Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


London Irish 18-23 Edinburgh

WP Nel - pic © Al Ross
WP Nel - pic © Al Ross

Edinburgh today made it into their first ever Challenge Cup semi-final after holding on to defeat London Irish 23-18. Tries for WP Nel and Fraser Mackenzie, coupled with another successful day with the boot for Sam Hidalgo Clyne was enough to hold off a late surge by the Irish Exiles.

The first half could be split neatly into two sections: 20 minutes of domination by Edinburgh followed by 20 similar minutes from London Irish. It was Hidalgo-Clyne who led from the start with his impressive boot putting Edinburgh on the scoreboard after only 2 minutes.

Although Edinburgh now enjoyed a bit of possession, Shane Geraghty had the opportunity to level the scores, but his kick went wide. In between this and Irish’s first points, a strong driving maul 5 metres out became the perfect setup for WP Nel to spin and dive over the line for the game’s first try. Hidalgo-Clyne’s touchline conversion extended the lead now to 10.

Another two penalties followed for the newly-capped Scotsman, although Irish finally started to threaten, enjoying possession close to the try line. On both occasions, however, poor hands ended these chances, Tom Court knocking on inches from the whitewash on the first opportunity. Edinburgh’s defence, led by Roddy Grant and Hamish Watson, looked strong and steady.

With half an hour gone, Geraghty finally got Irish’s side of the scoreboard ticking but that was just the start of their attack. The game was now being played predominately in Edinburgh’s half with Irish in possession. Then, from a set piece, Geraghty shipped the ball out to his wing before a forward-looking inside pass to flanker Conor Gilsenan who ran the remaining 30 metres to score, confirmed after the TMO reported that there was no “obvious” obstruction (by Blair Cowan). Geraghty converted on the stroke of half time.

Half Time: London Irish 10-16 Edinburgh

It was Irish who came out all-guns blazing at the start of the second half as phases were quickly built up around Edinburgh’s 22m line. After Geraghty closed the deficit to 3 points, a cheeky chip from the fly-half was caught by Topsy Ojo just metres short, although a good offload saw Scottish scrum-half Scott Steele cross in the corner. Edinburgh had just gone from being 16-0 up to 18-16 down.

After taking their beating, Edinburgh now looked to get up and score and much like the opposition, soon built up the phases in Irish territory. With penalty advantage looming, Heathcote sprayed the ball out to Dougie Fife who was in space but failed to use the 2-on-1. Replacement lock Fraser Mackenzie then came in to save the day, finding a wee gap in the defence to score Edinburgh’s second try. Hidalgo-Clyne converted again.

Both teams still wanted to score, but for the next 20 minutes, neither side could gain any advantage with Fife the closest having come agonisingly close to getting on the end of a cross kick. With 10 minutes remaining the game once again lit up with Irish enjoying possession again. Edinburgh’s defence was holding strong, but could they hold up for the rest of the game?

Irish were winning penalties now but with every corner kick, their driving maul just could not get over the line. John Andress was given a yellow card after an accumulation of penalties, although in the final minute, Edinburgh had a scrum in their own 22, but the ball was spilled just a couple of phases later.

London Irish were now pushing closer and closer to the line and eventually hooker David Paice seemed to cross over, but the TMO would be needed. With the question being “Try: Yes or No?” a grounding would have to be seen to be given. However, despite every replay, there was no sign of the ball, resulting in no try and the end of the game.

Final Score: London Irish 18 23 Edinburgh

SRBlog Man of the Match: Alasdair Dickinson was very impressive in the scrum whilst he was on, however, once again Sam Hidalgo-Clyne’s kicking was superb and combined with his good gameplay, he certainly seems like he should be Scotland’s in-form scrum half going into the World Cup…

Edinburgh now go through to the Challenge Cup semi-final, to be played against Newport Gwent Dragons on Friday 17th April at BT Murrayfield. Will there be a repeat of the crowds of that Heineken Cup quarter-final in 2012?

This article first appeared on RugbyEdinburgh.

