The Heineken Cup’s Comeback Kids

Edinburgh Rugby 48 -47 Racing Metro ‘92

Sometimes it hurts to be proven wrong. In this instance, though, one would take the abuse. Edinburgh book-ended a fantastic handling display by Racing with some heart-stopping tries and the kind of tenacity few on these isles, particularly in the executive suites of major broadcasters, thought the capital side were capable of.

“Maybe a draw would have been fair. 50 points each?” Michael Bradley gregariously told a bewildered press pack after the game, “but we’ll take 48-47.”

The game was one of those that poured it on rather than ebbing and flowing. Twice in the first eight minutes Tim Visser found himself one on one with an onrushing player and opted to chip over the top into space. The first time he regathered and scored, finishing off his own work, and the second time he was slide tackled off the ball, and as De Luca overran it and Racing players flailed for footing Laidlaw scooped it up and ran round under the posts.

From then on in the standout incidents came after slick hands from the French. Wisniewski flitted in and out of the line creating an overlap that 13 Chavancy, Racing’s talismanic local lad, looked to benefit from more than once. He was often there to link and there were acres of fringe for the Parisians to explore. Truthfully Edinburgh’s defence was so narrow and limp that Racing would have been foolish to give it up, and Saubade and Imhoff scored a try a piece from such overlaps to square it at 17-17.

That lad Wisniewski came in for his own try with width from a lineout, and with three tries (all converted) and a penalty it was a fantastic reply from the French side. Chavancy then scored his own, shrugging off a tackle from Laidlaw in an act of beautiful Gallic nonchalance. Edinburgh looked shocked and tackle shy. Racing Metro 92 looked like the Harlem Globetrotters.

 The half ended with Laidlaw slotting a penalty to the sound of a whistle. 20-31 was the score. Basketball was the feeling.

It was later attested that Laidlaw, who went on to replace Leonard at 10 during the break, said “Scoring tries will not be an issue. It is the defence we need to sort.” They didn’t, however, and the first major incident of the second half saw Edinburgh, in possession, being put off by massive hits and allowing the ball to bounce in no man’s land. The pitch-up evaded everyone but it was caught by the visitors and a simple pass found Chavancy again who had a much easier run to the line. A flawless Wisnieski added the extras once more, then adding another two penalties, to take it to 20-44 in Racing’s favour.

With an hour played I wrote them off. Our own Fraser Gillies, formerly of Racing Metro, tweeted that the French outfit did not employ a defence coach. It showed, although it could have been said that both teams were wearing Teflon jerseys. The feeling was definitely that the team in sky blue hoops would just score more points, so it didn’t matter.

Of course the French are anything but predictable. The game had lacked structure from the off but it had looked like Metro would pass their way through those spells, drawing the big hits from Talei and Lozada so as to free up playmakers Hernandez and Wisniewski. Metro had been dared to play fast and loose but Edinburgh had worn themselves out in the first half trying it first. Surely their opponents couldn’t waste a 24 point lead?

Then a workmanlike Lozada took a short line and burst through weak French arms. He linked with Allan Jacobsen at full flight. Pops were played and it fell to Lozada again. There were more offloads out of urgency and Talei drifted past a tiring counterpart to score. Laidlaw again added the extras and suddenly it was game on. Someone had broken out the defibrillators.

Wosniewski kicked another penalty but nothing was going to deter the team in black.

By the time Tom Brown crossed in for the bonus try at the corner to make it 34-47 with another Laidlaw kick some fans began to shake with belief. Jone Qovu Nailiko was yellow carded for the visitors and the nervous shaking increased. Then when King fed Grant and he crossed for another converted try which set the game at 41-47 everything melted into a blur.

De Luca was knitting play together and Laidlaw was running from 10. In the last 10 minutes Jones looked lively and Visser was a force out wide high-stepping, skipping, bumping and sprinting into Racing territory. Edinburgh were advancing and they needed a score. Racing were retreating at the behest of the referee.

When Visser crashed over for his second try there was pandemonium. A maddened hush was enforced and some fans tried to clench their fists and focus on the blur. Laidlaw had a kick to edge ahead. A touchline kick. A touchline kick he made look simple. He slotted it from the whitewash, scoring his 20th point of the game, and the Man of the Match gave Edinburgh the lead 48-47.

You could say that heroic defence led to them closing this game out, but that would be a lie. More so it would be a lie about tackling in reference to a game where tackling was largely forgotten in order to entertain everyone with a “cricket” score. No. Instead Hernandez flopped a drop kick into the stand as the referee called time.

There may not have been any Sky coverage of this game, but few of the 5067 fans present will ever forget the night they saw Edinburgh vanquish Racing 48-47 after trailing 20-44. The players certainly won’t.

Edinburgh: Thompson, Jones, De Luca, Scott, Visser, Leonard, Laidlaw, Jacobsen, Ford, Cross, Lozada, Gilchrist, Talei, Grant, McInally

Replacements: T. Brown for Thompson (48), King for Scott (21), M. Blair for Leonard (40), Lawrie for Ford (60), S. Turnbull for Gilchrist (60). Not Used: Traynor, Gilding, Rennie

Racing Metro 92: Wisniewski, Saubade, Chavancy, Bousses, Jose Imhoff, Hernandez, Loree, Tuugahala, Noirot, Coetzee, Ghezal, Nallet, Leo’o, Le Roux, Chabal

 Replacements: Vakatawa for Jose Imhoff (53), Ben Arous for Tuugahala (55), Bianchin for Noirot (75), Orlandi for Coetzee (66), Vaquiin for Leo’o (60), Battut for Le Roux (68), Nailiko for Chabal (64). Not Used: Descons

Ref: John Lacey (IRFU)

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Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.

3 comments on “The Heineken Cup’s Comeback Kids

  1. Alan on

    Woke up this morning and still can’t believe what i saw last night. It was insane magnificence – super fast, supe stupid rugby. Easily the best game of rugby I’ve seen in the flesh and both teams can be proud of dishing up a classic. 5000 made as much noise last night as full stadium – place was bouncing last 20 minutes. If Edinburgh keep this up then more fans will turn up regularly!

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