Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


PRO14 Round 4: Edinburgh 46-7 Scarlets

Matt Scott
Matt Scott on the charge for Edinburgh Rugby at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

A week ago Edinburgh succumbed meekly to Leinster in Dublin with really only a Charlie Shiel try as a highlight worth remembering. The less said about that the better, but one thing is worth mentioning. Edinburgh had more possession and territory against Leinster than they did against Scarlets. The big difference was a tackle success rate of 91% v Scarlets compared to 79% against Leinster.

They scored seven tries against Scarlets so let’s look at this game a little differently than normal.

Try 1. An attacking move inside Scarlets 22 was disrupted by the onrushing defence but a nice pick up off the floor by Blair Kinghorn reactivated it. He passed to Mark Bennett who beat the first defender before offloading to Ally Miller. He got close before offloading to Henry Pyrgos and he found Duhan Van Der Merwe with a floated pass for the run in. The try was un-converted.

Try 2. From the Scarlets kick off that followed the powerful Nick Haining brought the ball back to the halfway having burst through 3 tackles before passing to Willemse. The ball moved right before finding its way back across the field. Matt Scott exchanged passes with Kinghorn and then passed to Bennett who gave Van Der Merwe another run in. Simon Hickey kicked the conversion to give Edinburgh a 12-0 lead after only 10 minutes.

Try 3.  A neat chip over the top by Pyrgos had to be hurriedly kicked to touch by Scarlets and gave Edinburgh a lineout on the 5 metre line.  The maul followed and with a penalty advantage in hand hooker Mike Willemse drove off the back of the maul to score. From a Scarlets point of view it was much too easy. Hickey slotted the conversion. 19-0.

Try 4. Scarlets were denied a try for a forward pass with only 7 minutes left of the half. Their disappointment from that was exacerbated in the moments that followed. Magnus Bradbury, now on for the injured Haining, broke from the scrum and drove through the first defender. Pyrgos recycled and found Miller for another good run. Passes from Van Der Merwe, Scott, Pyrgos and Hickey got Edinburgh up to the 5 metre mark before another ruck was formed. The ball was recycled quickly and Bennett dummied and then stepped two defenders to score under the posts. Hickey kicked the conversion.

Yellow Card. In the dying seconds of the half Fraser McKenzie saw yellow for charging in to a ruck. It was debatable, to be kind to referee Frank Murphy, but perhaps not surprising in the current climate.

Half-time: Edinburgh 26-0 Scarlets

Penalty. The sin bin period ended with no additional scoring and just after McKenzie was restored  Edinburgh were awarded a penalty, centre field, after Scarlets had infringed at a ruck. With the bonus point already secured they took the points to make the score 29-0.

Try 5. Mike Willemse got his second try of the night in similar fashion to his first and it came only a few minutes after Scarlets had scored against the base of the posts through hooker Marc Jones. An Edinburgh lineout followed by a driving maul was shifting forwards with Willemse at the base before he peeled off. This time the tackling was a little better but he was still able to cross the line with an outstretched arm. Van Der Walt, on for Hickey, missed the conversion. 34-7.

Try 6. Edinburgh kept the pressure on and from a scrum close to Scarlets line they forced the visitors into touch. A good lineout take and some nice interplay in the midfield resulted in a looping pass from Van Der Walt that released Van Der Merwe for his hat trick. Van Der Walt added the extras.

Try 7. Just as the clock hit the 79th minute Edinburgh won a ruck on the left hand touchline and the ball was moved quickly. Bennett saw acres of space and hit the accelerator, splitting the Scarlets defence before throwing a well-timed pass to Eroni Sau who had an easy run in for his debut try in Edinburgh colours. The conversion went wide.

Full time: Edinburgh 46-7 Scarlets

A good job well done. Some will say that Scarlets weren’t very good and although they were unbeaten going into this game only their opening day fixture against Connacht, who now lead Conference B, was against opposition who seem to be on the up (sorry Glasgow), so there is some truth in that. Edinburgh, however, were very good defensively and made the absolute most of the opportunities they created.

Edinburgh’s back three with Darcy Graham still to come in look very dangerous already at this point of the season.

