Edinburgh edge out Lions
Edinburgh just held on to maintain their winning start to the BKT United Rugby Championship season with a 17-16 victory over the Emirates Lions at Hive Stadium.
The game could have gone either way, and the South Africans led for a spell midway through the second half, but a vital score on his debut by Ewan Ashman helped the home team end up with their noses in front.
After a quiet early period, Edwill van der Merwe was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on, and the home team took immediate advantage of the extra man, sending the penalty to the corner then scoring from a close-range maul finished off by Luke Crosbie. Ben Healy converted.
Edinburgh conceded a penalty straight from the restart, however, and Jordan Hendrikse got his team’s first points on the board.
Midway through the half, Edinburgh touched down again through Mark Bennett after a one-two between Bill Mata and Wes Goosen, but the score was chalked off after the centre was ruled to have been in touch before completing his acrobatic leap for the line.
Restored to full strength, the South Africans began to gain the upper hand at the breakdown and in the set scrum. A sustained assault on the Edinburgh line seemed sure to produce a score, but when a penalty was sent to touch a lineout malfunction allowed the home team to clear.
Inside the final two minutes of the half, however, Hamish Watson was penalised for not releasing. This time Hendrikse opted to go for goal from 40 metres out, and his successful kick made it 7-6 at the break.
A Healy penalty two minutes after the restart restored his team’s four-point lead. That moment apart, the opening 15 minutes of the second half yielded nothing approaching a scoring chance.
Then Lions flanker Ruan Venter had the ball down following a lineout maul, but the effort was disallowed for obstruction on Watson well ahead of the ball-carrier.
The South Africans were soon back on the attack, and, after Edinburgh winger Ross McCann was yellow-carded for a high tackle, Francke Horn scored off the back of a lineout.
Hendrikse converted to put his team three in front, but Edinburgh hit back with a try by replacement Ashman, who took a crash ball inside the Lions 22 and embarked on an unstoppable run. Healy converted, then Hendrikse scored his third penalty to make it 17-16.
A very late chance for the Lions vanished when they failed to find touch from a penalty.
BKT United Rugby Championship Player of the Match
Hamish Watson received the award for a typically relentless performance on both sides of the ball.
The Scotland forward not only displayed his trademark post-tackle work, he was also resolute in defence in what was a very closely-fought contest.
BKT United Rugby Championship Play of the Match
Ashman celebrated his Edinburgh debut in style by scoring an excellent try mere minutes after coming off the bench.
Following a barging run from WP Nel, the Scotland hooker came in at a good angle and crashed through what was left of the Lions defence from around 15 metres out.