Simon Cross on Edinburgh's Meadowbank miracle
Former Edinburgh captain Simon Cross has played in some superb arenas during his stellar rugby career, but a frosty December day at a proper old school ground in the shape of Meadowbank will always hold special memories for him.
It was December 2003 and the capital side were taking on French giants Toulouse in the first Pool Two match of the Heineken Cup.
The star-studded visitors started the day as understandably firm favourites, but back-row Cross saw signs early on that Edinburgh might just want this one more than their illustrious opposition.
“I remember walking out to warm-up and it was one of those crisp December mornings - how the pitch wasn’t frozen I’ll never know -and as I walked back to the changing rooms at one point I just saw Emile Ntamack and Fabien Pelous coming out and they were shaking their heads,” Cross, a former club captain who is now 38, recounts.
“They just looked like they were very cold and didn’t quite fancy it and I just got a feeling then and there that we could beat them.
“As it was we played some cracking stuff that day and it gave us great momentum going into the rest of the competition. We had not been expected to get that result and I think it made a few people sit up and take note.”
Edinburgh looked in trouble in the early stages of the encounter when they were seven points down at half-time, but they came out fired up after the interval and tries from Nathan Hines and Scott Murray got them right back into the fiery contest.
Toulouse reacted to Edinburgh's scores with a typical French show of strength, Frederic Michalak sending Yannick Jauzion over for the try.
The teams swapped penalties, but Edinburgh held out for a famous 23-16 win as a Brendan Laney try added the icing on the cake.
“The boost that gave us was brilliant and we continued along the way to win our next four pool matches quit comfortably home and away against Leeds Tykes and Neath-Swansea Ospreys,” Cross said.
“We then had to go to Toulouse for the final pool game and to be fair that day they were on form and they defeated us pretty well [33-0] with Christian Labit on fire.
“They had a team of superstars at the time, but we were growing as a team and it meant that when we were drawn to go back there in the quarter-finals we knew we had a chance.”
In the last eight tie in April 2004 Toulouse were a different beat entirely and came out of the blocks flying and that man Labit grabbing an early try.
However, Edinburgh kept themselves in the fight and at half-time were just 10-7 down with Marcus Di Rollo having bagged a try.
“At the break, all the chat was positive, but in the second half their big players really showed up and took things away from us,” Cross said of the 36-10 defeat in the Stade Mayol in front of 36,500 supporters.
“We obviously wanted to go further, but I have some great memories of that run and of that team and I think we had a real team spirit and work ethic that Richard Cockerill has instilled in the current side.”
Cross, busy working away as the head of rugby at RGS Worcester, has been keeping a close eye on Edinburgh’s current crop from afar and he is looking forward to them taking on Munster in the Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Final on March 30 at BT Murrayfield.
He said: “Cockers has come in and has done a great job. He has created a side that are hard to beat and have some flair players in their ranks as well and Munster will not be fancying heading over to Edinburgh for that big upcoming game.”