Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Guinness Rainbow Cup: Edinburgh Rugby 31-34 Ulster Rugby

Edinburgh v Ulster
© Scottish Rugby Blog

Edinburgh said goodbye to BT Murrayfield with a hard-fought loss to Ulster in their penultimate Guinness Rainbow Cup fixture. Four yellow cards and some interesting refereeing decisions gave both sides plenty to be aggrieved about in a game that frustrated and thrilled fans in equal measure.

Worcester-bound Duhan Van Der Merwe opened Edinburgh’s account with his last try for the club after an Eroni Sau turnover penalty allowed Edinburgh to pressure Ulster in their twenty-two. After some great phase play, utilising both the forwards and backs – yes you heard that right – the ball was pushed wide and into Van Der Merwe’s hands.

Blair Kinghorn scored Edinburgh’s second after James Johnstone cut Ulster open with a tight line on Ulster’s defensive soft shoulder. Johnstone accelerated into space, drew the defenders and then gave the pass to put Kinghorn into the corner. It was a fantastic training ground try; who knew using the backs could pay off in attack.

Ian Madigan helped bring Ulster back by cutting open Edinburgh’s defence and sending James Hume over. Ulster then started to build pressure which led to Blair Kinghorn pushing the self-destruct button with an offload to Hamish Watson that was never on. In the scrabble for the ball that followed, Watson attempted to knock the ball backwards from an Ulster offload which, after a captain’s challenge, was turned into an Ulster penalty and a sin binning for Watson.

This was the first of many “interesting” decisions from Ben Whitehouse and his team in this game.

Ian Henderson powered over for Ulster’s second after a lineout driving maul was unfairly judged to be collapsed by WP Nel. Nel was then handed a yellow by Whitehouse. Edinburgh’s great start had been neutralised.

Edinburgh worked hard when down to thirteen men, they created chances and pressurised Ulster regularly. Unfortunately McCloskey broke through just before the yellow card periods were to end and scored to put the visitors ahead, as you’d expect with a two man advantage.

After a Jamie Ritchie penalty, Ulster were back on Edinburgh’s try line with a line out drive that proved the perfect platform for Ulster’s current and future Edinburgh hooker, Adam McBurney, to drive over for the visitors’ fourth try.

Half-time: Edinburgh 12 – 26 Ulster

Ulster started the second half with a finely executed try utilising some nice little passes to put Rob Little over for Ulster’s last try of the game.

Edinburgh looked beaten.

The home side seemed to dig in however after this. They pressurised Ulster and pushed them deep into their twenty two on a number of occasions, one of which resulted in a yellow card for Michael Lowry. Nick Timmoney was the next Ulster player to go to the bin after a succession of Ulster penalties this time reduced the visitors to thirteen men. Pierre “the greatest” Schoeman then powered over for Edinburgh’s third try, swinging momentum to the home team.

Debutant Cammy Hutchison then reduced the Belfast team’s lead to five points after he plucked a Henry Pyrgos pass out of the air, broke a tackle and crossed the whitewash, the Heriots man grabbing his chance to shine with both hands.

Eroni Sau equalised for Edinburgh in the seventy seventh minute with a cracking side step on Michael Lowry and then accelerating down the touchline to score. Edinburgh finally pulled it level with a strong comeback in the second half – or so we thought.

Hearts sank as Ben Whitehouse signalled the TMO referral after a captain’s challenge from both sides for foul play. An immediate TV replay had Edinburgh fans holding their heads in their hands as Edinburgh’s Harri Morris is clearly shown collecting Michael Lowry’s head with his shoulder as the Ulsterman falls downward in a tackle. Now for me, this is a Red Card, brought down to a Yellow due to the head contact and mitigating circumstances. No try, Edinburgh are still five points behind. The TMO seemed to think this too but Ben Whitehouse stunned the commentary team and most of Belfast by deciding it was a playing incident and the try stood!

Edinburgh had the opportunity to win this.

Ian Madigan however had other plans. An Ulster penalty was given in the last seconds of the game and he showed his composure to slot the kick home to give Ulster the win.

Edinburgh 31-34 Ulster Rugby

A few of things to take from this game. Edinburgh can score tries if they use their backs as well as their forwards, this was great to see. Edinburgh need some kicking practice. They need a quality Stand Off as Blair Kinghorn is not the answer. Most of all however, Ben Whitehouse cannot referee a scrum. Kyle McCall, Ulster’s Loosehead, did not have WP Nell’s number today. He couldn’t bind on properly, his hand and knee were on the floor more often than Nel’s and if that wasn’t working he started hinging as well. I do not usually criticise referees publicly but Ben Whitehouse had a howler.

