PRO14 Round 1: Ospreys 17-13 Edinburgh

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

Words have been replaced by deeds.  Endless previews and speculation have been replaced by cold hard stats.

Something else let slip was BBC Alba’s Pro14 coverage.  Premier Sports, and their promise to show all 152 Pro14 games for under a tenner a month, have taken over. First up for said coverage was Ospreys v Edinburgh at The Liberty Stadium on Friday night.

Both the hosts and the visitors decided to come out all guns blazing, at least in terms of selection.

Ospreys gave league debuts to Welsh internationalists George North, Scott Williams and Aled Davies as well as new recruit Tom Botha whom they signed from Cheetahs.

Edinburgh also elected to stack the deck with a raft of new recruits including Pierre Schoeman, Luke Hamilton, Henry Pyrgos, Simon Hickey, and Matt Scott.

Ospreys kicked deep to start the match and almost immediately Pyrgos made a break up the short side and put a grubber through which Van Der Merwe also kicked on before juggling it a couple of times and then knocked it on.  It was a hard one for him to try and control but it set the tone for the rest of the game as Edinburgh never lacked for intent but had more than 20 handling errors throughout.

It was also just about the last time Edinburgh had any real possession until the 15th minute.

In that period they defended well and had a little luck on their side. Ospreys had a claim for a try after a kick through from Scott Williams led to the TMO’s intervention – it was really close but the decision was that the retreating Pyrgos just got the touchdown before fullback Dan Evans.

The resulting 22 dropout led straight to another Ospreys attack and a deliberate knock-on from Matt Scott as he flapped at a passing ball.  He should have seen yellow for it (especially with the accountant-like refereeing of John Lacey) but he didn’t, and Edinburgh were then doubly relieved when Price missed the penalty.

It took until the 29th minute before Edinburgh opened the scoring. After a series of rucks around the halfway, Pyrgos cleverly passed the ball straight into the body of Botha who was lurking offside. Penalty to Edinburgh which Simon Hickey kicked to make it Ospreys 0, Edinburgh 3.

Unfortunately, straight from the restart Edinburgh tried to run it from deep and conceded a penalty for holding on and Price levelled the score at 3-3.  That was to be Price’s last significant contribution as he was replaced by Sam Davies in the 38th minute following a collision with Pyrgos.

After the stop for that injury Hickey missed touch with a penalty, the Ospreys ran it back and forced a scrum after yet another Edinburgh knock on.  Lacey adjudged Edinburgh to have infringed at the scrum and Davies first action was to miss the resultant kick at goal to leave it as 3-3 at half-time.

Half-time: Ospreys 3-3 Edinburgh

Edinburgh seemed to start the second half with more urgency and kept the ball within the forwards, short carries giving them some momentum. Another three handling errors within the first ten minutes of the half soon brought that to a halt though.  The pick-and-goes did however bring some joy in the 53rd minute when Ospreys held on just too long at a ruck under their posts. Edinburgh would have liked the try as a reward but in what was looking like a close game they quite rightly elected to take the three easy points from the boot of Hickey to take the lead.

Ospreys got the first try of the match shortly thereafter. They forced a lineout close the Edinburgh try line, which they tried to take quickly in front of the mark. They were afforded a second shot at it by Lacey, spun it wide to the impressive George North who easily stepped inside Blair Kinghorn for a simple score. Davies added the conversion: 10-6.

Edinburgh’s woes with ball in hand weren’t over by a long way and in the 68th minute, a promising attack came to an end as Pyrgos dropped the ball at the base of a ruck deep into the Ospreys 22. The home side snatched possession and went wide again to North who ran it in unopposed from long range. His opposite man Duhan Van Der Merwe – who may have had the pace to catch him – was still on the opposite side of the field having been involved in the previously mentioned ruck.

With ten minutes to go that should have been all she wrote but the one thing this Edinburgh side don’t do is give up, and they came close through substitute Jamie Ritchie and Van Der Merwe before Kinghorn crossed the left-side touchline with a nicely timed approach. Jaco Van Der Walt kicked the extras to bring the margin down to the the 4 point gap it would remain at.

In the dying minutes an excellent Van Der Walt kick chased by Fife gave Edinburgh a lineout within 5 metres, but in keeping with the overall nature of the game the driving maul that followed splintered – at least as Lacey saw it – and gave Ospreys possession at the scrum which they duly won and kicked into touch.

The good – defence was solid for the most part and only the strength and skill of George North was the difference. Pierre Schoeman was immense on the charge and is a real find.

