Edinburgh Accies continue to climb the learning curve as English Premiership contenders London Scottish took maximum points from this British and Irish Cup tie, but not without a decent degree of difficulty.
Edinburgh Accies 6-32 London Scottish
Scorers: Edinburgh Accies – Pens: Black (2). London Scottish – Tries: Doneghan, Homan, Bright, Penalty. Cons: Love (3). Pens: Love (2).
With Accies plundering Edinburgh Rugby’s ranks to have pros in seven of eight forward positions in a formidable pack that included Scotland cap Ross Rennie at openside, the hosts matched their professional opponents at the breakdown and hurt them at times, but victory was never on the cards in front of a healthy crowd of around 1,200 people.
Instead, after a promising first quarter, the home side’s task ultimately became a containment exercise and in that limited context it worked pretty well for Accies because Scottish kept bludgeoning away until the crucial bonus point was secured just minutes from the end.
Scottish are a class act who are building towards a Premiership place, if not next season then probably within the next few years. On Saturday they rested some key players but still gave a debut to US Eagles scrum-half Robbie Shaw who played alongside first-choice stand-off Lee Millar, formerly of Gala, and winger Mike Doneghan, a product of Stewarts Melville – two examples of high quality, home-grown wannabe pros who have had to go south to ply their trade having been passed over by Edinburgh and Glasgow.
If the result was never in doubt, the performance was the main point at issue, and afterwards Accies coach Jonny Else described the attitude and application of his team as outstanding. “For the first 20 minutes we took the game to them and played the way we wanted to play but could not find the clinical edge to put points on the board when the opportunities arose,” he said. “When Scottish do get a sniff of a chance, they take it. That is a lesson we need to learn.”
Alex Black knocked over two penalties to put the home side ahead, the second one stemming from a professional foul by Scottish openside Matt Everard who killed the ball a few metres from the posts as New Zealander Mike Coman carried it into contact off the rear of a scrum.
With Everard yellow carded, Scottish launched an attack from the restart and Doneghan went over in the corner for the game’s first try. Minutes later the other winger, Pete Homan, got the second as he followed a rolling maul over the line. Full-back James Love kicked both conversions and added two penalties before half-time to underline the visitors’ growing dominance.
The second half was grim, played out inside the Accies 22 as Scottish hammered away at close quarters in a succession of scrums that ate up most of the time. Five minutes into the half, Accies prop Phil Cringle, who had packed down for only two scrums after replacing the injured Lewis Niven, was sin-binned for not holding up his tighthead side. This meant uncontested scrums for the duration of Cringle’s yellow card, provoking howls of protest from the Scottish coaching staff.
But it was line-out possession that enabled Scottish skipper Mark Bright to crash over for the third try after an aggressive maul had sucked in all the defenders and created the space.
After Cringle’s return, Rennie went to the sin bin for one infringement too many. And when the next scrum in the seemingly interminable series went yet again to slippery ground, the referee awarded a penalty try.
London Scottish Coach James Buckland said: “It was a tough game on a heavy pitch but we got what we needed, we got what we came for, and probably left a couple of tries out there too. Accies were tenacious and put a lot of pressure on us the whole way through. It could have gone the other way since Accies loaded their team up with pro boys who brought a bit of quality to the show, but our boys were professional enough to get the job done.”
The next stage on Accies’ learning curve is down at Pontypridd this weekend.