The grudge match, the big revenge, the game to end them all. It can only be the world’s oldest Varsity rugby game between Edinburgh and St. Andrews. The stands were full, the draughts were being drunk dry and the singing was getting worse but the crowd was ready to see if they would get another edge-of-your-seat encounter or a last minute score-line shocker.
The opening 10 minutes were all Edinburgh. Edinburgh’s attacking play sent Saints scrambling to survive and deal with the green onslaught that ended in a lineout which was beautifully taken by Edinburgh skipper Nick Stephen. Edinburgh’s ascendancy was cut short when the referee declared it not straight and brought everyone back for the first scrum of the game.
Minutes later Edinburgh had the put in only 15 yards from the try line which enabled third-year Robbie Kent to take the honour of the opening try which was duly converted by fly-half Dave O’Sullivan taking the score to 7 – 0.
Saints came back firing with a first class break from Toby Hall which lead to some lightning quick play by Saints who quickly found themselves on the try line. Edinburgh did their best to hold them up but Saints recycled the ball well and went wide with second row Ludovic Meaby touching down in the opposite corner. Scott Docherty quickly converted bringing the score to 7 -7.
The rest of the half was all Saints with patches of brilliance from Edinburgh. A dummy saw Saints straight back into Edinburgh’s half. Edinburgh conceded the turnover in their own half and this period of ascendancy concluded with a stunning three man assist with Toby Hall feeding Ruari Bell who went over in the right corner. The score was now 12 – 7 with Saints leading.
The score remained that way until the second half but it was a magnificent defensive display by the Saints. Just like the Walls of Constantinople they were staying up even when Edinburgh was throwing absolutely everything at them as bodies were literally piling up in the rucks. Edinburgh were awarded a penalty but it sailed wide to bring the half to a close.
The second half started much the same with Saints dominance and brief spells of Edinburgh brilliance. Play was much slower but a little chip in the corner from Saints saw them on the Edinburgh five-metre line. Good play was interrupted with the first and only sin binning of the game with Edinburgh reduced to 14 men as fly half O’Sullivan was sent packing.
Saints took full advantage of Edinburgh’s deficit and they started a period of fast and indomitable rugby which left Edinburgh flailing and grasping to survive, but this defensive work was all for nothing as in the 51st minute Rob Lind went over. Docherty added a successful conversion taking the score to 17 – 7.
After some brilliant offloads by the Edinburgh wings, they were finally back in the Saints half with the put in at the scrum. Edinburgh moved the ball out wide and blindside flanker Scott Burnside broke through Saints’ defence to touch down in the last quarter, although the ensuing conversion was missed.
Immediately from the restart, St. Andrews were given a penalty which was successfully knocked over to make it a one score game. What had been a great afternoon of rugby was somewhat spoilt, however, when a series of pitch invaders broke on to the pitch and disrupted play.
The game, like last year’s encounter, ended in the dying moments but not quite as dramatically, with Mark Wilson scoring for Saint Andrews in the 76th minute to make it 24-12.
It was a hard game with hard lessons for Edinburgh to take as the Saints made it four victories in a row. They will have to wait until next year to see if they can finally get their hands on the Varsity trophy again.
Image courtesy of Matt Ford