New Director of Rugby Scott Lawson expressed his “pride” at the way the Men’s rugby team fought back into their varsity clash with Edinburgh but they ultimately couldn’t prevent a 26-15 defeat which coupled with the earlier 49-0 loss suffered by the women’s team ensured for the second straight year the Saints were whitewashed on their big day out in Scotland’s capital.
The occasion was largely sunny and pleasant, albeit with a biting wind that didn’t deter the supporters from turning out. However the decision to open the gates narrowly before the women’s game began surely contributed to the lack of supporters in attendance at the start of the first game. In fact the overall attendance of 9687 was clearly down on recent years.
Despite being clear underdogs St Andrews began the women’s game determined and scrappy, before Edinburgh managed to string some moves together and open the scoring. The Saints’ struggle at set pieces certainly didn’t help their cause and contributed to Edinburgh’s second try from a stolen lineout. Despite the visitors increased presence in defence as the half progressed, emphasised by a terrific try-saving tackle by fullback Shona Parratt, the hosts’ pressure eventually told as they ran in two further tries before the half, and in spite of a promising break by fly half Sian McGuinness in the closing stages the Saints went in 20-0 down at the break.
Edinburgh then continued their dominance with a try almost instantly after the break. After a period of St Andrews possession, fatigue started to set in within their ranks as the hosts ran in 4 more tries. To their credit though, the Saints’ heads never dropped and they were nearly rewarded with a try in the closing stages courtesy of an impressive move orchestrated by the excellent McGuinness. It wasn’t to be however as Edinburgh’s determined defence saw them maintain their clean sheet and leave the final score 49-0.
Following some pre-match entertainment as well as a touching tribute to the late Duncan Sim, it was time for the men to take centre stage. Edinburgh pressed early on after an error in the Saints’ ranks but the visitors managed to hold firm. The game then entered an attritional phase with both sides sizing up the other with some huge hits. It would be the hosts who broke the deadlock however after 15 minutes with their left winger finishing off a slick move from a 5-metre scrum for 7-0. Pressure on Saints fullback Kelvin Chen saw another 5-metre scrum and a quick fire second courtesy of a penalty try. Despite the sin-binning of one of Edinburgh’s props they would add another score for 19-0 before St Andrews belatedly hit back, as a penalty in the hosts’ 22 led to a series of pick-and-drives with flanker Alex Hodgkins eventually getting them on the scoreboard. They would get ever closer before the break in similar fashion as Matt Phillipson finished off a multi-phase move and despite another missed conversion by Chen an absolutely gripping, ding-dong first half ended 19-10 to Edinburgh.
In similar fashion to the 1st, Edinburgh began the 2nd half by far the strongest but crucially the St Andrews defence held firm. A worrying injury to one of the hosts’ backs did however knock their momentum somewhat. Undeterred, the Saints got back into the ascendancy and were rewarded after prolonged pressure on Edinburgh when skipper Roland Walker squeezed over and after some deliberation the referee awarded the try that unbelievably put the visitors back to within a score at 19-15. St Andrews were sensing an incredible victory but with just over 10 minutes to go they were dealt a hugely unfortunate blow, as a clearance by Chen from the Saints 22 was deflected and fortuitously found its way into Edinburgh’s hands. After one phase they registered the key score in the corner and a superb conversion gave the Saints a mountain to climb at 26-15. That would ultimately be how proceedings ended. Despite a late sin-binning in the hosts’ ranks, Edinburgh ruthlessly doused any potential comeback sparks from St Andrews to close out the win and saviour the adulation of their loving supporters after a second consecutive varsity triumph.