Edinburgh 36-0 Agen: Capital side discover quarter-final opponents

Edinburgh continued their impressive season so far with an emphatic five-try bonus-point victory over Agen to book their place in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup as Darcy Graham stole the show at BT Murrayfield.

Edinburgh's Darcy Graham runs in for his hat-trick try in the win over Agen at BT Murrayfield. Picture: Paul Devlin / SNS

The 22-year-old wing, who was named in Scotland’s Six Nations squad this week, ran in a first-half hat-trick before adding another after the break as Richard Cockerill’s side cruised past the Pool 3 whipping boys.

Duhan van der Merwe, the South Africa-born wing who becomes Scotland qualified in the summer, added a fifth try to seal a comfortable win which now sets up an away quarter-final back at Bordeaux-Begles for the Guinness Pro14 Conference B toppers.

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“It was job done,” declared Cockerill after the match. “You can’t over-analyse or be overly critical of every game we play. It was a five-try win and we take it. We know where we’re at and we just get on with it.”

Jaco van der Walt’s third-minute penalty got Edinburgh off to a positive start in the first quarter before centre George Taylor and openside flanker Hamish Watson opened the door for Graham to get the opening touchdown of a first-half hat-trick that thrilled a healthy crowd of nearly 6,000.

The 22-year-old from Hawick had the man-of-the-match award safely in his kit bag by the interval with a couple more tries in the last three minutes of the first half. Two conversions from the boot of Van der Walt made it 22-0 at the break.

The game was won. Agen came to the Scottish capital without a win in a Pool 3 group which was sealed by fellow French side Bordeaux last weekend when they inflicted a first defeat in the competition this season on Edinburgh. Following Toulon’s win over Bayonne last night it means a trip back to Stade Chaban-Delmas, where the Scots lost 32-17 last weekend.

Bottom of the French Top 14 too, Agen always looked like a stick-on bonus-point win for Cockerill’s in-form side but they had to wait until the 67th minute for that 
all-important fourth try as Agen battled impressively.

Graham could not be denied a fourth, however, as he scorched over from more than 25 metres out following some sustained pressure, becoming the first Edinburgh player to score four tries in a match.

“We try to get our best players on the ball as often as possible but he [Graham] is unique in Scotland. He’s tough, quick and just loves to play, doesn’t overthink stuff and has huge talent,” said Cockerill of the youngster, who has already amassed 11 Scotland caps since making his debut against Wales in November 2018.

“He was outstanding today. He’s still a young fella, we don’t want to put too much pressure on him but with him in a Scotland backline with [new captain, fellow Hawick man and full-back Stuart] Hogg and whoever else they pick, that’s some serious threat.”

With the Six Nations now fast approaching, Cockerill agreed that Graham gives national coach Gregor Townsend an interesting weapon ahead of that opening clash against Ireland on 1 February.

“He does some unique things. We’ve got a lot of good players but Darcy is on form,” added the Englishman. “We’ve looked after him, not overplayed him post-World Cup and he looks fresh every time he does play. He’s desperate to play and play well. I can’t speak highly enough of him. I hope he gets his chance to play for Scotland.”

Van der Merwe added a finishing gloss before the end and Cockerill said: “You’ve got to learn to stay in the game and do things well. If you do you’ll create opportunities. When we did we scored points. The reality is we won comfortably, job done, but if we play like that against a better side we would struggle. But we didn’t today.”

For the increased Scotland international contingent it is now time to focus on the pressures of Test rugby, but for others at the resurgent capital club it is time for a well-earned three-week break and a chance to reflect on a very promising season so far.

With the festive season packed with an 1872 Cup showdown with Glasgow which stands at 1-1 with one to play at the end of the regular season, last night was a chance for a belated “Christmas” night out.

“I don’t do nights out,” said Cockerill with a smile. “If they’re having a staff night out they haven’t invited me. I’ll go and ask the buggers now.”