Attendance: 5,192

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)

Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; E Sau, M Bennett, M Scott, D van der Merwe; S Hickey, H Pyrgos (captain); 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 (captain), 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.

Scottish Rugby Blog Man of the match – The official award went to Duhan Van Der Merwe and with 3 tries and his overall performance I’m not going to argue. I think though that special mention should go to Ally Miller who had his best game in an Edinburgh shirt. Playing like a man who knows that his performance has to be good in the light of the soon to be returning messrs Mata, Ritchie, Barclay and Watson, his work rate was exceptional. It wasn’t showy but he was destructive in attack and solid in defence.

44 Responses

  1. A great show and the form of VDM, Scott and Bennett augers well for next season.

    The strength in depth is now there and it’ll be interesting to see how Cockers manages the squad.

    1. The strength in depth is looking great, agreed. Amazing that we had that dominance in the scrum with an entire forward pack (plus replacements) still to come back.

      Sau and VDM looked great on the wings and Scott and Bennett were, as others have said, superb.

      The one worry for me is fullback though. Kinghorn is brilliant but it doesn’t look like there is anyone there to replace him if he goes down. Grahama and Kinghorn can fill in but both are far more suited to the wing.

      I didn’t see much u20s last year so is there anyone there who looked good and is in the academy?

      1. Don’t forget Blain – I think he could realy start to break through this season.

        Rufus McLean was the FB with the most promise in the academy system, but I think (unconfirmed as far as I know) that he has been aligned with Glasgow. He was a Merchiston boy, so perhaps a bit surprising.

      2. *The 2nd Kinghorn was meant to be Hoyland in my first post.

        Thanks David. I don’t know much about Blain other than that he’s tall and very young. Is he likely to disposess or at least put pressure on the other wingers we have though?

        I’ll keep an eye out for Mclean.

    2. McLean is still training with Edinburgh I believe, though it’s clearly Glasgow that have the greater need in the back 3 going forward. Blain is a natural left wing but can also play fullback if needed.

      1. That’s changed this summer.

        It used to be Edinburgh who were weaker in the back three compared to Glasgow. It’s only now that Edinburgh have signed Eroni Sau, Darcy Graham and Blair Kinghorn are established starters, Jack Blain has broken through, and Damien Hoyland has recovered from injury to become a valid option at #15 (except he needs to work on his kicking game). Jamie Farndale has also played well on outings. Dougie Fife and Tom Brown – both Scotland internationals – haven’t been called upon yet in the Pro14.

        In contrast, Warriors will probably have a more transitional year. Matawalu is a straight pick; Seymour and van der Merwe have aged, as have Lee Jones and Ruaridh Jackson. Rory Hughes is injured again, and we’ve barely seen any of Ratu Tagive. Glenn Bryce has looked decent, mind – and Robbie Nairn looks like breaking into the XV this term; the #23 shirt will be his if he can cover full-back. Kyle Steyn will probably spend a LOT more time on the wing this year with Jones, Grigg or McDowall at #13.

      2. I’m not so sure about Nairn breaking through – he has some of the tools (very big, pretty quick) but his passing is weak and his tackling very weak. OTOTM posted tackle completion stats for the Edinburgh and Glasgow back three players recently and Nairn was just over 50%.

        I desperately want him to be our version of George North, but at the moment he is more of a poor man’s Naiaravoro (Glasgow spell).

      1. He also made the most metres and most clean breaks. twice as many in both cases as the next guy on the list. There was also a try saving intervention after a Scarlets attack to add to the small matter of the three tries. Still worthy of debate as despite these facts I almost gave it to Miller anyway.

      2. I have an enormous amount of time and respect for Mossy but he really adds no value as a pundit. Stock platitudes with little or no insight.

      3. The “debatable” card for McKenzie – I assume the debate is centred on just how stupid was he ? Ruck after ruck going nowhere and he decides to put in a very dodgy challenge from the side which just sat up and begged for a review.

        Absolutely agree about Miller – a revelation. But he’s in a hugely competitive area going forward.

