London Irish V Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s European Challenge Cup campaign got off to a flying start as Richard Cockerill’s charges secured a bonus-point victory over Aviva Premiership side London Irish.

Although the hosts took an early lead following Theo Brophy Clews’ accurate kick at goal, Edinburgh hit back via a superb finish from winger Damien Hoyland and a brace of tries from eventual man of the match Junior Rasolea. The English side would answer with a close-range score from Ollie Hoskins, but it was Richard Cockerill’s men who held a deserved 20-11 lead at the break.

The hosts were reinvigorated to begin the second-half and at times their expansive style of rugby had Edinburgh on the rocks. Breaks from wingers Topsy Ojo and Cokanasiga would threaten the visitor’s whitewash, but they would eventually have to settle for another penalty from the reliable Brophy Clews. Edinburgh would ring the changes, and for a while it appeared as though they would return north of the border with only four points to their name, however, when Jamie Ritchie powered over late on the bonus-point was secured. A last gasp solo effort from substitute Luke Crosbie only added shine to Edinburgh’s victory as they prepare for a trip to Moscow to take on Krasny Yar next weekend.

The match began in sluggish fashion as both sets of players struggled to hold onto the ball for more than a handful of phases. Edinburgh had the chance to take an early lead when Jason Tovey aimed at goal, but the Welsh stand-off would slice his effort wide. His opposite number would make no such mistake, however, as London Irish grabbed the advantage via the boot of Brophy Clews (3-0). Richard Cockerill’s side responded in emphatic fashion, however, as a series of breaks from Chris Dean and Dougie Fife brought Edinburgh deep inside the hosts’ twenty-two. With phases building, the ball was eventually played wide and when Damien Hoyland found himself in a yard of space out wide, there was no stopping the winger (3-7).

It was to get better for Edinburgh only moments later. Whilst the first try was a score derived from off-the-cuff creativity, the second was straight from the training ground. With the visitors in possession and working slowly towards the Irish try-line, the ball was played slickly though the backline’s hands, bypassing a series of intricate dummy runs. Junior Rasolea was at the end of the move and had the simple task of scampering over the try-line. Although Tovey missed the resulting conversion, Edinburgh held a nine-point lead (3-12).

London Irish would respond well to the score, however, and the English side were soon on the offensive inside the Edinburgh half. After securing a lineout just shy of the visitor’s five-metre line, the exiles worked the ball swiftly over the whitewash as Hoskins was the man at the bottom of the pile. Edinburgh were let slightly off the hook when Brophy Clews missed the simple conversion (8-12).

Following a brilliant break from Glenn Bryce, Edinburgh would extend their lead when Sam Hidalgo-Clyne split the uprights from distance (8-15). The lead was to grow only five minutes later as Rasolea grabbed his second try of the match. After collecting the ball 30 metres from the London Irish try line, the Australian confidently took his opposite number on the outside and with no full-back covering in defence the inside-centre was able to race into the corner for Edinburgh’s third try of the match (8-20). Brophy Clews would add yet another penalty for the exiles (11-20), but it was Edinburgh who held the advantage at the break.

We went in with a strategy to play ball in hand a bit more and to develop our game we have to keep doing that. There was the odd mistake, but we are brave enough to do it again and get the result that bears fruit from that.

Although the hosts would begin the second-half was a newly found energy, Edinburgh scrambled well in defence, and at times their line speed meant the exiles had little time to fathom an attack. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne’s towering box-kicks had the Irish back-three clambering inside their own twenty-two and the Richard Cockerill’s side very nearly took advantage of a handful of spilled balls.

When Brophy Clews hit his third penalty of the afternoon, the hosts narrowed the lead to only six points (14-20), however, Hidalgo Clyne was on hand yet again to answer with a three-pointer of his own (14-23).

With twenty minutes remaining, the two sides wrestled back and forth but clear-cut chances were few and far between. The visitors thought they had rumbled over for yet another push over score, but Edinburgh’s goal line defence was up for the battle at hand. When the hosts’ Conor Gilsenan was sent to the bin, the visitors went for the jugular as Tovey kicked for the corner. With the lineout secured, Edinburgh’s impressive pack rumbled for the line and when Jamie Ritchie broke free, there was no stopping the back-row from touching down (14-30).

The bonus point was secured, but Edinburgh weren’t done just yet. When substitute back-row Luke Crosbie received the ball out wide with no time remaining, it appeared as though the 20-year-old had run out of room. However, with one swift move, Crosbie battered through one oncoming defender, before swatting off another to touch down for the show-stopping score (14-37).

Richard Cockerill was left delighted with his side's performance and said: "To come away from home and get a better performance with ball in hand was important. I was dissapointed with how we played against Zebre last weekend, and I thought we were much better today, certainly in the first-half - three tries that were all well constructed. If we had been a little more accuarate and a bit more ambitious at times we could of probably scored a few more.

We went in with a strategy to play ball in hand a bit more, and to develop our game we have to keep doing that. There was the odd mistake, but we are brave enough to do it again and get the result that bears fruit from that.

We are still working hard and we have a lot to keep working on and get better at, but at least with two wins in two weeks there is something to build on.

live commentary 3:00 PM Saturday 14 Oct 2017

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