Edinburgh 18, London Irish 15: Hardie try grabs victory

John Hardie goes over to score Edinburgh's winning try. Picture: SNS

John Hardie goes over to score Edinburgh's winning try. Picture: SNS

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Edinburgh kept their European Challenge Cup hopes alive last night as they hung on for a tense three-point victory over London Irish.

Wing Tom Brown and Scotland flanker John Hardie were the try scorers as Alan Solomons’ side avenged last weekend’s heavy defeat by the same opponents.

The win means Edinburgh draw level with Irish, who picked up a losing bonus point, on 12 points but remain in third place in Pool 5.

Grenoble move top thanks to their high-scoring win over Agen but, with matches against the two French sides – home to Agen and away to Grenoble – to come in 2016 the Scots, who made it all the way to the final of the competition last season, retain a fighting chance of making the knockout stage.

It wasn’t pretty last night, and there were more injury concerns to arise, but they got the job done and can now look ahead positively to next Sunday’s opening leg of the 1872 Cup double header against Glasgow.

Edinburgh were looking to make amends for a car crash performance in Reading last weekend in which they conceded six tries in a 38-6 rout.

Having prided themselves on a solid defence this season that capitulation had hurt but they were immediately put on the back foot and it was an aggregate try count of 7-0 within ten minutes when visiting hooker Gerard Ellis forced his way over for an unconverted opener.

Edinburgh took that as a wake-up call and steadily began to exert some territorial pressure and matters were soon level when Brown came in from his left-wing berth to collect a cute Hardie off-load and crash over from close range, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne converting.

The Scotland scrum-half stretched the lead out to 10-5 in the 20th minute with a well-struck penalty and, although London Irish skipper Shane Geraghty pegged the lead back to just two points eight minutes later, it was Hidalgo-Clyne who had the last scoring word of an evenly-matched if subdued opening period.

The Exiles put together a testing period of pressure before the half-time whistle, though, and it proved costly as Edinburgh, already down to two fit recognised locks, lost the most experience of their engine-room duo, Anton Bresler, to injury just before the break.

Skipper Mike Coman moved up into second row, with young Jamie Ritchie coming off the bench to slot in at blindside.

Another injury blow became evident when Edinburgh emerged for the second half without Scotland centre Matt Scott, who was replaced by Andries Strauss.

The opening exchanges hinted that a more open affair could threaten to break out, and it was first-half try scorer Brown who made an encouraging incursion into the opposition 22 with a slaloming run but couldn’t get a final pass away.

Irish responded well and took a ten-minute grip on proceedings which ended with substitute Tom Smallbone finishing off a series of threatening drives to the Edinburgh line, Geraghty’s conversion nudging the English side back into the lead.

Edinburgh had an immediate opportunity to get back in front but Hidalgo-Clyne missed a penalty from out on the right.

That prompted a difficult period for the home side as Irish enjoyed a long period of keep-ball, without seriously threatening to breakthrough. The eventual turnover sparked cheers from the BT Murrayfield crowd as Edinburgh finally got on the attack, Hidalgo-Clyne making trademark break to provide the spark. Slick passing saw Damien Hoyland blaze down the right only to be dragged into touch by desperate defence.

The lineout was awarded to Edinburgh and, after safely securing, the break was made and Hardie was there to finish off. Hidalgo-Clyne was again wayward with the boot but it was 18-15 with seven minutes remaining and that proved to be enough.

Scorers: Tries: Brown, Hardie. Pens: Hidalgo-Clyne 2. Cons: Hidalgo-Clyne 1. London Irish: Tries: Ellis, Gilsenan. Pens: Geraghty 1. Cons: Geraghty 1

Edinburgh: G Tonks; D Hoyland, M Allen, M Scott, T Brown; P Burleigh, S Hidalgo-Clyne; R Sutherland, R Ford, WP Nel, A Bresler, A Toolis, M Coman, J Hardie, C Du Preez. Subs: N Cochrane, A Dell, S Berghan, J Ritchie, M Bradbury, S Kennedy, A Strauss, J Cuthbert

London Irish: T Ojo; A Lewington, T Fowlie, J Williams, A Fenby; S Geraghty, D Allinson; T Cour, G Ellis. B Franks, E Sheriff, N Rouse, B Cowan, C Gilsenan, O Treviranus. Subs: J Stevens, T Smallbone, L Halavatau, D Sisi, J Trayfoot, S Steele; C Noakes, F Mulchrone