The bad – Edinburgh used the maul repeatedly, got nothing from it and didn’t really have an alternative idea.

The ugly – only one thing but 20 of them: unforced handling errors all over the park.

Two moments of George North skill apart Ospreys were pretty ordinary and only Edinburgh’s inability to retain possession gave them a foothold in the game.  So to give up that many advantages and still be within the losing bonus point margin would suggest that there is no reason to be too downcast at this stage. Indeed overall possession and territory stats of 63% and 62% respectively whilst forcing Ospreys into making 197 tackles (more than double Edinburgh’s total) would suggest that there was much more right than wrong.

Cockerill was quoted as saying that the team had 8 hours on the bus to think about the match; I’d be surprised if he didn’t have them doing handling drills in the aisle on the way home.

It’s only going to get harder so it does need to be sorted but the raw materials are there.  I have faith.

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)

SRBlog Man of the Match: Has to go to Pierre Schoeman. He carried strongly, made more tackles in the forwards than anyone except Hamish Watson and he scrummaged superbly. He really didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.

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Edinburgh supporter and former tighthead whose clubs include Edinburgh Wanderers, Corstorphine, Lothian & Borders Police and The Co-optimists. I’m a much better player now than I ever was when I actually took to the field.
Follow Sandy on twitter @bigparahandy

26 comments on “PRO14 Round 1: Ospreys 17-13 Edinburgh

  1. SB on

    Well Pyrgos had a great start to his debut saving two tries and played well overall but then lost then the game with a typical brain fart.

    The penalty count and being careless with the ball in contact cost Edinburgh tonight. Hickey had a good debut and Matt Scott played well. Hamilton didn’t offer much and it made no sense for him to play 70 with Jamie Ritchie on the bench.

    • TeamCam on

      Agree with all that – and I was disappointed when Edinburgh took three points when they were camped on the Ospreys’ line – but I think it’s worth noting that two of Lacey’s calls really cost them: AWJ’s illegal turnover in the red zone and the O’s illegal maul defence in the last play. Edinburgh would have been miles ahead by that point if they could just hold onto the ball, although a few times knock-ons were awarded when the defending O’s player clearly knocked the ball out of the Edinburgh player’s hands.

      • SB on

        I was confused by that AWJ turnover as well.

        Lacey obviously forgot the rules. AWJ basically walked into the ruck after jackaler had been cleared.

      • TeamCam on

        Exactly. The commentators were lording it as some AWJ genius, when it was really Lacey’s ineptitude. Still, Edinburgh should have had it in the afternoon by then.

  2. Neil on

    Neil’s Wholly Unofficial Player ratings.

    1. Pierre Shoeman – 8
    2. Stuart Mcinally – 6.5
    3. Simon Berghan – 5
    4. Ben Toolis – 6
    5. Grant Gilchrist – 6
    6. Luke Hamilton – 6
    7. Hamish Watson – 7
    8. Bill Mata – 7
    9. Henry Pyrgos – 6.5
    10. Simon Hickey – 7
    11. Duhan VDM – 5
    12. Matt Scott – 7
    13. Mark Bennett – 4
    14. Dougie Fife – 5.5
    15. Blair Kinghorn – 6.5

    16. Ross Ford – 4
    17. Allan Dell – 5
    18. Murray Mcallum – 5
    19. Lewis Carmicheal – 5.5
    20. Jamie Ritchie – 5
    21. Sean Kennaday – 6
    22. Jaco VDW – 5
    23. James Johnstone – 5

    • FF on

      Yeesh was Bennett really that bad. I fear after his injury he’s never going to have the career we all thought he would. Really needs to bounce back this season or he’ll struggle to play for a decent club.

      • Tryhard on

        Bennett wasn’t great. Didn’t get involved enough and lost the ball a couple of times in contact. Scott on the otherhand looked hungry and determined to make an impact. Could be an important season for him.

        Overall agree with what other posters have said. Schoemann, Watson and Mata were Edinburghs best players but execution overall let the team down. Particularly the lack of familiarity between the halfbacks and the rest of the team.

        Ospreys team were pretty good as well though and didn’t underestimate the threat of Edinburgh’s back 3, generally snuffing out the attack before it got to them, leading to frustratingly quiet games from Kinghorn and Duhan.

  3. Rj on

    Disappointing error count, not seen the stats but must have been well into double figures knock ons an Penalties as well. Encouraging thing is despite that we almost won and got a point at least, which is not a disaster.

