Edinburgh v London Irish
Edinburgh maintained their 100 per cent record in this season’s European Challenge Cup with a magnificent performance which saw the side run in eight tries and score 50 points in total at a frosty cold BT Murrayfield.
Having already scored 73 points against Krasny Yar in Moscow and 37 against London Irish in the corresponding fixture in Reading, tonight’s haul took Edinburgh’s points total to 160 after only three games played.
It didn’t all go Edinburgh’s way this evening, however. With 30 minutes on the clock, the score read 12-10 and looked to be an affair destined to go to the wire, but Richard Cockerill’s side managed to turn the screw at just the right time. Two quick fire scores on the stroke of half-time from man-of-the-match Phil Burleigh meant that Edinburgh went in at the break with a 16-point advantage and it only got better from there.
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; debutant Darcy Graham and replacements Junior Rasolea and Sean Kennedy would all get in on the act in the second period as Edinburgh hit the half-century. Although London Irish would hit back with a pair of late consolation tries, the hosts would comfortably hold on to record their third bonus-point victory in this year’s competition.
Head coach Richard Cockerill was left satisfied with his side’s performance and said: “It’s a good win. Some good tries, some good passages of play, so all very positive
We’re slowly building our game. I’m a little disappointed around the tries we conceded, but I thought the boys showed some character. When they sat on our line for 10 minutes and we had a scrum fest it was good to see we found a way out of it.
“We're trying to encourage the lads to just play and I think we're doing that well,” he added. “We're developing our game well, but as ever, I think there's a lot of areas in which we can improve upon."
With only one league win on the season so far, London Irish came into tonight’s clash devoid of confidence – but it was the exiles who started the brightest. A neat series of drives inside the Edinburgh twenty-two resulted in a penalty which stand-off Tommy Bell stroked home with aplomb (0-3).
Richard Cockerill’s side would soon rally and very quickly scored the evening’s first try. Following a rolling maul just shy of the exiles’ try-line, the ball spilled to Stuart McInally who powered over from short yardage to give his side the lead (5-3).
It was the hooker’s fourth try on BT Murrayfield’s hallowed turf in as many weeks having enjoyed a successful Autumn Tests campaign with the national side. And Edinburgh would soon channel Scotland’s heroics to further extend their lead.
Following a period scrappy play, the ball eventually broke to Blair Kinghorn, who showed a wicked turn of pace to round his opposite man. With the exiles defense bearing down, the rangy full-back executed a neat chip before diving on the ball just shy of the dead ball line (12-3).
London Irish would hit back of a try of their own only moments later. A tidy passage of play down the touchline resulted in the ball bouncing perfectly into the hands of Ben Ransom who scampered over from 10 metres out (12-10).
Despite the setback, there was no apprehension in Edinburgh’s desire to attack and on the stroke of half-time, eventual man-of-the-match Phil Burleigh showcased the type of skill which saw him capped for Scotland in last month’s Autumn Tests.
His first try – a wicked dummy which fooled the exiles defence – lit the fire in Edinburgh’s back-line attack (17-10). Whilst his second capped off a sumptuous sweeping move involving Chris Dean and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (26-10).
At the half, Edinburgh held a sizeable lead.
With both sides struggling to maintain possession, the opening minutes of the second-half evolved into a power struggle. However, Edinburgh’s persistence would pay-off as Sam Hidalgo-Clyne raced into the corner for his side’s fifth try of the night (31-10). It was the scrum-half’s fifth try in three games and it arrived at just the right time.
With Edinburgh’s tails up, their potent back-line smelt blood. Wing Darcy Graham – who was making his competitive debut for the club – had few sniffs of the ball all evening, but exhibited the type of sharpness which saw him named in the Dubai 7s team of the tournament. With the ball bouncing roguishly towards the corner flag, the 20-year-old acrobatically pinned the ball down – much to the delight of his trailing teammates (36-10).
Although Edinburgh would continue to press, their dominance up-front wasn’t resulting in clear-cut chances. But, with ten minutes remaining, Richard Cockerill’s side would provide the coup-de-grace in the form of two late tries.
Replacement Junior Rasolea would dive on a loose ball for his side’s seventh try of the night (43-10), before Sean Kennedy – making his first appearance since featuring in last season’s 1872 Cup away leg victory – caught a fortuitous bounce to bring his side’s total to 50