Edinburgh suffer late Semi-Final defeat

The dreams of a first-ever Guinness PRO14 final were dashed on Saturday night as Ulster's Ian Madigan snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with an 80th minute walk off winner.

In a heartbreaking loss, Edinburgh had shot out to an early lead with tries from Scotland stars Stuart McInally and Darcy Graham, however the visitors fought back with second-half scores from Rob Lyttle and Rob Herring.

The hosts looked to be on their way to Dublin when Chris Dean powered over with 20 minutes remaining to stretch the score further, however when John Andrew bruised over late on, the score was levelled 19-19.

Then - with the clock in red - Edinburgh were penalised inside their own half and up stepped Madigan to calmly slot home the winner for the Belfast side.

It was a scrum-filled opening 10 minutes, as both sides struggled to gain footing amidst continuous collapses. After gaining possession through a penalty against Ulster prop Eric O’Sullivan, the capital side were looking a lot more comfortable on the ball than they had in the previous week’s fixture, playing with a lot more energy and creativity.

An extended period of possession allowed Edinburgh to gain ground through a barrage of attacking play – and as the phases continued to build, the Ulster defensive line would finally give way.

Skipper Stuart McInally was the man to take the spoils, as he spotted the gap following a maul, shrugging off his tackler and crashing down on the whitewash for his first try of the season – and the first of the match. (5-0)

The game was victim to a similar period of scoreless play as the previous week's 1872 Cup fixture, albeit with a much more inspired and entertaining brand of rugby on display. Ulster weren’t taking Edinburgh’s lead lying down, and a worrying period of play brought them to within metres of the try-line but the home side’s defensive line held strong, with relentless pressure keeping the opposition at bay, and the score-line untouched.

Edinburgh themselves were looking energised, and hungry for another try. This almost came in the final seconds of the first half, when Chris Dean burst away deep into opposition territory.

The score looked almost inevitable were it not for a last-gasp tackle, which brought Dean down before he could find the offload. Although only 5-0 at the break, the game certainly didn’t feel like it – with both sides offering no quarter in a lively and compelling, but tense and tightly-contested affair.

This appetite for points carried through to the second half, with McInally once again leading the charge. Brought down metres from the line, a series of pick-and-gos culminated in Nic Groom finding Jaco van der Walt, who led the defenders his way before popping the ball over to the waiting Darcy Graham who raced over for Edinburgh’s second try. Van der Walt was quick to add the extras to put some distance between the scores. (12-0)

The game really kicked into gear from here on out, as Ulster looked to liven their attacks with risky long passes and precise runs into the half. These opportunities eventually paid off as Rob Lyttle received the ball out wide and skipped his way past his marker, running in Ulster’s first try. The conversion from Billy Burns put the score at 12-7 and brought Ulster right back into contention.

Edinburgh hit back straight away though, as intense pressure from phase play led to an outstanding break from Hamish Watson. The forward fought his way through numerous outstretched arms before finding Chris Dean, who was left to simply run in and put five more points – shortly increased to seven courtesy of the boot of van der Walt. (19-7)

Ulster’s determination and drive was admirable though, as they responded immediately through a Rob Herring try, after the hooker spun away from a short side maul to crash down, making it 19-12.

Both sides were throwing everything they had at each other for the last 20 minutes in a desperate attempt to put the game to bed. It would take till the 74th minute before Ulster were the successful side in their bombardment of the Edinburgh try-line as John Andrew found his way through a mess of bodies to touch down. The pressure was on Ian Madigan, who slotted the conversion to make it all square at 19-19 with just five minutes to go.

There was just one minute left on the clock, when a penalty was called in Ulster’s favour. Ian Madigan was the man who stepped up to take it, sealing Edinburgh’s fate, and bringing the curtain down on a truly astounding but heartrending semi-final – the score at the death 19-22.

live commentary 7:35 PM Saturday 5 Sep 2020

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Kick-off 7:35 PM

Edinburgh

Ulster

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