SRBlog POTM: A couple of potentials for this, Eroni Sau was a constant presence in defence along with James Johnstone and both showed some good touches in attack. Jamie Ritchie captained well and helped the team turn the result around. But for me Patrick Harrison at eighteen years old, showed his maturity and strong mindset today. His set piece play worked well and he looks quick in the loose too. He was my Player of the Match.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

16 Responses

  1. Interesting you think the hit to the head should have been a red. Edinburgh player was as low as he could be to make what would have been a textbook tackle, if the ulster player doesn’t fall (despite the player also being small).

    Not sure what more the Edinburgh player could do other than let the ulster player fall into the space by moving out the way.

    The rules as they are are a cheats charter for dropping height into contact stopping players making low tackles and getting players sent off for contact to the head.

    I am all for strict rules for head contact, player safety being critical, but there are going to be times where there is clear mitigation (and potential cheating).

    1. Maybe we need to reconsider tackling , I’m old enough to have been taught to tackle round the waist and slide down to trip the opponent. If we forget the Mania around “ dominant” tackles , and also stop trying to be rugby league and not allow offloads from tackles. Then the tackle point drops , and the game gets more interesting as the ball stays live rather than worrying about a scrum half’s speed at a ruck , it’s the ability to pass and support is important.

      1. I totally agree as well, Grant. More offloads aren’t going to make the game less exciting to watch. I understand it will be a nightmare for defence coaches whose job is to stifle creativity in their opponents, but IMO defences are stifling entertainment in the game, so I know which one I’d prefer.

      2. Wasn’t World Rugby trialling this last year? No hint of feedback it seems.

  2. wingforward07 – exactly.

    Clearly GT wants a big lump @ 13, (normally Harris) – Steyn/Scott & Lang is the only real option at 12 in the squad (if Scott plays 13).

    Win the 2 full cap games to retain the momentum the minimum requirement

  3. They reckon his defence is a bit shakey but I think it’s worth the risk, you could play him at 12 alongside Harris or 13 alongside Johnson and that defense would still be robust. Not to include him in this development tour is a real slap in the face. I’d love to see him play 12 with Russell at 10 because I think they are two of the best passers and best hands in Europe they could pull some super slick moves.

    1. Just been announced Rory Hutchinson has been called up to the summer squad in place of, um, Matt Fagerson, who’s had shoulder surgery.

  4. Summer Squad Team for England A (likely our best opposition of the tour)

    Adam Hastings – Blair Kinghorn – Rory Hutchison – Matt Scott – Kyle Steyn – Ross Thompson – George Horne – Josh Bayliss – Rory Darge – Jamie Ritchie – Sam Skinner – Cameron Henderson – Javan Sebastian – George Turner – Oli Kebble

    Cole Forbes – Sione Tuipolotu – Jamie Dobie – Magnus Bradbury – Alex Craig – Simon Berghan – Dave Cherry – Jamie Bhatti

    9 Uncapped players.

    1. I’d go with
      Kinghorn – Forbes – Hutchinson – Scott – Steyn – Hastings – Horne – Bayliss – Crosbie – Ritchie – Cummings – Skinner – Sebastian – Turner – Keeble

      Bhatti – Ashman – Berghan – Henderson – Darge – Dobie – Thompson – Tuipulotu

      I think that is probably just about the strongest line up for what will be our toughest game whilst still getting plenty of new caps, 10 if the whole bench is used.

  5. The England game is an A game, I don’t see why players in our full senior squad should be playing. If we lose it is if no consequence.

    Georgia is the game we should wheel out the strongest side for, it’s a proper capped test and if we lose in Tbilisi it’ll reflect very poorly on us.

    1. Disagree FF. The England game is a full international in all but name. It is only an A side because of the number of players missing with the Lions. I fully expect this game to be the sternest test of the three.
      That being said, you are right that if we lose to Georgia that would be a disaster, but the Romania game is where we should be giving the senior guys a rest.

      1. It’s not – England and other home unions always run full tours without Lions players without classing them A games. Both sides will be resting frontline players not selected for the Lions. Jones has made no bones about using the game and this summers schedule for experimentation. It’s going to be a far cry from a full test.

  6. I don’t see it as a full international at all but if just becomes a capping exercise then it will be so unstructured that it’ll have no value from a developmental point of view I think it has to be a mix of giving some of the more experienced guys some leadership experience whilst also introducing new players into Scotland’s structures and game plan.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion