Edinburgh Rugby overcome slow start and new surroundings to beat Bayonne and set up potential Durban return

Sharks or Zebre lie in wait in Challenge Cup quarter-finals next weekend

Storm Kathleen forced this Challenge Cup last-16 tie to be switched from Hive Stadium to Murrayfield and Edinburgh took a bit of time to become accustomed to their loftier surroundings. They made heavy weather of the first half before overpowering Bayonne, outscoring their French visitors by five tries to two for a 33-15 victory.

Their reward is a place in the quarter-finals where they will face either the Sharks or Zebre who meet on Sunday at Kings Park. The smart money is on the South Africans, which would mean another long haul flight for Edinburgh who only returned from URC duty in Durban on Monday. The ties are scheduled for next weekend and if Zebre were to pull off an upset, Edinburgh would have home advantage against the Italians in the last eight.

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If Edinburgh took a while to find their groove, they did at least put on a show in the second half. Two tries in three minutes from Ben Vellacott put them in the ascendancy and Duhan van der Merwe finished things off with a trademark power finish. Before that, Hamish Watson had kept Edinburgh in touch with a first half score and Matt Currie struck early in the second period. Vellacott admitted Bayonne’s adventurous approach took Edinburgh by surprise. “I think they shocked us a little bit, the way they came out and played,” said the scrum-half. “But we stuck at it and knew we’d get our chances in the end.”

Hamish Watson and Viliame Mata of Edinburgh Rugby celebrate following the team's victory over Bayonne.Hamish Watson and Viliame Mata of Edinburgh Rugby celebrate following the team's victory over Bayonne.
Hamish Watson and Viliame Mata of Edinburgh Rugby celebrate following the team's victory over Bayonne.

The displaced Edinburgh fans were reallocated to the east stand where they were joined by a decent number of Bayonne supporters who added to the occasion with their colour and noise, draping a Basque flag over the perimeter wall. The visitors had plenty to cheer during the first 40.

Edinburgh enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and territory early on but they struggled to make it count. Ben Healy twice tried to open up Bayonne with a delicate cross-kick to the corner but on both occasions the bounce of the ball conspired to deny the home side.

It was wild and windy and on the second occasion the ball bounced so high that it eluded both Van der Merwe and Ewan Ashman and helped set up a Bayonne counter-attack. It was a warning shot across Edinburgh’s bow and worse was to follow a few minutes later. The French side edged their way up the field and when Jamie Ritchie was penalised for a side entry they kicked to the corner. Bayonne made the most of the attacking platform and, after a powerful carry by No 8 Manex Ariceta, Tom Spring showed quick feet and good strength to go over from close range. The stand-off converted his own try to give the visitors a 7-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Edinburgh needed a quick way back into the game and they got it from Watson. The flanker signed a new contract this week which will extend his stay at the club into a 14th season and he celebrated with a try from a lineout drive. Healy’s conversion attempt drifted wide in the wind but Edinburgh were at last off the mark.

Edinburgh’s Duhan Van Der Merwe scores their side's fifth try.Edinburgh’s Duhan Van Der Merwe scores their side's fifth try.
Edinburgh’s Duhan Van Der Merwe scores their side's fifth try.

Edinburgh were in need of a spark and it came from Currie two minutes into the second half. There didn’t seem to be much on when the centre took the ball near halfway but he burst through a clutch of Bayonne players and then turned on the pace for a fine solo try. Healy’s conversion moved the home side 12-7 ahead but the lead lasted for only seven minutes as Bayonne hit back with a quick eight points. A scrum penalty gave Spring the chance to knock over an easy three-pointer before the stand-off notched his second try of the night. Nadir Megdoud made it with a brilliant break and Spring finished impressively.

After a rather turgid first half the game had come to life and Vellacott breathed new fire into Edinburgh with two tries in three minutes. The scrum-half is one of the sharpest players in the country and he darted in for his first after picking up from the base of a ruck. He was on the receiving end of a late hit from Yan Lestrade as he touched down and the Bayonne centre was rightly sin-binned.

It looked a sore one but Vellacott picked himself up and extended Edinburgh’s lead soon after. Healy’s expert kick had taken Edinburgh to within six metres of the Bayonne line and, as the home forwards turned on the pressure, Vellacott nipped in to score.

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With Healy converting both, Edinburgh had a bit of breathing space with a 26-15 lead going into the final quarter. They extended their advantage with 12 minutes remaining when van der Merwe powered in at the corner and after being played in down the blindside by Healy who converted from out by the touchline.

Match details

Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Watson, Currie, Vellacott 2, van der Merwe. Cons: Healy 4. Bayonne: Tries: Spring 2. Con: Spring. Pen: Spring. Yellow card: Lestrade (Bayonne, 54min)

Edinburgh: W Goosen; J Henry (C Dean 74), M Bennett (J Lang 62), M Currie, D van der Merwe; B Healy, B Vellacott (A Price 65); L de Bruin (M Jones 75), E Ashman (D Cherry 56), WP Nel (D Rae 67), S Skinner, G Gilchrist (J Hodgson 65), J Ritchie, H Watson (L Crosbie 56), B Mata.

Bayonne: A Callandret (T Dolhagaray 59); B Pourailly, G Martocq, Y Lestrade (R Buliruarua 65), N Megdoud; T Spring, G Rouet (K Labarbe 59); Q Bethune (P Castillon 50), V Giudicelli (T Acquier 50), P Scholtz (M Villar 64), T Ceyte, M Leindekar (K Mikautadze, 50), R Bourdeau, B Heguy (P Huguet 70), M Ariceta.

Referee: Chris Busby (Ire).

Attendance: 5,365.



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