Delighted Edinburgh Rugby coach Alan Solomons admitted that the stunning 15-13 win in last night’s European Challenge Cup opener over Bordeaux- Begles at Stade Andre-Moga was a triumph against the odds.
Reflecting on the victory, he said: “It was a simply outstanding effort. To play a club that has just smashed Clermont Auvergne and Castres – two of the big clubs in France – by 50 points having travelled after leaving at 5 o’clock in the morning, arriving here at half-past two, then to play the following day and lose your captain after five minutes and get a yellow card with 20 minutes; to go and still come back and win that game, that’s incredible.”
Bordeaux coach Raphael Ibanez took the opportunity to rest several of the players who have delivered a string of outstanding performances over recent weeks but the depth of the squad at his disposal meant that this was still a substantial result for Edinburgh.
Scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne looked sharp in the opening exchanges and he sought to free the men on his outside with slick service, while Phil Burleigh looked handy in the No. 10 shirt although he committed a couple of errors late in the game. But, over the course of the 80 minutes, Edinburgh took a massive step forward, starting cautiously but grinding out a win that was brimming with character.
Their cause was not helped when they lost the services of skipper Mike Coman with an ankle injury in five minutes – Roddy Grant stepping into the breach. The hosts, with international stand-off Lionel Beauxis pulling the strings, offered several glimpses of the pace on the counter attack that has carved open the defences of Clermont Auvergne and Castres Olympique in recent weeks.
However, they too were error prone and the scores were still blank after 19 minutes when Tim Visser plucked a Greig Tonks kick out of the air and looked set to score. But the winger was captured ten metres short and knocked on the tackle.
Edinburgh’s confidence was clearly growing and the visitors repelled several more attacks with relative ease. The deadlock was finally broken in 31 minutes when the Scots offended at a scrum 25 metres from their line and Beauxis steered the kick between the posts.
The same player had an opportunity to double the tally within seconds of the restart but his kick fell just short of the target.
And Edinburgh took full advantage in 45 minutes when Hidalgo-Clyne freed Dougie Fife. He was thwarted just short but Grant Gilchrist and Grant carried on the move before Hidalgo-Clyne fired the ball out to Visser, who dived in at the right hand corner for an unconverted try.
Edinburgh’s lead was brief – home full back Darly Domvu speared through the visitors’ defence and passed inside to Baptiste Serin, the 20-year-old scrum-half who was captaining the side, and he raced over.
Beauxis added the conversion then landed a penalty to extend the lead to eight points. And things got worse for Edinburgh when Burleigh was shown a yellow card for a high tackle. Edinburgh showed real character during his absence and after withstanding an assault on their line they trimmed the deficit when Tom Heathcote stroked over a penalty.
The Welsh referee then sent Jean-Blaise Lespinasse to the sin bin for collapsing a maul and from the ensuing scrum, Edinburgh surged towards to the line. That effort was halted illegally and the referee signalled a penalty try. Nick McLennan’s conversion nudged Edinburgh back into the lead.
An over-vociferous protest by Bordeaux’s Matthew Graham meant he was next to trudge off for ten minutes on the side lines.
The drama continued and with 40 seconds left, Thibault Lacroix launched a drop goal attempt that fell marginally short and left the Capital side celebrating a win few had predicted.
“I felt that we weren’t going to let it go. This team have got tremendous character,” added Solomons who believes the result addresses some of the recent criticism aimed at his men. “The morale in the side has been massively high at all times. Confidence is flowing back into this side. In all the circumstances, to come back and win it is big stuff.”
Bordeaux-Begles: Try – Serin ; Con - Beauxis; Pens – Beauxis (2)
Edinburgh: Tries – Visser, Penalty; Con – McLennan; Pen Heathcote
Bordeaux: D Domvu; C Brousse, (Y Lesgourges 60) F Le Bourhis, T Lacroix, L Blanc; L Beauxis (P Bernard 67), B Serin (Y Lesgourges 56); L Delboulbes (S Taofifenua 58), B Auzqui (C Maynadier 44), B Sa, B Botha (J-B Lespinasse 47), A Jaulhac, M Graham, B Guiry, T Tuifua (M Tauleigne 60).
Subs: Patrick Toetu, Marco Tauleigne, Yann Lesgourges, Pierre Bernard, Romain Lonca.
Edinburgh Rugby: G Tonks (T Heathcote 62); D Fife, S Beard, A Strauss, T Visser; P Burleigh (N McLennan72), S Hidalgo-Clyne (S Kennedy 61); A Dickinson (A Dell 53), R Ford, W Nel, A Bressler (O Atkins 60), G Gilchrist, T Leonardi, H Watson, M Coman (R Grant 6).
Referee: N Hennessey (Wales).