Edinburgh Rugby coach bemoans a job left half done

Edinburgh scrum-half Greig Laidlaw tackles Perpignan centre Sione Piukala. Picture: Raymond Roig (AFP/Getty Images)
Edinburgh scrum-half Greig Laidlaw tackles Perpignan centre Sione Piukala. Picture: Raymond Roig (AFP/Getty Images)
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Edinburgh did their best to replicate their win against Munster last week when they took their Heineken Cup bandwagon to Perpignan – but alas, only for the first half.

A try by Tim Visser put the Capital outfit 7-3 ahead at the interval yesterday and, while that display led Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons to call it “the best they have played all season”, by the end, the result at the Stade Aime Giral was never in doubt – a 31-14 loss.

As he surveyed the wreckage of what might have been, the South African was forced to admit: “We brought it upon ourselves.

“We made errors with a couple of kicks and then we didn’t play to our systems.

“I thought our first 40 minutes were outstanding, and the scoreline certainly flatters Perpignan, but individual and system mistakes cost us. You can’t afford to make errors against a side like Perpignan because they certainly will punish you when you do.”

James Hook was instrumental in the result, as the Welsh international kicked 11 points in what turned out to be another impressive performance by Perpignan.

A brace of second-half tries from Wandile Mjekevu, coupled with touchdowns from Joffrey Michel and Justin Purll gave the French a comfortable margin of victory.

And, while new South African recruit Cornell du Preez crossed in the closing stages, it was merely a consolation for Edinburgh, and a reminder of what might have been perhaps. The result has blown Pool Six wide open, with every team having won once in the opening rounds of the European competition.

Edinburgh face Gloucester in the December double-headers and cannot afford another slip-up if they are to reach the last 16.

They made a bright start at Stade Aime Giral and dominated the opening ten minutes.

A powerful Du Preez break after just two minutes gave Greig Laidlaw the chance to shoot for goal but he was uncharacteristically off-target.

However, Hook, back in his favoured fly-half position, made no mistake to open the scoring on 11 minutes.

Edinburgh continued to cause the hosts problems and they were unfortunate to miss out on a try when Argentinian trialist centre Joaquin Dominguez was adjudged to have had a foot pushed into touch as he dived for the line. The Murrayfield side were eventually rewarded for their dominance in the opening half with some sublime play from Jack Cuthbert, Nick de Luca and Dominguez laying the foundations for Visser to race clear.

Laidlaw made some amends for the earlier miss by slotting the conversion to hand the Scots a slender 7-3 lead at the break, but Perpignan returned an altogether different team following the break.

Hook was at the heart of everything the team nicknamed the Blood and Golds did well and giant wings Watisoni Votu and Mjekevu rampaged out wide.

Where Edinburgh had shackled the hosts in the first half, Perpignan burst through contact and ran riot.

Michel crashed over the whitewash after just three minutes of the second half to put the Catalans in the lead and Hook added the extras.

Within a matter of just four minutes Mjekevu then grabbed the first of his double.

With the usual flow of substitutions the game lost its shape midway through the second half but back-rower Purll got the scoreboard ticking with the hosts’ third try.

Again they struck in quick succession with Mjekevu completing his brace to secure the all-important bonus-point, and Hook stretching his haul to 11.

To their credit, Edinburgh kept attacking to the bitter end and De Luca led the charge in an encouraging performance in both attack and defence.

He just missed out on a deserved try, before Du Preez crashed over at the death for a score which Laidlaw converted.

Hook revealed that a “chat” at half-time had helped turned things around for Perpignan.

“We had been playing into Edinburgh’s hands in the first half,” he said. “They were defending close so we just needed to get the ball out wide to our strike runners.

“We did that following the break with Wandile and Watisoni Votu really coming into the game. They were outstanding in the second half and the two quick tries really helped us and really swung the momentum.”

Scorers:

Perpignan: Tries: Michel, Mjekevu 2, Purll; Cons: Hook 4; Pens: Hook.

Edinburgh: Tries: T. Visser, Du Preez. Cons: Laidlaw 2.

Perpignan: Michel, Votu, Marty, Piukala, Haughton, Hook, Duvenage, Taumalolo, Guirado, Jgenti, Vahaamahina, R. Taofifenua, Purll, Perez, Narraway. Replacements: Mjekevu for Haughton (17), Allan for Hook (65), Durand for Duvenage (55), S. Taofifenua for Taumalolo (54), Terrain for Guirado (17), Pulu for Jgenti (52), Charteris for R. Taofifenua (59), Chateau for Purll (65).

Edinburgh: Cuthbert, Fife, De Luca, Dominquez, T. Visser, Leonard, Laidlaw, Dickinson, Ford, Nel, Gilchrist, Cox, Leonardi, Grant, Du Preez. Replacements: Tonks for Cuthbert (59), Atkins for Leonard (77), Blaauw for Dickinson (55), Cross for Nel (65), van der Westhuizen for Cox (59). Not Used: Lutui, Hidalgo-Clyne, Jones.

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy).