Three tries from winger Fezan Mughal were the difference as the St Andrews Men’s Rugby 1st XV downed Edinburgh 2s 17-14 earlier today at University Park.
Saints, who fielded two changes from the side that beat Dundee last week, opened their account for the afternoon on six minutes following an opening few minutes that felt very much like a feeling-out process between the two teams.
The try came after a lovely sweeping break down the left that saw full-back Kelvin Chen feed Mughal and the winger went over in the corner, and it only took four more minutes for the winger to double his and the team’s try tally for the afternoon.
His second came after Scott McGregor’s kick found touch and the Saints retained possession off a line-out. Six phases later, they were able to spread the play back across to the left, initially to Michael Sutherland, who drew two defenders with a step, before he offloaded to Mughal to dot down. Chen made the conversion to put St Andrews into a commanding 12-point lead with just ten minutes on the clock.
The remainder of the first half saw Edinburgh dominate possession but with little to show for it, as St Andrews’ high defensive line reduced their options and sapped their energy. Edinburgh were restricted to half-chances and missed an opportunity to get on the scoreboard after 24 minutes with a penalty that their fly-half shanked wide of the post, but they did score a try on the half-hour mark. The capital side made the most of an overlap out on their left to score, with the fly-half adding the extras to ensure that at half-time Saints only led by five.
Edinburgh continued to dominate possession in the early going of the second half, before a number of substitutions from both sides saw the game settle into a bit of a stalemate. Every time either side got possession they made good yards, only to then cede possession through a handling error of poor decision making at rucks.
Mughal made his presence felt throughout the second half with some excellent line breaks and was justly rewarded on 77 minutes with his third try. The move all started after some excellent footwork from captain Roland Walker, whose brother was in the Edinburgh team, kept the ball in play, before a surging run from Max Kaufmann saw the Saints make some valuable yards. Much like they had in the first half, the Saints move spread left and the ball found its way to Mughal, who stepped inside two defenders before touching down in the corner.
Chen missed the conversion but the ten-point lead was too much for the away team to overcome in the closing stages. They did manage a late consolation with the final play of the game to make the score 17-14, thereby securing a losing bonus point, but it was St Andrews who emerged with their unbeaten start intact.
Mughal was the standout player for Saints, but the entire side deserve credit for their discipline and concentration as they spent long periods on the back foot. Others to impress were Scott McGregor, whose quick feet and innovative play were at the heart of everything good Saints did, and Dan Cox, who carried well in the absence of the injured TJ Akinjobi.
Whilst there were clear signs of frustration on the face of Saints Director of Rugby Scott Lawson, the foundations are quite clearly there for a successful season in Scottish 1A for the team.
Saints return to action next week away against Heriot-Watt before hosting Aberdeen at the end of the month.