Quarter-Final - Edinburgh v La Rochelle
Edinburgh Rugby were unable to progress to the Challenge Cup semi-finals as tonight’s visitors, La Rochelle, took the spoils with a 33-22 victory in a European thriller at BT Murrayfield.
A poor showing in the opening 35 minutes cost Edinburgh, with the French outfit crossing the line on four occasions to lead 26-7 as the interval fast approached.
A Ross Ford try on the brink of the turn gave Edinburgh some hope as they marched down the tunnel.
The home-side looked inspired in the second-half as Sam Hidalgo-Clyne’s conversion of a Hamish Watson try reduced the gap to seven points after 48 minutes.
A Duncan Weir penalty further reduced the deificit, yet two late successful shots at goal from Brock James saw the visitors re-establish a 10-point lead to which Edinburgh were unable to close.
Errors proved extremely costly for Edinburgh in the opening exchanges as the French TOP 14 leaders showed their clinical edge with two tries from hooker Jeremie Mauroard – both from driving lineout mauls – before the match hit the 12-minute mark.
Stand-off Brock James, who was a late inclusion to the starting side at stand-off, successfully added the extras to give La Rochelle a 12-0 lead after 14 minutes.
Edinburgh seemed to spark into life following Mauroard’s second try and got themselves on the board through centre Phil Burleigh, who danced his way through the La Rochelle defence to score after 19 minutes. Jason Tovey’s impressive touchline strike put Edinburgh well and truly back in the fray (7-12).
Arthur Retiere, the visitors’ scrum-half, was a livewire throughout the game and exhibited his sharpness with an impressive solo try after 24 minutes, sniping from the ruck to expose Edinburgh’s weakened blindside and scuttling up the touchline for his side’s third score (7-19).
The half-back was again to the fore for his side’s fourth try of the night ten minute later. The sparky number nine broke through the centre of a ruck on halfway before finding wing Steeve Barry in support to saunter in under the sticks for the try. James converted (7-26).
Edinburgh faced an uphill battle but Ford’s try on the cusp of the half-time pulled them back into contention. A well-worked set-piece move saw Bill Mata break on the blindside and feed his captain with a wonderfully weighted offload. The hooker duly bumped-off the opposition full-back for the score. Tovey narrowly missed the target with the conversion (12-26).
HALF-TIME: Edinburgh Rugby 12 – 26 La Rochelle
The home-side emerged from the break looking lively and their attacking ambition was rewarded with a score on 49 minutes from Man of the Match, Watson. Mata was again involved in the build-up as he hit a hard line before offloading to his back-row colleague, who cantered over the whitewash to touch down. With Tovey having left the field, Hidalgo-Clyne temporarily took on kicking duties and added the extras (19-26).
La Rochelle looked shaken by Edinburgh’s newly found spark and the pressure was telling when James missed a penalty attempt on 60 minutes.
The momentum was clearly in the favour of the men in black and red as the French side were reduced to 14-men following an off-the-ball hit on Damien Hoyland from replacement Lekso Kashvili.
Weir made no mistake with his chance at goal just four minutes later to take Edinburgh to within four points of the opposition (22-26).
Edinburgh, however, were unable to take advantage of their extra man thereafter and it was the visitors who were next on the board through a James penalty (22-29).
The La Rochelle stand-off was again successful from the kicking-tee a minute from time, effectively sealing the victory for his side and securing a semi-final spot (22-32).
FULL-TIME: Edinburgh Rugby 22 – 32 La Rochelle