Edinburgh's Champions Cup hopes are all but over
Scarlets boosted their hopes of clinching a place in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup while severely denting Edinburgh’s own chances by claiming a 27-25 victory at Murrayfield.
Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh team went into the crucial Guinness PRO14 clash hoping to trim back the 11-point deficit separating them from the Welsh outfit, who sit third in Conference B.
But even with two games in hand on Glenn Delaney’s men it now looks an impossible task for Edinburgh to pull back Scarlets’ now 14-point lead after the visitors claimed their first win at Murrayfield since 2013.
While the visitors were without 11 Wales stars due to Six Nations duty, Edinburgh had the luxury of being able to include Grant Gilchrist, Jaco Van Der Walt and Graham after they were released from the Scotland squad following the postponement of Sunday’s clash with France.
But it was Scarlets’ own indiscipline that handed Edinburgh the opener as the Scottish side made the most of two penalties inside the opening four minutes to drive to the tryline, with Bradbury barging over.
Delaney’s team continued to get on the wrong side of referee Ben Blain as Dan Jones’ penalty was quickly cancelled out by Van Der Walt.
Asafo Aumua is an absolute monster ? His second try of the day!
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 27, 2021
But Scarlets got the benefit of the doubt from the TMO as Morgan burst through from Tom Prydie’s suspiciously forward-looking offload to draw the scores level after 18 minutes as he dotted down under the posts.
Van Der Walt nudged Edinburgh back in front with a penalty but Graham’s decision to try to run the ball from his own 22 is unlikely to have pleased Cockerill, especially when his speculative offload ended up in Welsh hands.
Scarlets wasted no time punishing that mistake as they worked the ball all the way left for McNicholl who finished brilliantly in the corner on the half-hour mark.
Yet Edinburgh continued to play with the handbrake off and hit back after a madcap phase of play just two minutes before the break that saw possession swap back on fourth before Van Der Walt stepped past Steff Evans before slotting in Graham to make amends for his earlier mistake.
The hosts had smiles on their faces as they went down the tunnel leading 20-17 – but it did not take long for them to be wiped off by a rapid 10-point swing in Scarlets’ favour.
The crazy action resumed just two minutes into the second period as Evans used his dribbling skills to boot a bouncing ball beyond Van Der Walt as he sprinted up field from halfway, with the supporting Blacker diving over the line for a score that was quickly followed up by another Jones penalty.
Edinburgh’s European hopes were slipping away but they refused to give up without a fight. Cherry powered over from a line-out maul but Van Der Walt’s missed conversion meant Scarlets retained a two-point lead with 20 minutes remaining.
The Scotland stand-off was off-target again as his penalty attempt from almost halfway drifted wide but Edinburgh still had time to play with.
However, after 20 and more phases of action, Graham’s late charge for the line came to nothing as Scarlets held firm for a vital win.
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