Ben Vellacott excels as Edinburgh christen new stadium with thrilling bonus-point win over Scarlets
The 26-22 victory was greeted with a huge roar by a home crowd who witnessed some thrilling rugby from their team.
New scrum-half Ben Vellacott was particularly impressive, a constant thorn in the side of the Welsh team due to his speed of thought and fleet of foot.
Darcy Graham supplied two tries and there was one each from Blair Kinghorn and Mark Bennett but it was a nervy finish for Mike Blair in his first competitive match in charge.
The new coach was delighted to get off to a winning start in the United Rugby Championship and Edinburgh will now head to Italy to take on Benetton next weekend in confident mood.
The home side had to weather an early storm as Scarlets dominated the opening stages at the newly named DAM Health Stadium. The Welsh side should have been ahead within five minutes but Dan Jones struck the post with his penalty attempt.
Scarlets then had a try chalked off, just as Jones was lining up to take the conversion. It was Scott Williams who touched the ball down but the pass to him from Steff Evans was adjudged to be forward.
The visitors were not to be denied, however, and Steff Evans scored the game’s opening try after the ball had been shipped quickly between Williams, Jones and Blade Thomson.
Edinburgh were under the cosh and Scarlets thought they were in again through Aaron Shingler from a lineout drive but Pierre Schoeman did just enough to hold him up over the line.
The home side needed a spark and it was Vellacott who provided it. The livewire scrum-half took a tap penalty on his own line and scorched up to halfway before kicking on. Kinghorn was first to the ball and although he was denied it was an early sign of what was to come from the halfback pair.
The experiment of playing Kinghorn at stand-off came good on 24 minutes when he drew Edinburgh level with a fine try. Schoeman snaffled ball on the ground and as it was played out the line Kinghorn played a smart one-two with Bennett before running in the score. HIs conversion put the home side 7-5 ahead.
Scarlets were struggling to handle Vellacott and the scrum-half set up Edinburgh’s second try, playing in Bennett to burst over the line. Kinghorn added the extras.
Dan Jones’ penalty reduced Edinburgh’s lead but the capital side were now in the mood and scored a third try just before half-time.
Vellacott - who else? - was the instigator, pinching the ball on the floor. Bill Mata took it on and passed to Graham who pinballed his way through. There was a lengthy delay while referee Andrew Brace checked to see if Vellacott had knocked on but the try was eventually given.
Steff Evans thought he had reduced Edinburgh’s lead early in the second half when he went over in the corner but the try was chalked off via the TMO as Graham’s tackle had caused the Welshman to put a foot in touch.
Scarlets redoubled their efforts and were rewarded five minutes later but Edinburgh made it awfully easy for them as scrum-half Kieran Hardy was able to dart between Schoeman and Bennett. Dan Jones converted.
It was a test of Edinburgh’s mettle and the home side rose to the challenge. Grant Gilchrist won clean lineout ball and James Lang, making his debut as a sub, took it on. Vellacott’s reverse pass played in Graham who stepped past the Scarlets defence to run in his second try. Kinghorn’s conversion put Edinburgh 26-15 ahead going into the final quarter.
Blair’s side now had a bonus point but Scarlets still had designs on thwarting the party. With 15 minutes remaining full-back Johnny McNicholl took a pass inside from his captain Jon Davies to score. Substitute stand-off Sam Costelow kicked the two points to reduce Edinburgh’s advantage to a precarious four points but Blair’s men held firm.
Scorers. Edinburgh: Tries: Kinghorn, Bennett, Graham 2. Cons: Kinghorn 3.
Scarlets: Tries: S Evans, Hardy, McNicholl. Cons: D Jones, Costelow. Pen: D Jones
Edinburgh: Henry Immelman; Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett, Cammy Hutchison (James Lang 43), Jack Blain; Blair Kinghorn (Jaco van der Walt 67), Ben Vellacott (Henry Pyrgos 72); Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally (Dave Cherry 60), Lee Roy Atalifo (WP Nel 52), Marshall Sykes (Jamie Hodgson 59), Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Luke Crosbie (Connor Boyle 68), Viliame Mata
Sub: Boan Venter.
Scarlets: Johnny McNicholl; Ryan Conbeer, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Steff Evans; Dan Jones (Sam Costelow 60), Kieran Hardy (Dane Blacker 60); Rob Evans (Phil Price 60), Ryan Elias (Marc Jones 57), Samson Lee, Aaron Shingler, Tom Price (Tom Phillips 52; Ioan Nicholas 72), Blade Thomson, Dan Davis (Shaun Evans 72), Sione Kalamafoni.
Subs: WillGriff John.
Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU)
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