ALUN WALKER scored his first try for Edinburgh Rugby but it was merely a straw in the wind as the Capital side crashed to a 42-20 defeat by Ulster at Murrayfield in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 League.
Indisciplined throughout, Edinburgh, despite an early try from Nick De Luca, had no answer to the dominant Northern Irish pack and toiled constantly for workable possession.
This was the highest points tally conceded by Edinburgh in the league for more than two seasons as a four-match unbeaten home record was uprooted.
“We made it like Christmas for them, turning over far too much ball against a side who were far more dynamic,” said Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley. And he refused to take refuge in the fact that the players were possibly concentrating on next week’s return to Heineken Cup competition against Racing Metro. “I don’t think that was on our minds at all,” he said. “We talked during the week about the need to improve our league position.”
While referee George Clancy was a model of inconsistency throughout that could hardly be put forward as mitigation for a thoroughly sub-standard display in which four tries were leaked to a side who could easily have had more.
With a European Cup trip to the suburbs of Paris looming next Friday, alarm bells are certainly ringing in the Edinburgh camp. Ironically, the home side had ended the opening quarter clinging to a one-point lead after notching the only try of that initial period.
It came moments after Ian Humphreys had slotted a second penalty when the re-start kick bounced into space and De Luca showed reactions befitting a 29-cap internationalist to scoop the ball up a couple of metres out and crash over.
Referee Clancy seemed momentarily fazed by the absence of video back-up but eventually awarded a score which Greig Laidlaw converted.
It was no more than Edinburgh deserved for some enterprising play notably when Phil Godman dropped a cross-kick into the lap of the flying Tim Visser only for the winger to be tackled into touch 15 metres out.
Following up Edinburgh’s touchdown success, Laidlaw slotted an angled penalty but Ruan Pienaar, taking over kicking duties from Humphreys who had joined colleague Pedre Wanneburg on the injured list, quickly reduced the gap to 10-9. Worse was to follow as Edinburgh were hit by a barrage of two unconverted tries in as many minutes.
For the first, a huge overlap was created for hooker Rory Best to cross with the defence stretched and virtually from the restart Andrew Trimble broke menacingly up the wing before Stephen Ferris linked for Dan Tuohy to barge over again too wide out for Pienaar to convert.
Undeterred, Edinburgh kept plugging way and on the stroke of half-time Laidlaw notched as penalty as the teams turned around at 19-13 to the visitors.
Edinburgh fell further behind within five minutes of the resumption through a long-range penalty by Pienaar and had the scent of blood in their nostrils when they immediately followed up.
Substitute Paul Marshall split the Edinburgh defence out wide with a dummying break and when Andrew Trimble was put in the clear 30 metres out there was only one outcome despite Visser’s despairing attempt at a tackle.
Pienaar’s conversion was awarded by the referee when over-ruling his touch-judges.
With 52 minutes gone Pienaar notched a third penalty for 13-32. Edinburgh had struggled throughout for possession so it hardly helped when they were turned over in the Ulster 22. However, a foothold was gradually attained from which sub hooker Walker barrelled his way over for a first Capital try which Laidlaw converted as the game entered the final quarter.
The Capital momentum was short-lived, though, and a break-out was hampered when four Edinburgh players committed themselves to a slug-fest in the opposite corner of the pitch. Edinburgh’s goose was well and truly cooked when neat interplay involving Trimble and Marshall opened up a gaping hole which Darren Cave easily exploited for the bonus point try, Pienaar converting.
Glaring inconsistency by referee Clancy was summed up when he allowed the visitors to attempt to score from a cross kick while playing advantage. The ploy failed and that should have been that. But Mr Clancy then recalled the play for Pienaar to take his individual points total to 16.
After the dust had settled, Bradley admitted: “We need to sort ourselves out because twice we turned over possession in their 22 and they scored from it. There are no crumbs of comfort to gained from this.”
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: De Luca, Walker. Conversions: Laidlaw (2). Penalties: Laidlaw (2) Ulster: Tries: Best, Tuohy, Trimble, Cave. Conversions: Pienaar (2). Penalties: Humphreys (2), Pienaar (4)
Edinburgh: Paterson (Thompson, 60), Brown, De Luca, King (Scott, 30), Visser, Godman (Leck, 47), Laidlaw, captain, Jacobsen (Traynor, 67), Ford (Walker, 52), Cross (Gilding, 74), Cox, Lozada, McInally (MacDonald, 61), Talei, Grant. Subs: Traynor, Gilding, Gilchrist.
Ulster: Terblanche, Trimble, Cave, Whitten (Wallace, 60), Gilroy (D’Arcy, 75), Humphreys (Marshall, 20), Pienaar, Court, Best, Afoa (Macklin, 77), Muller, captain, Tuohy, Ferris (Stevenson, 70). Wanneburg (Faloon, 11), Henry. Subs: Kyriacou, Black.
Referee: G Clancy (Ireland).