36 Responses

  1. Hard fought win. Edinburgh are a tough unit who work for each other. Could do with a bit more development in attacking patterns, we’re still a little predictable but small steps. Was at the game the LI fans around me couldn’t believe Laidlaw kept SHC out the Scotland team, especially after his kicking display. Also a wee mention for Scott Steele, one of their best players, looks like we could be well served for Scrum halves over the next few years. As an aside has anyone heard any rumours regarding Matt Scott? Speaking to a couple of people his shoulder is causing real problems, Ross Rennie level problems, which would be a massive shame.

  2. A great away win for Edinburgh. Any win away against a decent Aviva Prem side is worth celebrating. Sam H-C kicked his penalties beautifully, but I thought his overall game showed that he still has a fair bit to learn at scrum half at this level. But I think he’s already shown he’s a quick learner. Looked like utter Edinburgh clumsiness at the base of a scrum they’d won led to the chaotic last four or five minutes. More composure needed, lads, at critical points in the semi-final!

  3. Congratulations Edinburgh from a Warrior’s Fan :)
    Been extremely impressed with form and endeavour since overcoming injury woes. First class, hope you secure top 6 in Pro12 as well.

  4. Good result away from home, and if you’d offered me that before the game I’d have bitten your hand off. That was until I started watching and realised how truly awful Irish are. Edinburgh were brilliant for the first quarter and dire thereafter against a pretty dreadful London Irish side. Basic errors which would have been punished against any half decent team nearly cost them the game. It was pretty embarrassing stuff at the end, as Edinburgh did their level best to throw it away. Very much like watching Scotland.

    There can be no excuse now for not beating the Dragons at home in the semi, but they’ll need to up their game considerably if they are to make 6th in the Pro12, especially with the fixtures they have coming up. They have the ability (as we saw in the 1872 cup) but don’t produce it often enough, SHC and Tonks aside. I know I sound like I’m doing a Victor Meldrew, but I was tearing my hair out watching the game, as Edinburgh let Irish back in from being 16-0 up. Edinburgh can genuinely win the Challenge Cup, but it’s hard not to notice the significant difference in quality between the Champions and Challenge Cup. I’m all for praising Scottish sides when they’ve done well, and Edinburgh should be congratulated, but the euphoria following this result has been somewhat over the top. That said, SHC has to start for Scotland, of that their is no question.

    1. SHC’s placekicking was Halfpenny-esk the way he strikes the ball. The reasons for keeping Laidlaw at scrum half are reducing everyday.

  5. I didn’t watch the game but big congratulations to Edinburgh. For those who did, how did Watson and Toolis play? I was following the game on Twitter and Watson’s name came up a bit.

    1. Toolis was ok. Not brilliant but didn’t have a shocker either. Thought MacKenzie had a good game when he came on. With Gilchrist to come back we’ve got excellent options there. Watson was excellent imo. I’ve heard people say he’s too small for a backrower but his physicality is such that he has an uncanny ability to just break tackles. Showed more around the pitch than Cowan for me.

      1. I never really considered Watson as small until he came on for his Scotland debut, looking like an U16s player who had accidentally wondered onto the pitch. I’ll agree on his physicality though, the fashion in which he runs is aggressive and powerful.

      2. Watson is the same size player as Michael Hooper. If he can be as good, Scotland will be doing well!

  6. Lets not get too carried away. London Irish are one of the poorest teams in the Premiership. Sure it was a great result for Edinburgh but lets not forget that they are only a mid table team in the pro 12 and I fear they would struggle against top class opposition. What would happen if they had to play Bath or Toulouse for instance.

    I think we tend to get a bit carried away with the odd good result. For example, our national team beat very poor Argentina and Tonga teams before losing to what was effectively the All Blacks B team- and then everyone seemed to be suggesting that we would win the 6 nations and be contenders for the WC. The result was the wooden spoon. We playelost to an Italian team that looked more like the Kirkcaldy YMCA kids outfit and then we playeyed like a bunch of pansies against Ireland, in spite of the fact that ithe game was being playeed at home. I think we need to judge ourselves against the best teams in the world, not against a bunch of mediocre also rans.

    Please keep you’re feet on the ground boys as you need a reality check. My assessmnet is that very little has improved over that last 12 months. We still only have 2 pro teams, our national team is still a joke and Edinburgh are still a mid table outfit and there are very few youngsters coming through the ranks. The only possitives is that Glasgopw are a better team and we have a good national coach. The problem is that we need to employ a majician if we want to see anything improve at a faster rate of knots.

