Edinburgh 31 - 20 Wasps: Van der Merwe grabs brace in Challenge Cup win

This match turned out to be a slow burner with just the one try in the entire first 40 minutes with five more touchdowns after the break, three of which went the way of Edinburgh as they claimed a bonus-point win over Wasps in the European Challenge Cup.

Friday, 6th December 2019, 10:59 pm
Edinburgh winger Duhan van der Merwe races for the line as he scores the opening try of the game chased by Zach Kibirige of Wasps. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Duhan van der Merwe stole the headlines with a brace of tries and it could have been three had the big South African winger not moved the ball rather than back himself around the hour mark.

But the credit should go to the Edinburgh eight who had an advantage in the set scrum that they exploited all match. They grew in stature the longer the match lasted and finished well on top. Darcy Graham had a satisfactory return to action and Simon Hickey was faultless off the tee with five from five.

“It’s a good win,” said 
Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill after the game. “They are a Premiership team who have a very good squad of players. So we are delighted with the win but the job is only half done, we have to go to Wasps and we have to go to Bordeaux. It’s still a tough group to get out of but we have given ourselves a fighting chance.”

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Wasps had already taken a three-point lead thanks to stand-off Lima Sopoaga before Edinburgh got off the mark on 25 minutes. James Johnstone dinked a perfectly weighted grubber that allowed Van der Merwe to bundle full-back Rob Miller back over his own try line. Edinburgh camped on the visitors’ line and turned down two simple penalty attempts in favour of scrums before Van der Merwe found himself on the end of George Taylor’s looping pass to score in the left-hand corner.

Ten minutes later Edinburgh extended their lead by three when Hickey kicked the simplest penalty from dead ahead.

Wasps had looked dangerous when they stretched the Edinburgh defence, with winger Zach Kibirige finding himself in space on the right flank only to overcook his chip ahead. The same man made the crucial break which gained his team their best attacking position of the match but Sopoaga was forced to settle for a second penalty with the last kick of the half to leave the hosts 10-6 ahead.

The second half was just three minutes old when that advantage was extended by seven. Wasps knocked on in the middle of the pitch, Hickey snapped up the ball, fed Blair Kinghorn on the right wing and the full-back beat the covering Sopoaga in a foot race to the right-hand corner.

Six minutes later the game was all but over when Edinburgh manufactured an overlap for Van der Merwe who stepped in off his left wing to leave the last man clutching at thin air.

Just when this match was running away from them, Wasps finally hit their straps. Tongan No 8 Sione Vailanu made the initial line break and passed to flanker Jack Willis. A few plays later Willis dived over the top of a breakdown on the Edinburgh line to score in spectacular fashion.

Sopoaga almost sparked a sensational length-of-the-field score from the ensuing kick-off. But Wasps’ bubble was quickly burst as tighthead Kieran Brookes was sent to the sin bin after a scrum deep inside the Edinburgh red zone.

A little later Edinburgh again put Van der Merwe into space only this time the scoring pass was spilled by Kinghorn.

The home side remained on the attack and, against a short-handed opposition, it wasn’t long before Johnstone found Taylor in acres of space on the right wing for the bonus score.

Hickey did the needful from the touchline and, on a night for South Africans to shine, Nizaam Carr got a consolation try for the visitors at the very death.