The Tale Of Two Blairs
My nerves were a little on edge as I travelled to the newly named DAM Health Stadium, for my first ever visit to Edinburgh’s long-awaited ground.
Is it just a tent with seats? Are Scarlets the force everyone are saying they are? Will Mike Blair’s “Kinghorn at Stand Off” experiment be a disaster?
All would be answered nearly as soon as I stepped off the tram and took my place leaning on the barrier just over an arm’s length from the pitch.
Both teams started well in attack with both Scarlets and Edinburgh having tries disallowed for different infringements. This attacking style of rugby had the crowd clapping and stamping their feet in the first few minutes; the DAM seemed to be a very different place to its big brother, BT Murrayfield, just lurking behind.
Scarlets broke the deadlock first with Steff Evans scoring after taking a fine pass from our own Blade Thomson and they continued to keep Edinburgh pinned into their own half for the next twenty or so minutes. Scarlets really looked the team they had been built up to be, probing with their forwards then letting their backs loose with some fine passing skills.
Edinburgh on the other hand were defending well but a series of mistakes made the Lothian Stand groan with displeasure as we seemed to be witnessing a return to the old Edinburgh.
The home team however started to build a little pressure, used their forwards, as they do, to punch through the Scarlets defence. Blair Kinghorn watched everything unfold in front of him and then pounced, attacking the space with Mark Bennett who returned the pass to put Kinghorn across the line. A fine try and conversion put Edinburgh in the lead.
This seemed to allow the home team to change up into another gear. Another strong set piece gave new scrum-half Ben Vellacott great ball to use; this was immediately sent out to Mark Bennett who showed his class by beating two defenders to score. Kinghorn converted to take the score to 14-5 but minutes later the Scarlets were awarded a penalty which was kicked over to take the score to 14-8.
Just before half time Vellacott took an opportunity to free the ball from the base of a Scarlets ruck and put it in the hands of the marauding Bill Mata who thundered towards the try line. When he was stopped, Darcy Graham retrieved the ball and scrabbled his way over the whitewash in a cloud of rubber crumb.
Half-time: Edinburgh 19-8 Scarlets
Scarlets returned from the changing rooms to a now rowdy DAM Health Stadium full of vigour, but they very soon silenced the Edinburgh crowd with one luckily disallowed try: Steff Evans was ajudged to have put a foot in touch by the TMO. There was no doubt about Kieran Hardy’s handiwork however as he passed easily through Bennet and the Greatest Schoeman to touch down minutes later and narrow the score to 19-15.
Were we seeing the usual Edinburgh capitulation? Ben Vellacott had other ideas pushing the forward pack to attack the Scarlets defence and create the space needed then delivering the ball to Darcy Graham to score Edinburgh’s bonus point try.
The Dam Health Stadium erupted into a frenzy with the Can Can theme, Darcy’s apparent choice, being played at full volume!
I guess you had to be there.
Scarlets were not done however and Jon Davies helped put Johnny McNicholl over the line. Sam Costelow converted.
Scarlets piled on the pressure and kept attacking Edinburgh for the last few minutes, but I have to say this is where the crowd and the new stadium finally showed what we as Edinburgh fans have been waiting for.
With Connor Boyle and Jamie Ritchie’s encouragement, the crowd were ramped up to fever pitch, willing the Edinburgh defence to hold out and not let Scarlets in. If the game had been played in BT Murrayfield, all the chants, songs, foot-stamping and cheering would have been lost in the rafters.
Not in the DAM Health Stadium and the effect on the players was clear to see.
Full-time: Edinburgh 26-22 Scarlets
As my son and I meandered out of the Lothian Stand we reflected on our first visit to the DAM.
Glasgow be warned, this place could get louder than Scotstoun.