    1. I’m interested to know what was your assessment of the game Neil when you watched it? What did you think of McInallys throwing? Better than Ford? Did you think Watson won the battle of the breakdown against Cowan?

    2. I hate to pull you up on this Neil, but you, more than any other on this blog, were getting ‘a bit carried away’ predicting 6 nations success on the back of the Autumn Tests. Something along the lines of beating Wales, Ireland and humping Italy, if I remember well…

  7. I’m all for not getting carried away, but that is serious Victor Meldrew stuff there Neil.
    Edinburgh are in a semi-final, regardless of situation that is something to be lauded.
    London Irish arent the best but winning is winning. Need to be the best on the day and away to any prem side is worth celebrating.
    You arent far off with your assessment but I also think you are being harsh on the ‘very few youngsters’ comment. Scotland is fielding one of the youngest squads for a generation, youngsters arent our problem at this point, that is our strength. Unfortunately looking to the future argument only holds sway for so long, and we have been doing that for a while now…

  8. Michael- they are in the semi finals of the lesser of the two trophies. Come back to me when they are Europen champions (main euopean trophy with the best clubs in Europe) and we can discuss their fortunes then. In the meantime, lets not get too carried away by a one off result against one of the poorest teams in the english premiership. Yes I agree that there are some useful youngsters coming through the ranks but we just need a lot more of them and this can only be achieved by having more pro teams that they can join- see my earlier messagees in various threds on this subject.

    Scafel- no I did not watch the game- I am unable to do so being based in the Middle East. My facts are based entirely on current league standings and statistics. The facts pretty much speak for themselves. Edinbugrgh played well and beat a low ranking English team. They are currently mid table in the Pro 12 and, while they have had one or two decent results this year, they are a world away from being consisdered one of the elite clubs of europe, in the same way as scotland are a world away from being 6 nation or WC champions. You must know I am right even with your rose coloured specs. Glasgow are a bit better, being on top of the pro 12 but strill nowhere near as good as the best teams in Europe. If I had to produce a europen ranking, I guess Glasgow and edinburgh would probably rank arround 5th and 10th respectively- a big improvement on previous years but I wonder how much of that is down to the arrival of jolly foreigners, particularly in the case of Edinburgh.

    1. Sorry Neil, but you are talking total rubbish. If being European champions is the only benchmark for success, Clermont Ferrand are apparently not one of the best teams in Europe according to you (who presumably doesn’t watch any of their games).

      Yes, Edinburgh are only in the semi-finals of the second tier cup. However, when Solomons took over two years ago he set out the milestones he wanted to achieve. This year those targets were to finish in the top-6 of the Pro-12, get into the semi-finals of the Challenge cup and win the 1872 trophy.

      Edinburgh are in a three-way race for the top 6 after sustaining a horrific injury list which affected the first third of their season. Since then they have won only 1 less league point than Glasgow. Apart from that they have achieved their targets and I think it is great Edinburgh have a coach who has set out realistic targets for improvement and is meeting them. I am confident that Edinburgh will be in the running for a pro-12 play-off place next year. If you can’t see that having two competitive Scottish pro-teams is progress, then you need a dose of your own ‘realism’.

      Speaking of realism, your ranking of Glasgow and Edinburgh as 5th and 10th in Europe is totally bonkers. Glasgow have never won the pro-12 nor have they ever qualified for the QF of the European Cup. They are an excellent side with real potential to become one of the best sides in Europe but these notional rankings are totally at odds with Glasgow and Edinburgh’s actual performances in Europe.

      1. FF- its based on current form. Galsgow are the best pro 12 team and, have neaten som of the top teams in Europe. They have been des[paerately unlucky in Europen competition this year but there are very few teeams that would love to play them at present and would be a match for most club sides in Eglgland and france. Regarding Edinburgh, they have improved alot and I feel thatey are probably arround the 10th best team in Europe based on current form. The fact that neither team has won tha European competition in previous years and that both have been poor in years gone by is irrelevant a it is the here and now that is important.

