Oh, what might have been.
It’s not unusual to start an Edinburgh match report with such a sentiment, but in this case the one that got away was the 4 try bonus point. Referee Roman Poite twice went upstairs to the TMO for tries that on other days we’ve all seen given (usually against Scottish teams) and came back with a no try ruling, thus making this game a lot closer than it really had any right to be.
The young guns (Scott, Leonard, McInally) repaid the faith shown in them with some great performances, although the young standoff went a little off the boil at crucial moments and had a nervy day with the boot. Perhaps more reassuring for the immediate future, Ross Ford and Nick De Luca now both look back to their best, putting in big hits, making solid ground and not giving away too many silly penalties for holding on.
Sadly they were the exceptions early on, and Edinburgh indiscipline saw London Irish into an early lead until the back three combined excellently to send Lee Jones over for a try in the corner. Thereafter Irish’s defence was solid and ex-Edinburgh man Ross Samson took his try well through the fringes. New signing for Irish and Scotland cap Joe Ansbro saw plenty of ball in the backs though he had to come looking for it, and Tom Homer was making the most of his runs and kicks too as Edinburgh struggled to stay on the right side of Poite.
Neither side was in control, but London Irish were winning.
Leonard bagged a penalty of his own before half time to keep them in it, but Irish came out firing in the second half and soon stretched their lead out to 9 points. Although it seemed a bit harsh to take off Rennie and Blair for Grant and Laidlaw after only 47 minutes, it did the trick with both men forcing a shift in tempo and taking the game back to the scrappy sevens style that Edinburgh love so much. After that it seemed to be all Edinburgh, with Irish making poor use of their ball and rarely threatening the away team’s line.
After lightning fast hands from Nick de Luca put McInally in space for an excellent try, Edinburgh continued to threaten and should have had another when Visser barged through some defenders but was adjudged not to have grounded it properly over the line. Earlier Geoff Cross has also been denied at the bottom of a pile-up which was less clear cut.
Shontayne Hape must have some beef with ex-Sale man Sean Cox (or perhaps the other way round), as they were niggling from the minute Cox replaced Denton, who had gone off after a storming hit from Hape – although the culprit was really young Leonard’s ill-timed hospital pass. Cox managed to escape attention with a little elbow on Hape after the kiwi’s attempt at a sneaky 22 dropout went awry, but the retaliation moments later in the form of a late shoulder barge was flagged up after the TMO had decided not to give Visser’s try. Hape spent most of the last ten minutes in the bin and gave a little extra breathing room for Edinburgh to try and run the clock out. Look for more of the same on the return leg, I’m sure. Cox’s elbow will be unlikely to escape the citing officer though.
In the end Edinburgh secured the win pretty well as Irish frantically tried to force a penalty – Chunk came close more than once – until Tim Visser was able to nonchalantly kick the ball into touch and get the Edinburgh Rugby Heineken Cup campaign off to a great start.
Scottish Rugby Blog Man of the Match: Stuart McInally – quiet in the first half but took off his scrumcap and looked more like the player that impressed in the U20s. Grabbed the game by the horns for his try. Small for a Number 8 but starting to show the talent keeping Denton playing at 6. De Luca a narrow runner-up.