        Commentators – I’m currently liking Delve, probably because he has the benefit of not having been schooled in the one eyed pit of biased garbage that is Scrum V

      4. McKenzie really is brainless on the pitch so many stupid cards and pens over the years.

        Agree about Delve.

      5. Have to agree with Sandy, Duhan had a great all round game. The amount of times he ran the ball and got Edinburgh 20-30+ metres downfield was impressive. His tries might not have been spectacular, but he still finished 3 of them and had a very effective game.

        There were a lot of contenders for MoTM, but I’ve no issue with Duhan getting it.

  2. MOTM = Willemse for me , Good graft and the third try was no way back for the Scarletts. Others were more visible agreed.

  3. That was a great performance. I didn’t see the Leinster game last week, but Edinburgh are looking very good so far and still have a lot of players to come back. I’m particularly glad to see Bennett doing well again – if we can get Jones firing as well there will be a real battle for the Scotland 13 shirt. I thought Crosbie and Miller looked sharp, and Sau is a bit of a beast. This season Edinburgh look to be a far better, and more complete, team than Glasgow.

  4. I wonder why Edinburgh were able to bring back in a few of their Scotland RWC guys but yet Glasgow, who arguably are in greater need, didn’t. Particularly surprised to see Kinghorn and Bradbury, who I don’t think saw any less gametime than the likes of Hastings, Horner, Turner, Stewart etc

    1. Cockers said that those who came back said they were ready to and that others needed more time. Maybe the same is true of the Glasgow players.

    2. Kinghorn in particular missed a lot of rugby last season after his injury around Easter time. Bradbury also missed a bit due to injury and was probably more fresh. I don’t know for certain, but I would imagine the amount of rugby played over a rolling period is taken as the basis for the rest periods given…?

      1. To add to that, remember Glasgow also played more games last season including the Pro14 final! Further to that, Glasgow probably want their best players available for the Heineken Cup, which obviously Edinburgh aren’t in.

  5. Agree about VDM, couldn’t understand the man of the match award – all he does is score tries.

    Who is Mossy by the way?

    Bennett is back for real…looks razor sharp but not just that all facets of his game seem in top order, he’s done well to get back after basically 2.5 years out. Think Glasgow let him go to make space for their shiny new toy…Huw Jones.

  6. Mossy = Chris Paterson.

    Haining may have been the MOM if he hadn’t gone off.

    Edinburgh management have a helluva job to choose the back row, Miller & Crosbie were excellent, Mata, Ritchie & Watson are excellent, looks like Barclay will have his work cut out to figure much.
    The Scotland management must look at Bennett & Scott, both back nearing their best

  7. I thought Frank Murphy had another good game, and not just because Edinburgh won. Best ref in the Pro 14 IMO. Should have been at the world cup.

  8. Duhan is a fantastic winger, but he needs to work on getting under the posts. Embra missed the first conversion because he didn’t think about running the ball in so it wasn’t out wide. If he’d have run more – and dived rather than dot the ball down as he always does – we could’ve got the conversion on top. It’s a flaw in his game; his finishing needs to be more robust if he’s to be a Scotland cap.

  9. Potentially a very successful season for Edinburgh awaits if they can have consistency for once. Consistently good hopefully.

    The foundations are there. Years of good forwards play and now backs to match. Fingers crossed for Scott and Bennett staying fit. Delighted for Bennet to being playing so well after a horrendous run of injuries.

    Signs aren’t good for Glasgow. The knock on effect of Rennie imminent departure has rocked the team. Not sure how they will manage to turn it around. Hopefully the return of the internationals can bring back some feel good factor into their play and they can find form again.

  10. Edinburgh’s bench is going to be something else. Reserve hooker, lock, back row and wingers could have quite some impact. Very dynamic positions and ideal to make a difference when it matters.

    Tough game on Saturday and an ideal test.

  11. Excited by the strength capable:

    Van der Merwe

    Take you pick from: Miller/Barcley/Haining/Crosbie
    Van der Walt

    Watson to spice up competition once fit.

    Concern: lack of cover for 15 (sound familiar)?

    Interest: Will Willemse keep McInally out? Who will break through at No9 & 10? How much will Cockerill rotate as some very capable players on the fringes?

