Pre-season friendlies are like the proverbial curates egg.
You are desperate for the season to start and you’ve been reduced to watching summer sports but there are no line outs in Tennis or scrums in Formula 1. So when the pre-season friendlies come around you grab onto them like a drowning man reaching for a life raft.
It’s rugby, but not as you know it. There will probably be about 10 substitutes per side and you’ll see academy players play well and you’ll think he could be good for us this season and then you’ll forget his name by Christmas. The game will be disjointed because of the subs and if you win you’ll place too much importance on it but if you lose you’ll dismiss it as just a preseason friendly.
This particular match at Meggetland followed these traits almost to a T.
The first half was a scrappy affair with lots of handling errors on both sides. Bath had the lion’s share of the possession in the early exchanges and only some good solid defending from Edinburgh kept them at bay until around the 27th minute. After a lineout deep in Edinburgh territory, the Bath forwards recycled possession and prop Tom Ellis managed to get over the line close to the stand side touchline. Freddie Burns hit the left hand upright with the kick. Edinburgh 0 Bath 5.
The game continued to be error strewn and it took until almost the halftime whistle before Edinburgh were able to get on the scoreboard. An Edinburgh lineout just outside the Bath 22 led to a penalty which Jason Baggott, who had only just taken the field following an injury to Simon Hickey, stroked over the posts to make it 3-5 and it stayed that way until half-time.
The good points from the first half from an Edinburgh perspective included:
- A strong looking return to action from Hamish Watson – doing what he does, tackling like a dervish and making some good carries.
- Despite the untidy looking scrum which led to a Bath penalty inside their own 22, Edinburgh looked strong in this department.
- Duhan Van Der Merwe was also looking good until a collision with Bath No.8 Zach Mercer measuring 7 on the Richter scale led to his being replaced by Dougie Fife. Fife stayed on the wing for the rest of the half and then switched to fullback in the second. He was eventually given the Sponsors man of the match award.
- Tom Brown was bombarded by high balls from Freddie Burns as Bath dominated possession, so he was well tested on his return after a long injury layoff.
The second half began with 13 changes with only Fife and Baggott remaining on the pitch for the Edinburgh men. Amongst the substitutes was Henry Pyrgos who also took on the captaincy at this point. The changes led quickly to an Edinburgh try with Chris Dean, unusually playing on the wing, scoring in the same corner as the earlier Bath try after a series of pick and goes. Stand-off Baggott, who had been impressive since coming on, added the two with a great kick. Edinburgh 10, Bath 5.
Edinburgh managed more possession in the second half and looked strong until the 69th minute when Jamie Roberts, making his Bath debut, hit the line hard and scored just to the left of the posts. Rhys Priestland added the extras to make it Edinburgh 10, Bath 12.
That was to be the final score in the match, despite some reckless attacking from Edinburgh in the remaining minutes from within their own 22 – which looked more likely to result in a Bath try than anything else.
Plus points from the second half –
- Luke Hamilton carrying hard and looking right up for it
- Defence, Roberts try apart, still strong despite the complete change of team at half-time.
- The safe return of Ross Ford to action.
Overall it was a useful run out, but there was more rust evident than on a 10-year-old Alfa Romeo and unforced errors dominated both halves. Edinburgh made a number of good breaks throughout the game but the last pass just wouldn’t come.
Edinburgh’s young debutants didn’t look out of place and our long term injury returnees got through the game without setback so only the pickiest of the picky would be grumbling afterwards.
As mentioned there were knocks to Duhan Van Der Merwe and Simon Hickey in the first half which saw them replaced. Darryl Marfo also made way for Rory Sutherland in the second half and appeared to be limping as he left the field but my understanding is that all those changes were precautionary.
The biggest highlight of the night without a doubt though was the 4,200 capacity attendance which hopefully bodes well for the season ahead when Edinburgh return to Murrayfield.
Richard Cockerill sbuild-uphe build up to the game – “If we turn up at Ospreys and we get a result, we’ve had a good pre-season”. So the jury’s still out and as a wise man once said, “it’s just a pre-season friendly.”
Rugby’s back though. Hurray.
Edinburgh 1st half: 15. Tom Brown, 14 Jack Blain, 13. James Johnstone, 12. Matt Scott, 11, Duhan van der Merwe. 10. Simon Hickey, 9. Sean Kennedy, 8. Viliame Mata, 7. Hamish Watson, 6. Jamie Ritchie, 5. Ben Toolis, 4. Jamie Hodgson, 3. Murray McCallum 2. Stuart McInally (Capt), 1. Pierre Schoeman
Edinburgh 2nd half: 15. Dougie Fife, 14. George Taylor, 13. Mark Bennett, 12. Juan Pablo Socino, 11. Chris Dean, 10, Jason Baggott, 9. Henry Pyrgos (Capt), 8. Senitiki Nayolo 7. Luke Hamilton, 6. Mungo Mason, 5. Calum Hunter-Hill, 4. Callum Atkinson, 3. Pietro Ceccarelli, 2. Ross Ford, 1. Darryl Marfo
Bath: D Atkins; S Rokoduguni, M Wright, M Clark, J Wilson; F Burns, W Chudley; N Catt, J Walker, A Perenise, M Garvey, D Attwood, T Ellis, J Bayliss, Z Mercer. Substitutes: M van Vuuren, W Vaughan, S Nixon, V Delmas, E Stooke, L Douglas, M Reid, S Underhill, T Faletau, M Green, C Cook, R Priestland, J Roberts, J Willison, J Cokanasiga.