The University of Edinburgh secured their first victory in the Scottish Conference this season by overcoming a stubborn St Andrews side 15-10 at Peffermill. Two fine individual tries from Moe Middleton and Kelechi Eseonu late in the second half were enough to dispatch the visitors, who - until the 75th minute - were desperately clinging on to their early lead.
Both sides produced a cagey and error-stricken first half display, especially in the line-out which became a lottery in the windy conditions. Edinburgh fell behind in the 13th minute when poor cover at the breakdown allowed the St Andrews flanker, Peter Wiper, to break through the gap in the Edinburgh defence and score an opportunistic try under the posts.
Despite this early set-back Edinburgh were the stronger side for most of the game. They dominated the kicking battle and the scrum, but failed to convert their possession and their territorial advantage into points.
Fresher fly-half Liam Steele produced an erratic but promising display, and his replacement Matt Bennet stamped his authority on the game with intelligent kicking which pinned St Andrews down in their own half. His penalty before the break narrowed their lead to four points. Often under pressure, St Andrews were able to retain their lead with gritty, organized defending in their own twenty-two, and occasionally surprised Edinburgh in the counter attack. They broke out wide in the 58th minute and produced a penalty, which they converted to re-assert their lead.
But Edinburgh struck late in the game to clinch the victory. In the 70th minute, a St Andrew’s clearance failed to find touch and Edinburgh full-back Middleton capitalised with a brilliant instep to lose his man followed by a well-angled run to score in the corner and make it 10-8. Five minutes later Edinburgh’s talismanic winger Eseonu received the ball in his own half and displayed impressive strength and pace to dart past several players and score under the posts. Steele, who had come back on as a blood sub, promptly converted to make it 15-10, which was enough to win the game.
Edinburgh will be pleased with the style they showed at the finish, and the forwards will gain confidence from their success at the scrum, where they clearly over-powered the opposition. The result helps Edinburgh to gain momentum after a poor start to the season, but despite their victory they still remain bottom of the league.