Following a tough loss last year to a strong Edinburgh team, the men’s First XV were forced to revitalise their efforts in preparation for a match against their fiercest and oldest rival. Kicking off at an earlier time of 4 pm, the fair weather conditions saw a tight stalemate emerge within the first ten minutes. Both St Andrews and Edinburgh utilised their possession to execute strong attacking plays while robust defences prevented either team from making the decisive breakthrough required to place points on the board.
Edinburgh’s exploitation of St Andrews’ basic defence errors soon allowed the home team to break through and score under the posts by the fifteen-minute mark. This success was followed by two tries in the next 10 minutes, the first being a penalty try as St Andrews’ defensive discipline broke down temporarily, and the second, only minutes later, by a well-executed run from a back.
As the score was at 19-0, the situation appeared grim with Edinburgh emerging as the dominant side. But the men in blue were about to ensure that any complacency which may have begun to settle in amongst the Edinburgh ranks would evaporate instantly. With the spirit and resolve to fight back, renewed tenacity and passion fueled the Saints as they went vigorously on the counter-offensive. Excellent attacking runs and movement of the ball to the wings saw Edinburgh face a gradual breakdown in structure and coherence, culminating in their prop being sin-binned (a 10-minute off-pitch suspension) for a dangerously high tackle.
Such hard work eventually paid off. Grit shown by the relentless charges of the forward pack produced two well-deserved tries at the end of the first half. Powerful runs made by lock Stephen Tue and player TJ Akinjobi aided in diminishing the stunned Edinburgh defence; then flanker Alex Hodgins and prop Matthew Phillipson further thundered over the line to score on the left-hand side of the pitch. The momentum firmly shifted in favour of St Andrews as the half ended 19-10, the Saints now posing a severe threat to Edinburgh’s lead.
The second half began with St Andrews maintaining their momentum, although an injury on the Edinburgh team did delayed gameplay for a short period. Yet, this did nothing to obstruct the progress made by St Andrews’ offensive, with smooth plays amongst the back line and rapid runs by winger Fezan Mughal, while player Rob Lind contributed to keeping the ball chiefly on Edinburgh’s side of the pitch.
After a period of relentless physical pressure being exerted upon Edinburgh, St Andrews’ efforts were rewarded with a significant run from Roland Walker who overcame a hardy but battered Edinburgh defence to clinch their third try.
The match, now at 19-15 and with 20 minutes left on the clock, grew even tighter as both sides fought to gain the upper hand. A well-timed Edinburgh interception of a clearance kick from St Andrews and a try on the right wing of the field along with its conversion enabled them to push 11 points clear of the Saints.
The final minutes of the match ended with St Andrews launching a gutsy counter attack to test their rival’s nerve and discipline, resulting in a second Edinburgh player sent to the sin bin for an unfair challenge on Fezan Mughal. Despite some fresh legs helping the ball roll forward towards the Edinburgh try-line, time was against St Andrews. The match ended in a 26-15 victory for Edinburgh.
This year’s varsity match portrayed the gentlemanly-like qualities of Rugby. While the Saints did not perform perfectly, each lad on the pitch portrayed sportsmanship and determination, making all St Andrews spectators proud, win or lose.