Edinburgh Rugby 34-11 London Irish
A cold, crisp Sunday and a perfect day for rugby, and a perfect day for an ever improving Edinburgh team to take the next step on the most unlikely of adventures. If you were to go back several months and ask even the most optimistic of Scottish rugby fans I doubt they would have backed Edinburgh to be looking forward to a home quarter final over the Easter weekend. In a group with big spending Racing Metro and London Irish along with a very solid Cardiff side, Edinburgh were the ‘experts’ tips as make-weights, there to make up the numbers. So much for the experts view!
Edinburgh started the tournament with the tightest of victories away to London Irish and finished the group stage with a comprehensive demolition of the same side. In between they’ve traded blows with Cardiff and have traumatised Racing Metro with dramatic wins. Yesterday’s game shows just how far Edinburgh have come in such a short time. Whilst the first game was a battle, yesterday’s match never seemed in doubt. Despite two very late changes (Paterson and Denton dropping out minutes before kick off) Edinburgh took charge from the off and never let go. After the game Edinburgh Head Coach Michael Bradley was delighted: “we played well and controlled the first half – we were patient, aggressive and direct”.
London Irish actually scored first, a penalty for a scrum infringement being knocked over by the Irish no. 10, Adrian Jarvis. Edinburgh, who had started the match well, responded with quick possession in Irish territory. Having stretched the Irish defence running through phases in which Visser was conspicuously absent, Laidlaw played a lovely half grubber through the defensive line and Visser streaked through to beat the defender to the ball. Laidlaw converted from out wide to bring the score to 7-3. Edinburgh were up and running.
Edinburgh extended their lead when Geoff Cross put a great hit on Corbisiero in a scrum, drawing a penalty in front of the posts. Laidlaw, whose kicking was fantastic all day, slotted with ease. As the half wore on Edinburgh grew in stature, executing some lovely handling and quick ball making them a pleasure to watch. Talei, yet again, was immense. The pressure told when after several phases deep in the Irish 22 Edinburgh went wide and with 2 men waiting a long pass bounced into the hands of Jim Thompson who had the easy job of running over. Laidlaw converted from wide out, to give Edinburgh a 20-6 half time lead.
The second half provided an example of the strength of the Edinburgh defence. For 20 minutes London Irish pounded the Edinburgh try line; the defence was both disciplined and resolute. Eventually Irish knocked on and then drew a penalty to relieve the pressure. It really was a fine display of defence, and as much a pleasure to watch as some of the attack. London Irish finally got through on 66 minutes with the lively substitute Jonathan Joseph going over in the corner, and taking it to 20-11. The extras were missed, making that the last of the scoring from the visitors.
Edinburgh responded in fine fashion when Talei finished in the corner after extended pressure on the Irish line. Laidlaw again converted, and sealed the win. However, Edinburgh knew that if they wanted a home quarter final they needed a bonus point win. Despite butchering a great opportunity from 75 minutes Edinburgh finally got their fourth try, and the crucial bonus point, with just three minutes remaining. Talei – doing what he had all day – picked from a scrum deep in Irish territory and after gaining serious ground the ball went through a couple of phases to find Lee Jones more than willing to dot down in the corner. Needless to say Laidlaw converted to finish the scoring at 34-11. Comprehensive!
After the game Bradley highlighted the impressive crowd (10,892) who turned up to witness a momentous occasion for Edinburgh Rugby.
“This means a hell of a lot. It’s great to see the size of crowd and week on week it’s building, people are coming back. It’s very important for Scottish rugby that this continues”.
With Cardiff just failing to get a bonus point victory at home to Racing Metro, Edinburgh were confirmed as Pool winners and will now have a home tie against French giants Toulouse. Ouch!
“Toulouse at home is much better that Toulouse away,” was Bradley’s response, adding “they can be absolutely stunning in attack but if you do your work properly and are clinical you can put them under pressure. Gloucester did that, Harlequins did that”.
The fact that Edinburgh have a home match cannot be under estimated, it gives them a big advantage for the quarter final (which will take place over the Easter weekend) and this was not lost on the Edinburgh coach.
“It’s a great opportunity, its key that we are at home. The sides at home have a very good opportunity to progress, that’s where we are and we are delighted at that”
Of course, with the glory comes a financial boost for not just Edinburgh but also for Scottish rugby more generally. The SRU coffers will be substantially boosted by success and Bradley was quick to point out that this will benefit more that just his own squad.
“The SRU is supporting both professional sides equally… Glasgow get half the share – and they give us half the money for getting to the Rabo Playoffs!”.
It was a fine day for Edinburgh rugby and Scottish rugby in general. Hopefully the fans will flock back to Murrayfield for the quarter final and continue to support Edinburgh in this most wonderful of adventures.