EDINBURGH’S international connection combined to defeat an Ospreys side much higher in the PRO12 and keep them in the hunt for European qualification.
SCORERS: Edinburgh - Hart 2 tries, Beard try, Bezuidenhout 2 cons, 4 pens; Ospreys - Hassler 2 tries, Biggar 5 pens.
Two tries from Kiwi scrum half Grayson Hart, another from his fellow countryman Sam Beard, and 16 points from the boot of South African Carl Bezuidenhout was enough for victory but nerves were shredded at the end as Ospreys refused to lie down and roll over.
The crowd was a big factor in the winning equation, packed shoulder to shoulder around the pitch and creating the kind of atmosphere that is permanently absent at Murrayfield where the worm-ridden pitch lay fallow while last nignht’s action played out at Meggetland.
Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons said: “The crowd definitely helped us. The players could feel it and produced an outstanding performance against a very strong Ospreys team. We continue to improve and this team is really coming together.”
Harry Leonard was restored to fly half and Bezuidenhout moved to full back. Ross Ford and Geoff Cross were released from the Scotland squad to take their places in the Edinburgh front row while Wales stand off Dan Biggar lined up for the Ospreys alongside Italian scrum half Tito Tebaldi and with a pack containing Welsh caps Duncan Jones, James King and Justin Tipuric.
Edinburgh came into the match trailing in the bottom half of the league after two successive defeats away to Connacht and Scarlets and needing a win if they were to have any chance of qualifying for European competition next season. Ospreys lost to Munster in their previous game, leaving them clinging precariously to fourth place.
The first try came after only six minutes when Ospreys pushed deep into the Edinburgh 22 with a few phases of possession. Tebaldi sent them to the right where there seemed to be plenty of cover, but Richard Fussell stepped inside to break the line, Tipuric carried another couple of metres before off-loading beautifully in the tackle to put Jeff Hassler over the line.
The score acted as a kick up the backside for Edinburgh. Within minutes a rolling maul had destroyed any semblance of organisation in the Ospreys defence and Hart was able to break away and scamper behind the posts to touch down for his first try. Bezuidenhout’s conversion put Edinburgh in front, and the full back added another three points with a long-range penalty.
Ospreys’ reply was to kick into the corner, win the five-metre lineout and fling it wide against a very thin defence but skipper Jonathan Spratt lost the ball forward as he took it into contact right under the posts and the chance was lost. Ospreys tried again with another lineout inside the 22 but phase after phase of attack was easily wrapped up until a penalty was conceded and Edinburgh were able to kick clear.
Then Jack Cuthbert caught a long kick on his left wing and ran it straight back, finding a gap between uncertain bodies and making ground before giving the scoring pass to centre Sam Beard for the finish.
Bezuidenhout’s conversion came back off the post. Just before the half-hour Biggar reduced the deficit with a penalty after Cross was sin binned for not releasing in the tackle. But there was no respite for the visitors as 14-man Edinburgh recycled possession and sucked in what was looking like an increasingly fragile defence until Hart was able to pick up the ball at the rear of a ruck on the line and stroll over for his second, and Edinburgh’s third, try without anybody near him. Bezuidenhout delivered the conversion this time.
Biggar kicked a 40-metre damage-limitation penalty to keep his team in touch and make the half-time score 22-11. Five minutes after the restart he added another three points from long range. And it was Ospreys who dictated the play for most of the third quarter, pinning Edinburgh back in their 22 and eventually conceding the penalty to give Biggar another chance to use his boot to drag Ospreys to within five points.
With an impatient crowd haranguing the referee from some of his decisions, Edinburgh won a penalty near the Ospreys’ 10-metre line for hands in the ruck and Bezuidenhout obliged.
Ospreys hit back immediately and when Hassler crashed over the Edinburgh line among a heap of bodies, the TMO was consulted before the try was awarded. Biggar’s conversion drifted wide.
The tension was being cranked up, helped by the excitable crowd almost breathing down the players’ necks, and Edinburgh carried the ball at speed into the Ospreys 22. It came to nothing but Edinburgh held their territory and Bezuidenhout kicked his second penalty as the game went into its final 10 minutes.
Ospreys were looking dangerous but a long kick out of defence put Edinburgh on the front foot. Centre Andries Strauss stepped past some weak tackles, Ashley Beck went in the bin for killing the ball at the ruck, and Bezuidenhout kicked the penalty to put the home side nine points clear and finally safe.
Biggar kicked his fifth penalty at the death to ensure that Ospreys at least left with a losing bonus point.
Edinburgh: C Bezuidenhout, D Fife, S Beard, A Strauss, J Cuthbert, H Leonard, G Hart, W Blaauw, R Ford, G Cross, G Gilchrist, I van der Westhuizen, M Coman, R Grant, C Du Preez. Replacements: J Hilterbrand, A Allan (for Blaauw 74), W Nel (for Cross 53), O Atkins(for Westerhuizen 50), T Leonardi, S Kennedy (for Hart 60), B Atiga (for Strauss 79), J Dominquez (for Beard 60).
Ospreys: R Fussell, J Hassler, J Spratt, A Beck, H Dirksen, D Biggar, T Tebaldi, D Jones, S Baldwin, D Suter, T Ardron, J King, S Lewis, J Tupuric, J Bearman. Replacements: M Dwyer, M Thomas, J Rees, D Baker (for Bearman 55), R Jones (for King 55), T Habberfield (for Tebaldi 75), S Davies (for Fussell 55, A Natoga (for Dirkson 64).