A combo of Barclay and Watson is too small for this type of game and will get brutalised, he would still be my captain for the other games but not this one.
        Now yes their is no lock replacements but somtimes you have to gamble and Toolis/Swinson are way to lightweight and small against Lawes/Launchberry or Itoje so why have them packing down in the scrum at all ? , Gilchrist and Gray have both impressed and have the weight required to hold the scrum down and tall enough to compete with those guys. Is it risky ? hell yeh but i would take that risk for this game.
        On Malcolm would you really prefer Lawson ? from what i have seen of malcolm he does all the basics well and fits the game plan more. I know he is a rookie and thats why in general i have tried to keep the lack out experience out of the squad for this one, but if he does get on it would most likely be 5-10 minutes anyway.
        Do you really think Lawson or Cochrane are better than him ? really ?!
        And yes Strauss is arguably the best ball carrier and he showed it in his last game for Scotland in France when he carried like a man possessed despite having that injury. I know i would want him on with 20 minutes to go carrying hard against tried legs over Toolis or Swinson.

        At the end of the day these are all changes to keep scotland going across the gainline and making breaks which is when our backs are at their most potent.

        What squad would you pick ?

  19. Having no second row backup would terrify me. If one of the starters got injured early on it would leave us with very limited options and potentially have the lineout fall apart. No team in the world would I less like to have a dodgy lineout against than England. They pick 3 locks already and have the best kicking game in the world. If the sense weakness they will just kick to our 22 all day long.

    Its Wilson or Dents for me at 8 and otherwise leave well enough alone in the back 5.

    My other question is do we stay with Horne at 12? But if Dunbar is out and he is matching up on Farrell maybe its not quite the worry it might be.

  20. This post is going to be fairly wide ranging as I can’t be bothered to create multiple ones.

    1. Duncan Weir – Calls for him to come in against England are nothing short of mad. He’s not played in months & even before injury he’s an average player at best, not the next saviour. 1 drop goal and 1 missed kick to touch (he was very lucky Bowe messed up) does not justify the hype he currently getting.
    2. Laidlaw playing for Clermont – SRU have no control over who does and does not play for clubs outwith Glasgow & Edinburgh, these players have to be released back to their clubs. It happens all the time that a player will play for their club team and then the international side a few days later. I wouldn’t read anything into him playing for Clermont.
    3. Edinburgh attendance vs player wages – This is the same for both clubs (Edinburgh & Glasgow) they are funded centrally by the SRU, match day attendance at the pro teams does not pay the players wage. It contributes, but is not the bulk of the players wage. Glasgow are in the same situation, where I doubt the ticket receipts would cover Hoggy, let alone the rest of the squad.
    4. Zach Mercer – Was only eligible for Scotland through residency during his time at school, he no longer continues to be eligible and the only way would be for him to move to Scotland for 5 years. This isn’t going to happen, he was never lost to us as he was only eligible for a portion of his childhood, and that ended in 2015 when he moved to Bath.

    1. Rich – I think theirs a difference between an adult rugby player moving to another country to become qualified to play for that country then moving away from that country before getting capped and a child moving to a country and spending nearly their whole childhood and development in a certain country.

      I’m pretty sure that because Zach Mercer moved here when he was 8 and left when he was 18 and has been capped at youth level for Scotland he will continue to remain eligible for Scotland up until the day another country caps him which unfortunately could be soon.

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