      2. Neil – current form has seen Glasgow fail to qualify for the European knock out rounds again. Just because we are 2pts clear of the pro-12 doesn’t make us European heavyweights. If anything the fact that Leinster has qualified for another European semi-final whilst struggling domestically shows what Glasgow lacks at the moment, the experience and nous to do enough to progress in the toughest competitions. That is why Leinster are reigning pro-12 champions and are still in Europe whilst Glasgow have won nothing to date and have never even played a minute of European knock out rugby.

        Which European top-teams have Glasgow beaten recently? Beating Leinster, Ulster or Munster in the pro-12 is one thing. Beating Toulose or Toulon in Europe is another, as it has proved.

        Regarding Edinburgh, your statement is just bizarre. I’m an Edinburgh fan and at my most optimistic I’d say we are the 6th best in the pro-12. We’d be about the same or a little lower in the AV Premiership and we’d struggle to be higher than 8/9th in the Top-14.

      3. Gents,

        Glasgow did play well and were capable of playing much better in the European cup. They are a better side that the table suggests. However if we really need to analyse why ?let me offer my view.

        I think we scored an own goal off the pitch.

        On the pitch Glasgow were decimated with injury, off the pitch what we now know is that contracts were being negotiated, retirals pending and even the coaching staff being swapped out.

        While the news all broke later, the initial negotiations must have been taking place at that time.

        Jobs to be won and lost alongside playing with less familair players in the high pressure european cup at a time of international selection all adding to the players concerns at that time, thats a lot of uncertainty and the stakes were high. looking back , it is no surprise they never progressed. If you had all that to consider, how would you cope ?

        However despite all of these distractions, and rugby is a job to these lads, their livelihoods in a short career at stake, they are still well placed to give Scotland a great prize, to win the Pro 12.

        We are being a bit harsh on the players and need to look wider than the pitch for what happened in the European Cup. Glasgow got it wrong off the pitch, their players are a credit to the fans.

    2. Neil, Based solely on the tables and results you are absolutely right. These are hard facts that do not lie but they mask a lot more detailed and interesting information. If rugby was ONLY about final results most players would not play and most supporters would not go to the games. They could just “perm” the facts and decide the likely result for themselves.

      Only in watching games and following the progress of a club and its individual players can you appreciate what is happening. Its a complicated team sport, with a lot of moving parts and success (and failure) can be seen on many different fronts.

      So for me your comments are only a part of the story and NOT the whole picture..

      FYI – I live in the USA, but watch nearly all the games live on the Internet, as I presume you could also.

      1. The hard fact is that there is a tournament to decide who the best teams in Europe are and Glasgow got knocked out before the QFs less than 3 months ago.

        To say that Glasgow are the 5th best side in Europe after failing to progress from a relatively easy group is just plain wrong.

      2. Alligator- you raise some interesting points . I feel that a cup competition can be crule as it is possible to have an off day, injury list, suspensions etc and loose a couple of games that should have been won under ‘normal circumstances. However, over the space of 12 months the stats dont lie. Thats why I prefer to concentrate on league (e.g. pro 12) form as opposed to anything else. Glasgow have lost some games they should have won but still find themspelves on top of the pro-12- that tells you more than a Europen competition in which they were desparately unlucky to lose out. If Glasgow played Bath 10 times I think they would win 7 of the encounters but you always have to guard against the one or two occassions that would not go their way. The 6 nations is another good way of assessing the form of teams. Sure it is always possible to lose the odd game but a team that loses 5 games, plays like a bunch of nancy boys and ends up with the wooden spoon is not a good team. At the end of the day the cream will always rise to the surface. Based on current form I stand by thae fact that Glasgow and edinburgh are the 5th and 10th best teams in europe respectively.

        What I find more difficult to explain is why our national team is so rubbish while our pro sides are so good. Is this down to the influence of forien players in both sides or is something else going on. TMany of the Glasgow players play a really good game for theor club side but play like demotivated nancy boys when they turn out for our national team. I’m a big fan of VC but does he do enough to motivate the players, particularly the forwards.

      3. Neil – only in European competition can you compare teams who play in different leagues. European competition is a far higher standard than the pro-12 exactly because there is so little margin for error. Glasgow weren’t unlucky – they got knocked out because they failed to get anything from two games against Toulose, who bullied them up front. Glasgow didn’t have the forward power to deal with it and didn’t have the nous to find a way round it. Not only that but Bath were there for the taking at the rec and Glasgow lost because their scrum and lineout defence dissolved under pressure from the Bath pack. Glasgow’s results in Europe are getting much better but they are not at the top table yet.