    Kinghorn had a poor game for me and Bennett continues to be completely non existent. How many chances is he going to continue to get?

    • TeamCam on

      Bennett had some really good games last season – he was powerful in contact and quick. He wasn’t great last night, though. I think Kinghorn and DvdM were both identified as threats and shut down before they could get anything going.

      • RJ on

        Agreed with Kinghorn and VdM and the ospreys defended well on the whole to nulify them. On another night they may well of sparked something but wasn’t to be. Kinghorn seemed a bit blasé to me at times, especially with The footwork.

        Can’t say I agree with Bennett. He has been anonymous in the majority of games he has played IMO but really hope he can turn it around as he obviously has the ability. At least with the squad we have, if he doesn’t cut the mustard there will be plenty of able deputies waiting to step in.

      • TeamCam on

        He was definitely running over/through people last season as Scott was tonight. Not saying Bennett is back to his best, simply that he wasn’t bad last term.

  4. LismoreBoar on

    I was at the game last night so I haven’t seen the game on tv but I was disappointed by the error count but we were playing against 2 quality flankers that really messed us about at the break down – fair play to them. Also the new Ospreys prop is a tough nut who the locals reckon is a real diamond in the scrum – I think he really worked us over which has been one of our strengths. I thought a few of our boys looked rusty and will be better for the run out. I have to agree though that James Ritchie should have been introduced earlier- he gives us something different. Final thought in previous years the game would have been over in the first 10 as the Ospreys were all over us – our defence held strong and if we hadn’t been so careless we would have won it .- I won’t bother commenting on the referee, he was exactly as we would have expected and he didn’t disappoint!

  5. Neil on

    I would probaly pick the following team for next week.

    1. Shoeman
    2. Mcinally
    3. Mcallum
    4. Toolis
    5. Gilchrist
    6. Bradbury
    7. Watson
    8. Mata
    9. Prygos
    10. Hickey
    11. D VDM
    12. Scott
    13. Johnstone
    14. Fife
    15. Kinghorn

    16. Ford
    17. Dell
    18. Berghan
    19. Carmichael
    20. Ritchie
    21. Kennaday
    22. WDV
    23. Dean

    • Rj on

      Yes he did well I thought on the whole. Scarlets were very unlucky I thought, especially when you consider the Injuries they have. Ulster looked beatable next week.

  6. Busy Little Bee on

    It was possibly down to budget constraints but I’d much rather have kept Hardie over Luke Hamilton. Haven’t seen him do much apart from a decent showing against (14-man?) Australia. Ritchie is better too. Good to see Matt Scott back, hopefully he gets back involved with the test team. Never really understood why he’s been overlooked the last couple of years.

    Anyway a 4 point loss at Ospreys is par for the course, it’s no big deal.

    • Tryhard on

      Hamilton played against New Zealand in the autumn, not Australia. He did alright in that game but has looked slow, unfit and ineffective ever since. With the amount of back row options available to Edinburgh this year, with everyone fit he’d be 3rd choice for me. Ritchie, Bradbury and Crosbie are all younger, leaner and quicker with Ritchie in particular looking like a future captain.

  7. JP07 on

    Hamilton was a fairly average squad player at Tigers. Never terrible but never anything more than a reliable club man who was a decent shout for a bench spot during the decline of the club. North of the border, we have taken far too much from his cameo against the All Blacks. He should never be near the test side with our back row options barring cover at 8 in an emergency (which considering the incumbent I’d say we are). I dont know what we are paying him in Edinburgh but I’d be surprised if it is good value.

  8. Stu2 on

    Hamilton’s cameo against the AB has reached ridiculous levels – he had 2 carries that I was aware of and then got injured.

    He looks a decent squad player for Embra – but they are not exactly struggling for options in the backrow.

  9. Ben F on

    We capped Hamilton to stop Wales claiming him but I thought he was rated at Leicester, he still not the finished article , will not be first pick on current form. His departure made way for one, David Denton at Leicester and on current form they probably traded up!

    Worcester were sad to lose DD however my chums at Sixways sent me a few notes during their match saying how brilliant Duncan Weir is playing, he had them winning the game up to the death when wasps went ahead and our hero sadly missed a drop goal. Worcester 20 – 21 Wasps.

  10. The Chiel on

    ” . . . the accountant-like refereeing of John Lacey . . ”
    Accountant – I can get some of the anagram, but not all . . . . :)

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