Edinburgh see off Scarlets
URC MATCH REPORT: Edinburgh got their campaign off to an excellent start as they gave new head coach Mike Blair a 26-22 bonus-point victory over Scarlets in his first competitive match in charge.
The visitors, for whom Dwayne Peel also oversaw his first league game, were in contention right to the death at the newly-named Dam Health Stadium and will feel they could and should have taken more than a losing bonus point home with them.
In the end, however, Edinburgh’s defiant defence won the day while earlier they had taken charge thanks to some excellent attacking from new signings Henry Immelman and Ben Vellacott as well as established star Darcy Graham.
The Scotland winger grabbed two of Edinburgh’s four tries, the others coming from Blair Kinghorn, who converted three, and Mark Bennett.
Scarlets’ trio of tries came from Steff Evans, Kieran Hardy and Johnny McNicholl while Dan Jones had a penalty and a conversion and substitute Sam Costelow added two points.
Scarlets were on top virtually throughout the first quarter but only had Evans’ score to show for their efforts.
After withstanding heavy pressure, Edinburgh eventually cut loose and took the lead through tries from Kinghorn and Bennett and although Dan Jones reduced the deficit by three, Edinburgh had the last word in the half.
Graham’s try went unconverted but a 19-8 lead at the break was far better than Edinburgh could have expected after their difficult opening quarter.
In the second half, Hardy’s converted score made it a four-point game but then Graham, fed by Vellacott, blasted through the broken defence to leave Kinghorn a simple conversion.
McNicholl kept Scarlets in contention with his try and Edinburgh had to live on their nerves in the final few minutes.
But they held on and now head for their first away game against Benetton in Treviso with morale high.
They put 50 points on the Italians here in a pre-season friendly but know they can expect a tougher battle this time round.
Player of the match
Scrum-half Vellacott, a key summer signing, epitomises what Blair wants from his team as he is always thinking on his feet.
His speed of thought was impressive, as was his willingness to back his own ability to get out of trouble, while his eye for a break is another invaluable asset.
Play of the match
The one-two between Kinghorn and Bennett resulted in the home team’s opening try for the No 10.
Blair’s side needed a touch of magic to get back into the contest after being under almost continuous pressure in the first 25 minutes and the backs conjured it up with some quick thinking and slick hands.
Tries: Kinghorn, Bennett, Graham 2
Cons: Kinghorn 3
Tries: Evans, Hardy, McNicholl
Cons: Jones, Costelow
Edinburgh: 15 Henry Immelman, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Cammy Hutchison, 11 Damien Hoyland, 10 Blair Kinghorn, 9 Ben Vellacott, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist (c), 4 Marshall Sykes, 3 Lee Roy Atalifo, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Dave Cherry, 17 Boan Venter, 18 WP Nel, 19 Jamie Hodgson, 20 Connor Boyle, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 James Lang
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Ryan Conbeer, 13 Jonathan Davies (c), 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Dan Davis, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Aaron Shingler, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Phil Price, 18 WillGriff John, 19 Tom Price, 20 Tom Phillips, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Sam Costelow, 23 Ioan Nicholas
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Ian Kenny (Scotland), Graeme Ormiston (Scotland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)