At 0-7 after just four minutes and 0-10 inside eight after a Waisea Nayacalevu try and a Morne Steyn drop goal, it looked like this might be a long shift for Duncan Hodge’s men.
Perhaps inspired by Glasgow’s heroics against vaunted French opposition earlier in the day, Edinburgh were fired up and chasing after everything, but really they just needed to relax as very little was working for them. There were a lot of scrums in the opening 20 minutes largely due to knock-ons from the home side and overly-ambitious passes from the visitors.
Sekou Macalou waltzed through Edinburgh’s backline for a try on 21 minutes and it was already looking more than ominous for the visitors. A yellow card for a tip tackle by Paul Williams gave Edinburgh some hope but their sole profit from it was a Duncan Weir penalty.
Magnus Bradbury was lively in a balanced back row with Viliame Mata and Hamish Watson and the game was the sort of scrappy affair that you would think suited them.
A further Steyn penalty added to the visitor’s lead before referee Craig Maxwell-Keys blew the whistle 20 seconds early, clearly almost as frustrated as the Edinburgh fans.
Half-time: Edinburgh 3-20 Stade Francais
The second half threatened more of the same to begin with, before Damien Hoyland gave the fans something to shout about with a try in the corner. Weir missed the conversion, leaving Edinburgh with a fair mountain still to climb.
Sensing a momentum shift, Edinburgh went to the corner when a super chase from Hoyland put Stade under all sorts of pressure at the breakdown. The hosts ramped it up with a powerful rolling maul that Stade were unable to keep the right side of the try line and Magnus Bradbury powered over at the back, Weir converting to reduce the lead to just 5 points.
Just when things were looking up, Phil Burleigh was spotted slapping Pascal Pape’s arm away as the big lock held on to him, but unfortunately he connected with Pape’s face. The second row milked it for all it was worth and despite the TMO’s hesitance – he advised Pape had been doing a spot of acting – Maxwell-Keys whipped out the red card.
Morne Steyn added a penalty kick moments later. A slap in the face, indeed.
From there, it started to look like a very big 8 point gap to overcome with 20 plus minutes to try and stay in touch, let alone win the thing.
However Edinburgh weren’t cowed and the penalty would be Stade’s last points of the match. Some strong running by the lively Will Helu put Edinburgh in the right area and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne put his pack through the phases before nicking the glory for himself with a well-timed dart that put Edinburgh within a point.
A Blair Kinghorn chargedown moments later sent the small but vocal crowd nuts, leading to a scrum penalty that Duncan Weir slotted for the lead.
The next ten minutes were a test of Edinburgh’s imagination, could they cling on to a precarious margin or would they have ambition to widen it?
As it was, Stade came a knocking at the earliest opportunity but the TMO spotted they didn’t get the score, and Edinburgh mounted a steady defensive scrum to send the pressure back up the other way.
A man down, the penultimate penalty was kicked at goal – rather than the corner in pursuit of a bonus point – but for a game that could easily have gone the other way after 20 minutes, every point was hard won.
The final penalty? Well, that went into the stand.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (RFU)
SRBlog Man of the Match: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne got the sponsors award for a very decent second half performance, but for me Duncan Weir just edged it with his big workrate in attack and defence, where he is often targeted (in fairness, his first half was almost as poor as his scrum-half’s). Still playing with plenty of heart now he’s at the other end of the M8.