The inaugural Scottish Varsity Match was played on Wednesday 30th November – St Andrews Day – at London Scottish RFC in west London between University of St Andrews and University of Edinburgh in front of over 1500 spectators. The fixture between these two founding members of the Scottish Rugby Union is the Oldest Varsity match in the world and with the creation of this exciting event came the chance to win a trophy and be crown Scottish Varsity Champions for the first time.
The Saints squad knew how big the occasion would be and as soon as they arrived at the ground as they had camera crews filming their exit from the bus in true big game style. The game was filmed by The BBC, Sky Sports and IRB’s Totally Rugby which broadcasts worldwide. Both squads were piped onto the field at 8pm for kick off for what was to be the most intense game of the season. Edinburgh, who play a league above The Saints, took early dominance of both scrum and lineout and starved The Saints of possession and got on the score board after 5mins with a penalty from their stand-off who controlled the game brilliant all night. The Saints were under pressure for most of the 1st half playing into the wind and against a larger and more physical Edinburgh side.
The Saints were then dealt with a large slice of bad luck with their whole starting back-row including Captain Alan Little and key ball carrier Tim Rogers coming off injured all before half time. Edinburgh scored two tries in the 1st half out wide, one of which was knocked on by the Saints in the act of intercepting which was a cruel blow. Half Time 20-0. Some calming words from Director of Rugby David Ross and Coach Chris Reekie put the game into perspective for the players who firmly believed that if they got quality possession that they could cause Edinburgh problems in the 2nd half and the fight back was on. The Saints dominated the majority of the 2nd half and put Edinburgh under massive pressure on their own line. Breaks from Jake Starkey and Berti Ridley Thomas put St Andrews close but resolute defending from Edinburgh prevailed. A series of penalties led to an Edinburgh player being sin binned but it was not to be as Edinburgh scored two intercept length of the field tries to break Saints hearts and kill off the game. Final score reading 39-0.
It was a disappointing score line for the squad who had defended so well throughout the game but ultimately came up against a team who competes week in week out at a higher level. There is no doubt that this standard of rugby is what the club are aspiring to. The trophy was presented by British and Irish Lions Team Manager Andy Irvine and London Scottish CEO Tony Copsey to the Edinburgh Captain James Morrison. The post-game reception saw players mix with a large number of alumni from yesteryear who had travelled to watch the game and the band in the clubhouse provided entertainment for all.
The Scottish Varsity match has already been confirmed for next season, such as the success of this year’s game. There is no doubt that all the players who will still be at University next year will be working hard to take the trophy home to St Andrews next time.
Saints Man of the Match: Lewis Stewart