Edinburgh v Francais
Edinburgh made it five wins from five in this season’s European Challenge Cup as Junior Rasolea’s dramatic 78th minute winner sealed a one point victory over the tournament’s current Champions and traditional European powerhouse, Stade Francais.
The win means Edinburgh progress into the knockout stages with one game to spare, whilst it also guarantees the club a highly anticipated home quarter-final.
Despite his side leaving it late, Edinburgh Head Coach Richard Cockerill was left delighted with his side’s gutsy performance and said: “I thought we played some good rugby tonight against a really good side, and I think we learnt a lesson tonight that we need to manage the game a bit better.
“We played ourselves into a bit of trouble at times, but it’s a great game to win. Stade Francais turned up tonight, picked a good team and looked like they meant business. We can play a lot better, but I’m so pleased with the result. To go behind three times and to come back into it was brilliant to see.
“I’m delighted for the players that they kept their composure, got themselves a foothold back into the game and created opportunities to win the match. Credit to them as they’ve worked incredibly hard and fully deserved it. We showed great character.
“I know we’ve got more to give, but, it’s a win and we’ve got a home quarter-final.”
It was the visitors Stade who showed the early impetus. The Parisians had arrived at BT Murrayfield with a near full-strength side and their quality and sheer physicality shone brightly in the opening stages of the match.
Despite the visitors controlling the early possession, it was Edinburgh who took the lead when Sam Hidalgo-Clyne slotted home a lengthy penalty.
With Chris Dean dropping out the starting XV after pulling up in the pre-game warm-ups, it was replacement Junior Rasolea got the nod in the centre – and the former Super Rugby star was a threat from the get-go.
With a handful of powerful midfield runs, the Australian centre had Stade on the back foot. But, not for long, as the visitor’s Jules Plisson nudged over a penalty of his own to level proceedings.
Hidalgo-Clyne and Plisson would swap penalties moments later as both sides struggled to keep their discipline at both the breakdown and at set-piece. However, Edinburgh would soon display the type of backline quality that has seen them score over 200 points so far in this season’s European competition.
With Damien Hoyland and the electric Blair Kinghorn both showing flashes of brilliance, Hidalgo-Clyne – who ended the match with a 100% kicking record – nailed a further two penalties to give Edinburgh a 12-6 lead at the break.
Desperate not to lose, the Parisians returned the field of play with a clear point to prove, and their willingness to compete in every facet of the game had them on top only minutes into the second half.
Firstly, a penalty from the uber-accurate Plisson brought the visitors to within three points, before a darting try from the impressive Sekou Macalou shifted the game’s momentum completely.
Not to be denied, however, Edinburgh answered with a beautifully taken solo score of their own. As the Parisians overthrew their own lineout just metres shy of halfway, the ever aware, and eventual Heineken Man of the Match, Hamish Watson pounced on the loose ball before trucking 30 metres for the try.
It was a brilliant score, and one that was desperately needed. Plisson would once again slot home a penalty, before the visitors showed great determination to score once again. Vuidravuwalu Waisea was the man who finished off the midfield break. Edinburgh were on the rocks.
With the crowd now growing into the match and making their support shown, Edinburgh worked the ball slowly but surely into Stade territory. With gaps appearing in the visitor’s defence, Van der Walt would take advantage. The stand off, who’s distribution had been a revelation all match, threw a wicked dummy before gliding over from 20 metres out.
The momentum was now with Edinburgh, and when Van der Walt nailed a straightforward penalty, his side held a one point lead. Stade had shown all match that they weren’t going down without a fight, however, and with ten minutes to play, their replacement hooker Craig Burden barrelled over from short yardage to give the Parisians a six-point advantage.
With the wind out their sails, and on the verge of their first European loss of the season, Edinburgh rallied. Captain Stuart McInally – a willing carrier all night – urged his side forward and when the referee penalised the visitors, Kinghorn would kick to the corner.
With one last heave needed, Edinburgh pushed for the whitewash. And when Hoyland hit a neat chip over the top of the advancing Stade defence, the ball bounced perfectly into the hands of Rasolea, who dotted down to secure his side safe passage into the European Challenge Cup quarter finals