Some ideas are so flipping obvious you wonder why no one thought of them before, and giving the Scottish Varsity match it’s moment under the Murayfield floodlights was one of them. A jaw-dropping 10,000-plus fans filled the East Stand to bursting point. Where are they all on a Pro12 Friday night?
St Andrews won this match, their fourth victory on the bounce, and they did so in some style, scoring four tries to two, but even that try count doesn’t do justice to the almost complete dominance that the Fifers enjoyed on the night after a shaky start, Edinburgh claiming the opening score.
This match showcased a sharp contrast in styles. Edinburgh took a leaf from the pro-team’s play book, making one-out passes and bashing the ball up before asking stand-off Dave O’Sullivan to hoof the ball down field, which he did with mixed results. Given his pack’s struggles with the set piece the flyhalf might have done better to hold on to it a little longer.
When they did attempt to run through the phases Edinburgh’s back-row trio were all willing runners but collectively everyone in green made far too many mistakes, unable to hold on to the ball in the contact zone.
Edinburgh seemed to have an early edge in the set scrum but they struggled at the sidelines from first to last with almost every throw going awry, including one five metres from their own line and another 15 metres from the opposite whitewash. In the lead-up to St Andrews’ second try Edinburgh lost a throw and a set scrum in quick succession to add to the pressure they were already under.
St Andrews were by far the livelier and more inventive team and their half-backs controlled things far better than their opposite numbers. Captain and stand-off Scott Docherty was the stand-out player, showing composure and no little skill throughout, constantly teasing and probing the Edinburgh defence and ripping it wide open on more than one occasion.
Scrum-half Charlie Davies ensured that the pace of the game never dropped with a series of quick tapped penalties, one of which led to his side’s first try, but the entire team weren’t far behind, quicker in thought and deed than Edinburgh on the night.
The two teams swapped tries in the opening 11 minutes in a flurry of early activity. Robbie Kent scored first for Edinburgh after centre Morgan Ward broke a tackle and the right winger had an easy run-in.
St Andrews were quick to respond because just three minutes later a poor clearance by Edinburgh gave them high field position and a quick tap penalty put St Andrews on the front foot before second row Ludo Meaby scored on the left. The twin defences tightened up and the match was a stalemate for much of the rest of the half, even if the bulk of the action was taking place inside the Edinburgh half of the field.
So St Andrews probably deserved their second score which came from a short-range charge from flanker Ruari Bell after his fellow breakaway Rob Lind had done much of the heavy lifting.
Edinburgh were lucky to be trailing by just five points at the break but their good fortune soon turned with stand-off O’Sullivan sin-binned on 47 minutes. Three minutes later St Andrews kicked a penalty to touch and blindside Rob Lind crashed over in the No.10 channel. Docherty converted and the last half hour threatened to be a long one for Edinburgh.
To their credit Edinburgh rolled up their sleeves and a great kick-chase by scrum-half Bruno Smith resulted in a second try, this one going to Scotland Under-20 flanker Scott Burnside. That score brought Edinburgh to within five points but another two lineouts went west and St Andrews claimed their fourth try, which fell to replacement Mark Wilson just before the final whistle to signal the start of the celebrations.
Earlier, the universities’ women’s teams clashed on the Murrayfield pitch, with Edinburgh running out rather comfortable 97-0 winners.