An injury time penalty broke Edinburgh Rugby hearts at the Greenyards today as Leicester Tigers snatched an 11-10 win with the last kick of the game.
The evenly contested encounter was ultimately decided by replacement scrum-half David Mele’s crucial kick, deep into over-time, as the visitors snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Despite the final result there was, however, much to be said for the intensity and intent showcased by the men in black, as they fronted up admirably to one of the top, and most physical sides, in European rugby.
Leicester enjoyed the better of the possession in the opening exchanges, though Edinburgh’s defensive organisation halted any early attempts to make a breakthrough.
Leicester’s patience paid off however, as the imposing tighthead prop, Logovi’i Mulipola, battered over the line in the tenth minute.
Freddie Burns missed the resulting conversion (0-5).
Edinburgh then sparked into action, scrum-half Sean Kennedy picking the ball up from his toes to kick-start the offensive.
The hosts began to threaten, and almost broke clear, with a line break from debutant full-back Nick McLennan, who exploited a gap in the Leicester defence, only for the attack to be halted by a knocked-on offload.
Among the eight Edinburgh Rugby debutants were Rory Sutherland and John Andress starting in the front-row alongside captain and hooker Ross Ford.
Both Players impressed throughout in the scrum and soon had the Leicester pack scrum back-pedaling.
The result was a penalty awarded to the hosts, though stand-off Greig Tonks’ attempt on goal sailed just past the posts.
Leicester then extended their lead to 8-0 after quarter of an hour, as stand-off Freddie Burns struck a penalty through the sticks.
Edinburgh then began to turn their defensive tenacity into attack.
Working the ball through the backs, Tonks rejoined the line in the visitor's 22 to zip a miss-pass to wing Dougie Fife, only for the ball to be intercepted by offside winger Vereniki Goneva.
Edinburgh opted for the five metre lineout and were soon rewarded for their intent, as the pack drove a maul over the whitewash, allowing blind-side flanker Roddy Grant to touch down.
Tonks’ added the conversion to put his men into the dressing room just a point adrift.
Looking to make the most of an extended, 28-man squad, head coach Alan Solomons made six changes for the second-half.
The changes brought added life to the game as replacement scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne made an immediate impact in place of the already impressive Kennedy; fine footwork and assured kicking penned the visitors into their 22.
As the half wore on the sides stood toe-to-toe in an intense and physical encounter.
It was then, with ten minutes on the clock, that replacement stand-off, Tom Heathcoate, successfully goaled a penalty to give Edinburgh Rugby the lead for the first time (10-8).
The intensity of the game continued to ramp up as the Englishmen searched for a late score.
Edinburgh remained resolute in defence and looked certain to see the game out until the visitors earned an injury-time scrum penalty on the hosts’ 22.
Mele then stepped up and slotted the kick through the posts with the last kick of the match to give Leicester a dramatic 11-10 win.
Edinburgh Rugby: 15 Nick McLennan; 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Tim Visser; 10 Greig Tonks, 9 Sean Kennedy; 1 Rory Sutherland, 2 Ross Ford CAPTAIN, 3 John Andress, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 5 Ollie Atkins, 6 Roddy Grant, 7 Hamish Watson, 8 Cornell Du Preez. Substitutes: 16 James Hilterbrand on for Ford, 17 Simon Berghan on for Andress (40’), 18 Ben Toolis on for McKenzie, 19 Alex Toolis on for Atkins, 20 Jamie Ritchie on for Grant, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne on for Kennedy (40’), 22 Tom Heathcote on for Tonks (40’), 23 Sam Beard on for Strauss (40’), 24 Joaquin Dominguez on for Dean (20’), 25 Brett Thompson on for Visser (40’), 26 Damien Hoyland, 27 Carl Bezuidenhout on for McLennan (40’) then off for Tonks.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Niall Morris; 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Seeremaia Bai, 11 Vereniki Goneva; 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Aniseko Sio, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 3 Logovi’I Mulipola, 4 Sebastian de Chaves, 5 Geoff Parling, 6 Tom Croft, 7 7 Julian Salvi, 8 Robert Barbieri. Substitutes: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Riccardo Brugnara, 18 Fraser Balman, 19 Wells, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 David Mele, 22 Javiah Pole, 23 Rhys Williams, 1 Tom Bristo, 2 Neil Briggs, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, Will Owen, Ed Milne, Sam Harrison.