A crowd of more than 10,000 turned out to watch the Scottish Varsity match at Murrayfield yesterday evening and they were rewarded with a game which started at breakneck speed and only rarely dipped in intensity.
Edinburgh University halted a run of four wins for their oldest rivals with a handsome victory over St Andrews and a professional performance that will have finally put a smile on the face of coach David Adamson.
They scored five tries, the opening two going to left winger Ben Rose who had the crowd on their feet every time he touched the ball. The winger proved a handful all night and might have added another couple of tries to his tally but for the luck of the bounce.
The “home” team bossed huge swathes of this match and St Andrews were simply too sloppy in their handling to ever build sufficient pressure on the team in green. In the second half “Saints” wasted huge overlaps at both ends of the field because passes went behind the intended recipient or bobbled uselessly along the ground.
In Scott Burnside, Edinburgh boasted the best ball carrier on the field, the No.8 always making dents in the blue-and-white defence and when he tackled someone, the player on the receiving end tended to stay tackled. The breakaway had good support from lock Ben Cogley and hooker Rob Thomas. The forwards displayed a good driving game and they held the whip hand at the set scrum which provided the platform for the third touchdown.
Stand-off James Small-Edwards may not pass his father’s stringent tackle tests – Shaun Edwards is Wales’ defence coach, while his mother is Heather Small, one-time lead singer of M People – but he looked lively in attack, he was almost away on more than one occasion and his distribution was on the money. Interestingly the Edinburgh No.10 adopted the rugby league pass that dad employed to such good effect over so many seasons.
St Andrews got things under way but having kicked off they didn’t see the ball again until Rose had claimed the first try of the match four minutes and six seconds into the game.
Edinburgh played keep ball. They worked their way slowly up field, alternating one out drives with giving the ball some width until Rose found himself with a little space on the left flank and the leggy winger needed no second invitation to prove his pace.
Stung into action by this slap in the face, St Andrews went on the attack and might have had something for their efforts had they kicked a penalty at goal rather than sticking it in the corner. They would definitely have claimed a try had centre Scott MacGregor held on to a bullet of a pass that was fired his way at point blank range.
Having soaked up that assault Edinburgh went back on the offensive and a lovely flowing movement saw Small-Edwards pick out Rose with a long, floated pass and the winger stepped inside the St Andrews full-back to score under the posts. Their supporters were screaming for a forward pass but there was no TMO to back them up.
Edinburgh’s scrum looked to have an edge and when one midfield set piece wheeled the whole field opened up for scrum-half Bruno Smith who was untouched as he ran almost 50 yards for Edinburgh’s third score with winger Peter Howard surplus to requirements in support. Edinburgh thought they scored at the start of the second half only to be called back for a knock-on but they weren’t denied for long as skipper Nick Stephen found himself on the end of an in-out move that saw the flanker dive over in the left corner.
St Andrews grabbed a consolation try from Rob Lind six minutes from time but Edinburgh’s Robbie Kent replied in kind to signal the start of the celebrations.