        Not only that but the pro-12, like all other European leagues, uses play-offs specifically to compensate for the fact that teams frequently don’t have access to all their fit players because of international call ups and player welfare limits on domestic appearances (16 in all competitions for Welsh dual contracts, roughly 16 for Irish test players although I don’t know if there is a specific number on it, and numbers of consecutive games for Scottish test players – I think 5 or 6). Take for example the recent game against Leinster, who held back 5 fit Irish internationals against the wishes of their coach who complained about it in the press. So, league organisers accept the fact that league position isn’t a fair way to determine the champions.

        It just seems bizarre that you tell people not to get carried away with the small successes that Scottish rugby actually achieves, whilst anointing Glasgow one of the best teams in Europe for the feat of being near the top of the pro-12 for the last two seasons. The Ospreys won the Celtic/Magners/Pro-12 4 times between 2005 and 2012 and at no time would they have been accused of being one of the top teams in Europe because they never got further than the QF stage.

      4. Some harsh comments about Glasgow in Europe. Far from an easy group. Bath are one of the top clubs in England and Toulouse have the biggest budget in world rugby.

        Had Glasgow not been missing Murray, Grant, Harley, Fusaro, Strauss, Hogg and Swinson – almost half of their first choice XV – we would have won the game in Bath.

      5. Andy – I didn’t mean to be harsh on Glasgow. I thought they began and ended the group excellently but missed another golden opportunity to qualify for the QFs. I don’t think injuries is a valid excuse, Bath had exactly the same issues when they were walloped at Scotstoun. Rugby is a squad game and at any point in the season most squads are missing a quarter of their players. The real reason Glasgow didn’t qualify is that they flopped against Toulose whereas Bath went away and got a BP win. Toulose may be rich but they are only 5th in the Top-14 and haven’t threatened in Europe for years. Bath didn’t even qualify for the play-offs in England last year and have only just emerged as a serious team again. They are still only 3rd in the Premiership (2pts ahead of 5th placed Exeter and not guaranteed to get a play-off place yet) and have no recent track record in Europe. They are a good team but nothing special in European terms.

        Glasgow were seeded 1st in their group and ended up 3rd.

        Until Glasgow qualify for the QFs I don’t think we can consider them among the best teams in Europe. I rate Glasgow massively and they are on a learning curve. But they just are not there yet. In truth, I’m not sure they will make it to the top of the European game unless they get a front row that can cope at the top level, a test standard openside and replace the firepower they have lost in the backs now they are saying goodbye to DTH and Maitland. At least they have a brilliant coach and a handful of potentially world class Scottish players, which gives them a chance.

      6. To be honest I think Glasgow were actually the best team in that group, we just played well below our level. That was shown in the first two games. We then played poorly against Toulouse, failing to take the away losing BP (eh Niko?), collapsing at home, and similarly not getting the BP against Montpellier at home. Ultimately the Bath game killed us, but we should have qualified way before that, given the start we made to the group. I don’t know if it’s a mental thing or not but we really need to up our game in Europe. We desperately need to address certain areas of the squad before next season, and what we’ve signed so far isn’t filling me with hope. Plus throw in signing the Connacht forwards coach to replace Shade and I’m beginning to wonder what direction we are taking.

      7. I don’t think it is a mental thing, I think Glasgow have a few weaknesses in their squad and struggle against teams with big powerful packs which predominate in France. Glasgow have a pretty lightweight front row and lack quality at openside. Fusaro is a good player but he’s a poor match for the best opensides in Europe. Holmes is a squad player and if I remember rightly, it was actually Harley playing at 7 against Toulose due to Fusaro being injured during the first game. Thankfully, I think Favaro is a quality signing for Glasgow.

        Glasgow have plenty of good front row players but no one who is really outstanding. Like Scotland, they concede a lot of penalties at the scrum and really fail to use it as an attacking weapon. Not sure if they are likely to bring in anyone who is going to change that but a big lump to anchor the scrum would be welcome. Maybe Zander Fagerson and Darcy Rae will solve this issue in the future but I think Glasgow need to keep making forward progress every season, which they have done for the last three years or so. Now that means winning the pro-12 and getting a European QF and their squad needs to be equipped for the task.

