Montpellier V Edinburgh
Despite a courageous second-half showing, which saw Richard Cockerill’s side push Top 14 powerhouse Montpellier to the final whistle, Edinburgh’s 2018/19 Champions Cup campaign started in defeat at the GGL stadium this afternoon.
Edinburgh do, however, leave Montpellier with a hard-earned point after a well worked second-half try from Dougie Fife made it just a six-point game. And the capital side had chances to win it. Magnus Bradbury would have all but put Edinburgh in front had his late try not been chalked off for an unfortunate case of accidental offside.
Edinburgh now must regroup with Montpellier’s league opponents, Toulon, the visitors to BT Murrayfield in a week’s time and Richard Cockerill is looking forward to the occasion.
The Head Coach felt his side could feel proud of their performance and believed they were perhaps unlucky not to take all the points on offer.
“We talked at half-time about staying in the game, and we did when we had all the pressure,” said Cockerill.
“I’m very proud of the performance but we can play better. One thing that hasn’t been spoken about this Edinburgh team is that it’s never had a real steel about it, and this team has got a steel about it.
“The boys stuck in there and worked so hard defensively. They’re so big and they carry so hard. It takes a lot out of you, and when you run into them it takes a lot out of you, because they hit you harder than the normal PRO14 teams.
“So, we’ve got some devil about us and we want to play and we want to win. We’ve got good competition in the squad and today showed that.”
With only three changes to Edinburgh’s starting XV prior to kick-off, the capital side fielded a combative side in their first Heineken Champions Cup fixture in four years.
And Cockerill felt his side did well to stay in the battle after trailing 21-7 late in the first-half.
“I thought the players did exceptionally well today. They could’ve capitulated when it was going against them and they could’ve waved the white flag, but as you know now, the new Edinburgh doesn’t accept that and in the end, we’re so disappointed.
“We take a bonus point. Toulon won’t look forward to coming to us next week if we play like that.”
Edinburgh’s return to the Heineken Champions Cup was kicked-off by Ruan Pienaar, just one of the stellar names that litter the Montpellier squad, and was collected by a man at the other end of his career, Darcy Graham, with just seven appearances to his name before today.
The visitors gave as much as they got in the opening skirmishes – the forwards making big hits whilst the back put in some bold runs. But it only took until the seventh minute for the hosts to batter over the line, Pienaar’s fancy footwork opening up the necessary space for fullback Henry Immelman to carve through. Pienaar converted. 7-0.
Edinburgh battled back immediately, however, and scored a try that will undoubtedly be remembered by the handful of Edinburgh supporters at the GGL Stadium. An outrageous offload from Bill Mata opened up space for Simon Hickey, who eventually passed to Henry Pyrgos.
When the scrum-half was dragged down only inches from the Montpellier whitewash, it appeared the chance was gone, but captain Stuart McInally was on hand to dive over to level proceedings.
Montpellier would soon show their class however and when wingers Benjamin Fall and Ngandebe both crossed the whitewash in the space of five minutes the Frenchmen led 21-7. However, Hickey would slot home a raking penalty to make it 21-10 at the half.
Edinburgh started the second-half with a bang and when the hosts’ Bismarck du Plessis was sent to the bin the capital side soon capatalised. When Ben Toolis broke free through the Montpellier midfield, the ball eventually broke to Fife, who crashed over out wide.
With the match in the balance, Edinburgh pushed for the go ahead score, and had the referee not spotted an accidental offside in the build-up, Bradbury would have given the capital side the lead.
But, it wasn’t to be, and as Montpellier disrupted a last-gasp backline move, Edinburgh were left wondering what could have been