Edinburgh V Montpellier
Edinburgh made sure of a home quarter-final in the Heineken Champions Cup with a brilliant 19-10 Pool 5 win over French giants Montpellier this evening.
The home side knew that a positive result would see them into the last eight of Europe’s ultimate club rugby competition for the first time since 2012 - and they did it with passion, desire and skill to top the pool with five victories from six.
In front of the biggest crowd to ever to grace a European pool match in Scotland (11, 802), the game got off to cagey start before the home side won a scrum penalty thanks to loosehead prop Pierre Schoeman.
It itself did not get Edinburgh points on the board, but it got them on the front foot.
A couple of minutes later, a scorching break by Duhan van der Merwe up the left wing caused the French side all sorts of bother and won them a penalty off the back of it.
That penalty was kicked to touch and a few minutes later, another was earned. This time stand-off Jaco van der Walt made no mistake and the kick between the posts made it 3-0.
That was in the 12th minute and 120 seconds later No.8 Bill Mata was whipping out his magic offloads again, this one putting birthday boy Blair Kinghorn into a gap.
The now 22-year-old was well marshalled by the French side, but in the 17th minute a second van der Walt penalty made it 6-0.
As a breathless first quarter of the match came and went there was still time for tighthead prop WP Nel to throw a pinpoint pass between his legs, but Montpellier were also finding their feet.
In the 24th minute, second-row Jacques du Plessis burst through towards the Edinburgh try line, but again the French team did not look after the ball - a trait of their early play.
As the half hour mark approached, Edinburgh still had the majority of possession, but they lost key back-row Hamish Watson to injury at that stage with Luke Crosbie coming on to replace him.
The scrum was continuing to go forward for the capital side, and from a scrum penalty in the 31st minute, van der Walt had another chance with the boot.
This effort just slipped wide and soon after Montpellier replaced tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis with Levan Chilachava.
A high tackle by Jacques du Plessis 60 seconds later on Nel gave Edinburgh yet another penalty, van der Walt making no mistake this time for 9-0.
Montpellier did manage to get back into things 15 seconds before the half-time whistle, Jacques du Plessis going over from close range.
After referee JP Doyle had checked with the TMO it was converted by scrum-half Ruan Pienaar and it was 9-7 at the break.
It was the visitors who scored the first points of the second half too, Pienaar kicking a penalty to put them 10-9 up after 48 minutes.
Edinburgh came roaring back though, van der Merwe bouncing defenders off to make good yards and Schoeman carrying well.
A good kick by van der Walt then forced Pienaar to concede a lineout 15 metres out from the Montpellier line.
From the resultant catch and drive, Edinburgh went close to the try line, the French side ending the move illegally.
That gave van der Walt the chance to kick his fourth penalty of the evening and he did so to make it 12-10 in the 56th minute.
That seemed to give Edinburgh renewed energy and six minutes later their first try came.
After the forwards put in the hard yards to go very close on a number of occasions, scrum-half Henry Pyrgos fed winger Darcy Graham who dived in at the corner.
With van der Walt’s conversion it was 19-10 and then with 12 minutes to go of this pulsating clash, Fraser McKenzie replaced Ben Toolis in the second-row.
Edinburgh were doing a great job of nullifying Montpellier’s attacking threat and in the 72nd minute they gave their front-row a well-earned rest when Allan Dell, David Cherry and Simon Berghan took to the field.
The French side knew they needed to score - and quickly - if they were to get anything out of the game.
They tried, oh they tried, but this Edinburgh side were not to be beaten.
And when the ball was kicked dead on the 80-minute mark, the Edinburgh players and supporters were able to breathe and celebrate a famous victory.
Nel, who is back to his superb best this season, was named Heineken Man of the Match as the celebrations began.
And this Champions Cup run is not done yet, onto the quarter-finals we go