      8. There’s a lot of negativity about signing up the Connacht forwards coach. I don’t know why. I’ve seen their pack dismantle the opposition on a number of occasions this season. They are excellent exponents of the rolling obstruction and bringing in an Irishman will help us improve our cheating at breakdowns (maybe not to Munster levels of cheating but an improvement).

      1. Hold On Folks, Edinburgh beating London Irish is a great scalp. Edinburgh beating London Irish in the way they did is much more significant for me.

        Yes they allowed LI back into the game , but unlike their performance against Ulster some weeks ago, they came back and closed the game out with a win.

        That is progress, that is an experience that will build their confidence. They have learned and learned quickly from their previous shortfalls. That is a team that are maturing.

        As a nation, we should acknowledge that progress and be proud to see a scottish side progressing in the tournament.

        We (probably) all support one or another of the pro teams. However we are only rivals when :

        1) We are playing each other
        2) When one is 4th and the other is 5th in the Pro12 league
        3) when one is 1st and the other is 2nd.

        It is in our interests as a nation to get to events 2 and 3 above as soon as possible.

        So well done Edinburgh , they have had enough bad days in the past so why not get behind them lads? Edinburgh have done a good thing.

      2. Thanks I tried posting while watching our finest on the political debate – learned my lesson tonight.

  9. If Edinburgh add some quality backs in the summer they will start to look like a very decent side. Guys like Fife etc. just aren’t good enough.

  10. im getting the impression that Neil watches little to no rugby, be it Scottish or otherwise, perhaps the 6N but not a lot more, and quite frankly his comments are getting a little boring and repetitive. We all know your opinion so stop repeating it!
    With regards to the game, edinburgh were superb for the first quarter of the game, i like tonks, i also like heathecote since i saw him a couple of years ago at bath, a little disappointed hes leaving and hope worcester get promoted so hes playing in the prem. however, i feel that there was a lack of strike runners in the backs, tonks is a playmaking 15, heathecote isnt the most potent of runners, the wingers dont come inside enough for me, and the burleigh is a playmaker who does a decent job of making linebreaks etc. strauss is obviously not the greatest player, but i do think hes pretty awesome in defence, but he makes very little impacf in an attacking sense. The pack is coming on leaps and bounds, the front row look like a decent, solid scrummaging outfit and mobile and effective in the loose, the second row are proper enforcers with a bit of depth as cover and i love the backrow depth, and am particularly excited by the prospect of manu and possibly hardie adding to the depth next season, espadially as it looks so balanced. Talking of signings, helu got two tries v toulon, albeit they were walk ins essentially, and ive seen some, not a lot of naiyaravoro or however its spelt, hopefully he can come and be a special player for edinburgh.
    That being said, i hope to be there for the qf and Munster this weekend, and possibly leinster in a few weeks.

    1. Letting Heathcote go is an odd one – maybe the decision was made by the player rather than the club. It is rather worrying that Edinburgh will currently have only Tonks, Te Rure and Bezuidenhot at 10 next season. Tonks is worth persevering with and would benefit from an extended run at FH but Te Rure is a long way from being ready to carry the team for a run of games and Bezuidenhot is terrible and is lucky to still be around the squad. Edinburgh are crying out for a really authoritative stand off but I don’t see any on the horizon and I’d be surprised if anyone was brought in who wasn’t SQ.

      I’m looking forward to seeing Edinburgh’s younger players get more game time next year – between Deans, Hoyland, Bradbury and Ritchie I think we may get one or two more break out stars, not to mention Farndale hopefully having overcome his injury demons.

    2. Being based out of the UK it isnt so easy to watch too many club games, though I did watch every 6 nations game. Regardless of how many games i watch that does not mean that I shouldnt have an opinion on the game. From what I have read edinburgh played well asnd it was a good game. I stand by the other comments I made about our gthe state of our game in general.

  11. ** removed for trolling

    Neil may be a one-track record but is entitled to his opinion. You on the other hand are not allowed to make personal attacks.

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