Bonus-point secured as Edinburgh swat away Wasps

The Friday night lights at BT Murrayfield shone down on a second European Challenge Cup victory for Edinburgh Rugby after a dynamic 80 minutes against English Premiership side, Wasps.

The hosts ultimately secured a bonus-point win thanks to a late try from George Taylor, while a brace from eventual Man of the Match, Duhan van der Merwe, and a solo effort from Blair Kinghorn helped put the capital side in a commanding position.

The five points earned on the night leave Edinburgh in second place in pool 3, level on points with Bordeaux-Begles, but behind on points difference.

Edinburgh started the game off well, holding a solid defensive line against a team that were certainly no slouches.

It wasn’t a one-sided affair though, with the home side offering their fair share of attacks into the Wasps half, through the ever-familiar boot of Simon Hickey and the pace of Darcy Graham, making his first appearance in Edinburgh colours this season.

Both teams were finding it tough to make any significant progress towards the try-line though. This wasn’t helped by the ‘stop-start’ nature of the game, as constant scrums plagued any real chances for flawless rugby.

The first points of the game eventually came in the 16th minute, through Lima Sopoaga, as Wasps were awarded a penalty at the breakdown. One swift boot later, and the visitors were three points ahead. [0-3]

A monstrous response came from Edinburgh though, as they rallied up the pitch from kick-off, piling the pressure on a Wasps defence caught unaware. This crusade got as far as the try-line, when visiting scrum-half Dan Robson was forced over his own line by Duhan van der Merwe. An Edinburgh scrum followed, and after a series of plays, opportunity finally came knocking.

It was a familiar sight – the ball started in the middle, about 20 metres out. A series of drilling passes along the line left George Taylor to send the ball out to winger Duhan van der Merwe – who had acres of space and only one man to beat. You’d put any amount of money on the South African winning this race to the line, and sure enough, he galloped over, bringing the first try of the match, as Simon Hickey stepped up and added the extra points. [7-3]

Hickey struck again ten minutes later, as Wasps were penalised in front of their posts. It was just second nature for the fly-half as pinged the ball through, pushing the home side ahead once more. [10-3]

Wasps saw the same fortune just before half-time though, as a penalty in front of Edinburgh’s posts gave Lima Sopoaga the chance to add another three posts, leaving the score at 10-6 as both teams headed for the tunnel.

Edinburgh started the second half as well as you could have asked of them. Barely three minutes had passed when a gap was created on the Wasps wing. Before anyone could even notice, Blair Kinghorn was already through it, leaving the defence in his dust as he scorched towards the try-line. Diving over for a spectacular score, Simon Hickey followed a minute later, adding another conversion to his flawless kicking record so far. [17-6]

Edinburgh started to tighten their grasp on the match, flaunting their strength through some first-class build-ups and a seemingly impenetrable back-line. The Wasps defence looked to be starting to falter as well, which Duhan van der Merwe once again capitalised on, finding himself in very much the right position. A quick feint later, and he was past his man and en-route to the whitewash, bombing over for Edinburgh’s third of the night. Hickey again lent his boot for another conversion from out wide, making it 24-6.

Wasps remained unflinching though, creeping their way to the try-line through some commanding work from their pack. Eventually the Edinburgh line gave way and flanker Jack Willis wriggled his way over the line to touch down, with Lima Sopoaga putting the extra two points on the board. [24-13]

The next ten minutes were tense. Both teams were throwing bodies into their attacks, but for every attacker it seemed there were two defenders. Gritty, aggressive play from Wasps hailed a few boos from the Edinburgh fans, but the pack was holding strong.

Something had to give eventually, and this time it was in Edinburgh’s favour. George Taylor, who had been present for almost every attack, was the one to pounce, as he barraged towards the opposing try-line. Crashing onto a well-placed offload, he dived over for a well-deserved bonus-point try. It was that man Simon Hickey again with the conversion. [31-13]

Wasps managed to sting once more before the final whistle though, with Nizaam Carr pacing through a gap in an Edinburgh defence that had been otherwise almost unbreakable. The flanker slammed the ball down for the final try of the match, and a conversion from Jimmy Gopperth followed, but the damage had been done, and the score-line was not in their favour. The final whistle blew on a game that ended 31-20.

Edinburgh now prepare for the ‘second leg’ of their back-to-back with Wasps as the capital side travel to take on the English side at the Ricoch Arena next Saturday (14 December, kick-off 3pm).

live commentary 7:35 PM Friday 6 Dec 2019

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