It is not often you witness rugby history at Murrayfield, but the first Scottish Varsity game to be played at the national stadium was certainly that. With a bumper crowd of 9,679, one of the largest attendances for any student sport event in the country, Murrayfield was treated to an exhibition of attacking, positive rugby from both the men and the women.
The women were up first, and it was an excellent prelude to the men’s game that followed. The Edinburgh women attacked from the off, and within a minute were under the posts with their first score. By the 15th minute of the 40 minute game, Edinburgh were leading by more than 20 points, totally dominating the St. Andrews squad in every area of the pitch. A hat-trick of superb tries from Lisa Thomson, and some excellent kicking from Helen Nelson were the basis of a dominant Edinburgh victory, with the game at full time finishing 36-7.
The men’s game followed soon after, St. Andrews with the opportunity for what they had dubbed the ‘Threepeat’ after coming up victorious in the past two years. Edinburgh, under huge pressure at Murrayfield, showed their nerves from the start.
With too much ball in hand in their own 22, twinned with a wayward and aimless kicking game, Edinburgh struggled in the first 20 minutes of the match. Scoring three tries to lead 17-0, St Andrew’s dominated play, with scrum-half Finn Murphy, dictating the tempo of the game in a man-of-the-match performance right from the start.
David Adamson, Edinburgh’s head coach rung the changes, bringing on fly-half and Masters student Will Stephen with Edinburgh 17 points down. It was this substitution that completely changed the face of the match. Stephen wrestled control of the game from Murphy and with consistent and devastatingly accurate place-kicking put St. Andrews under pressure.
The territorial advantage was now firmly Edinburgh’s and with a rolling maul from a lineout that looked unstoppable, Edinburgh began to build momentum, Callum Simpson going over after 30 minutes after some bruising pick and driving from the Edinburgh forwards.
The comeback was on.
With St. Andrews being on the wrong end of two yellow cards, Edinburgh took their opportunity and despite a missed penalty brought the score within five points on the stroke of halftime with a second try from Sandy Robson.
The high quality of rugby continued in second half with both teams attacking with verve and pace. With most of the pressure firmly in the St. Andrews half, Edinburgh completed their comeback and went ahead by two points after a line-break and try from the Edinburgh man-of-the-match Will Stephen. Edinburgh were momentarilty ahead 19-17, with 30 minutes left to play.
St. Andrews immediately hit back with a penalty. With Edinburgh reduced to 14 men after full-back Iain Sexton picked up a yellow card, St Andrews retook the lead with replacement scrum-half Ian Vance scoring off the back of a scrum with only six minutes remaining.
It was not to be for Edinburgh however. St. Andrews powered forward with two minutes to go, scoring a try in the right hand corner of Edinburgh’s try line, leaving scrum-half Finn Murphy with one of the hardest kicks on a rugby field.
The clock ticked down and stopped at 80 minutes with the conversion to decide the game. Murphy, with the weight of all of St. Andrews’ hopes on his shoulders, dissected the posts. St. Andrews had won with the absolute last kick of the game in the most dramatic of fashions.
Image courtesy of Conor Matchett.