ST ANDREWS 1STS 0
EDINBURGH 1STS 39
The inaugural Scottish Varsity Match was played on Wednesday 30th November – St Andrew’s Day – at London Scottish RFC in West London between the University of St Andrews and University of Edinburgh, in front of over 1,500 spectators.
The fixture between these two founding members of the Scottish Rugby Union is the oldest Varsity match in the world and with the creation of this exciting event came the chance to win a trophy and be crowned Scottish Varsity Champions for the first time.
The Saints squad knew how big the occasion would be and as soon as they arrived at the ground, as they had camera crews filming their exit from the bus in true big-game style. The game was filmed by the BBC, Sky Sports and IRB (International Rugby Board)’s Totally Rugby, which broadcasts worldwide.
Both squads were piped onto the field at 8pm for kick off for what was to be the most intense game of the season. Edinburgh, who play a league above The Saints, took early dominance of both scrum and lineout and starved the Saints of possession. They got on the scoreboard after five minutes with a penalty from their stand-off, who controlled the game brilliant all night.
The Saints were under pressure for most of the first half playing into the wind and against a larger and more physical Edinburgh side.
The Saints were then dealt with a large slice of bad luck with their whole starting back-row including Captain Alan Little and key ball carrier Tim Rogers coming off injured all before half time.
Edinburgh scored two tries in the first half out wide, one of which was knocked on by the Saints in the act of intercepting which was a cruel blow. The half-time score was 20-0.
Some calming words from Director of Rugby David Ross and Coach Chris Reekie put the game into perspective for the players who firmly believed that if they got quality possession that they could cause Edinburgh problems in the 2nd half and the fight back was on.
The Saints did indeed dominate the majority of the 2nd half and put Edinburgh under massive pressure on their own line. Breaks from Jake Starkey and Berti Ridley Thomas put St Andrews close but resolute defending from Edinburgh prevailed.
A series of penalties led to an Edinburgh player being sinbinned, but it was not to be for St Andrews, as Edinburgh scored two intercept length of the field tries to break Saints’ hearts and kill off the game. The final score read 39-0; the Saints’ Man of the Match was Lewis Stewart.
It was a disappointing scoreline for the squad who had defended so well throughout the game but ultimately came up against a team which competes week in week out at a higher level. There is no doubt that this standard of rugby is what the club is aspiring to.
The post-game reception saw players mix with a large number of alumni from yesteryear who had travelled to watch the game and the band in the clubhouse provided entertainment for all.
The Scottish Varsity match has already been confirmed for next season, such was the success of this year’s game. There is no doubt that all the players who will still be at the University next year will be working hard to take the trophy home to St Andrews next time.
The author is St Andrews Director of Rugby