    With such a big squad of players it a shame that we can’t establish a 3rd team and have flexibility in moving players around from Glasgow and Edinburgh so fringe players are getting critical match practice. If all the pro 14 clubs did something I’m sure a reduced reserve league or friendlies could happen?

    1. – Watson will be a straight starter when he comes back in. It’ll be Ritchie vs Bradbury for the #6 shirt when he does return.
      – McInally will probably start most games.
      – Groom and van der Walt may well be our starting halfback pair.

      1. Hamish Watson has been one of our few Test stars these last three seasons. After this RWC and Ritchie’s taking of his chance following Watson’s injury in the opener, I think they’re now in competition with each other at 7 not just for Scotland but for Edinburgh.

      2. A takeaway from the RWC may be some teams electing to play 2 sevens on the flanks, with a view to dominating the breakdown. Makes sense for Edinburgh to consider this option using Watson and Ritchie, given that they have an impressive tight five, with Bill as a ball carrying No. 8. Bradbury’s future is a heavy-weight carrier.

  12. Just had another Edinburgh-themed realisation: Jason Baggott is now qualified to play for Scotland. So Edinburgh now have a Scotland-qualified #10 who’s currently somewhere between Ruaridh Jackson and Gavin Lowe in the pecking order.

    During the Six Nations, Edinburgh could lose any of Mark Bennett, Darcy Graham, Damien Hoyland, Blair Kinghorn and Matt Scott to the Scotland squad. We likely won’t lose all of them – Hoyland and Scott look like relative outside bets – but we’ll definitely have some holes in our backline. This could very easily mean more gametime for the wider squad; for example, we could end up with van der Walt at full-back and Hickey at #10. That’d mean Baggott coming off the bench and getting minutes.

    1. I shouldn’t think Jason Baggot will break into the Scotland squad any time soon – I think he’s hardly even played for Edinburgh? Mind you, anything’s possible with Toony’s team selections ;-)

  13. Edinburgh did look strong the other night against the Scarlets. And yet, that was a pretty chaotic surrender to Leinster the week before. To be forgiven in due course I hope if we keep up the form shown against Scarlets – in away games especially.
    Shame that a consistent lack of penetration behind a strong pack last season meant we’re only in the Challenge Cup this season. But maybe that’s not so bad after all. Priority for Embra this season surely has to be qualifying for Pro 14 knock-outs, backed by a really good run in the Challenge Cup.
    Returning internationals to both of our pro clubs exacerbates the ‘quart into a pint pot’ problem for Scottish club and Test rugby imo. How to accommodate and regularly play very good NSQ players and Scots internationals within the confines of two pro clubs must be a headache. Compounded by the challenge of how to find room for up and coming SQ youngsters in age group/Super 6.
    I’m not arguing for a third pro side, but how can room be found for established and promising players to play regularly at top club level?

    1. It is a quandry, but my hope would be that the performance environments created out of such intense competition increase the standard of both current and future players. This is the Leinster model, whereby every player must always be at the top of their game or they are replaced. This has been extremely successful for them domestically, and for Ireland internationally.

    2. And to selectively place players outside Scotland. It will be interesting to see how Hunter Hill develops at Saracens. A bit of their fiercely competitive style would be a great education.

      1. I think its a really good idea that… much better than trying to force out a 3rd pro team.

        If there are really guys that are good enough but not getting enough game time then a few short term loans seems like a win-win.

    3. One of my favourite solutions would be for SRU to buy London Scottish. Especially if they got them into the pro14.

      Potential is huge. They would benefit from Scottish Welsh and Irish ‘expat’ support going to games (when playing Welsh or Irish teams). They would be able to act as a vehicle for the best Scottish qualified talent from down South. They would offer a different lifestyle option for young players – London might be quite an attractive option. At some point we will have a 3rd team, but I am not sure we have the population base or rugby economy to support a quality third team in Scotland at the moment, not until Glasgow and Edinburgh vastly increase attendances etc.

      That isn’t necessarily true down South. I prefer it to the Worcester idea that’s for sure!

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