Edinburgh’s European Challenge Cup suffered a major dent when they went down 26-20 to an impressive Stade Francais side at Stade Jean Boiun.
However, despite the disappointment of the result, Edinburgh were rewarded for their refusal to give up when they snatched a late bonus-point try that could prove to be crucial as the qualifying places are determined over the next two rounds of fixtures.
The damage was done in the first half, during which the Capital men conceded four tries. To their credit, they performed better in the second period, and there were good individual contributions from Hamish Watson and Tom Brown, as well as useful display off the bench by Viliame Mata, but they left it too late to repeat the second-half fightback that had seen them pip the Frenchmen in the first Pool 5 meeting of the two sides.
Edinburgh remain top of the group for now but, with Harlequins playing Timisoara tomorrow, it is unlikely that they will still be at the head of proceedings beyond the weekend.
Edinburgh were hit by a four-try blitz in the first half as the hosts turned on the style. Stade, with 11 changes from the squad that had lost at BT Murrayfield the previous week, clearly had revenge in mind as they blasted from the blocks.
The result continues a pattern of home wins in matches between the sides on the European stage. They had previously met three times on European duty and the result had gone with the hosts on each of those occasions.
Italian internationalist Sergio Parisse had missed the first match because of suspension, but he was back in a team captained by Pascal Pape, who had been widely ridiculed for his reaction to the slap by Phil Burleigh that earned the Edinburgh centre a red card last weekend.
They bagged their first try in ten minutes when hooker Remi Bonfils powered over after a close-range lineout. Jules Plisson added the conversion.
Edinburgh enjoyed a brief spell in the ascendancy and, after Ben Toolis had made it over the line, only for the score to be chalked off for a double movement, Jason Tovey booted a penalty to open their account.
However, the French outfit were playing most of the rugby and their pace created the platform for Hugo Bonneval to claim a second touchdown. The third was a penalty try after the hosts shunted the Scots backwards at a close range scrum – Simon Berghan earning a yellow card for his part in halting the move. Plisson again converted, as he did following the bonus-point try which was scored by Geoffrey Doumayrou following another scintillating break.
Deep into injury time, the referee sent Stade substitute Sylvain Nicolas to the sin bin and, while he was still serving his time, Edinburgh clawed back five points immediately after the restart.
Cornell Du Preez fed Hamish Watson, who was halted just short, but Fraser McKenzie was on hand to pick up and plunge over. Tovey’s conversion attempt struck a post.
Plisson crossed the line for the hosts but his effort was chalked off for an offence in the build-up. Blair Kinghorn should have cut the deficit further but, having done the hard work by beating three defenders, he had the ball knocked from his grasp while he was in the act of scoring.
Edinburgh’s second try did eventually come. Mata had just entered the fray when he blasted his way over. Tovey converted to haul Edinburgh to within striking distance of securing a narrow defeat bonus point.
And that came with a minute to spare when Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, operating down the left flank, scampered in at the corner. Duncan Weir’s conversion attempt rattled back off a post. There was time for one final attack, but it ended with a spilled ball and any hope of repeating the previous week’s great escape was gone.
Edinburgh acting head coach Duncan Hodge could not his frustration afterwards.
“There was some better stuff than last week in the first half, there was some good bits of play and then the sin bin knocked the stuffing out of us a bit.
“We got a try disallowed, we cost ourselves a try with a two-on-one, so it was just really frustrating.
“We matched them in attack and the defence was really good in the second half as well. We got some speed in the game. We still made a couple of errors but they were a very good side. Coming away with a bonus point, but I’m frustrated.”
Stade Francais: Tries: Bonfils, Bonneval, Penalty, Dumayrou. Cons: Plisson (3)
Edinburgh: Tries: McKenzie, Mata, Hidalgo-Clyne. Conversion: Tovey. Penalty: Tovey.
Stade Francais: H Bonneval; J Sinzelle, G Doumayrou, J Danty, J Raisuqe; J Plisson, C Daguin; E Felsina, (G Melikidze 58), R Bonfils (C Burden 65), R Slimani (Z Zhvania 58) , H Pyle, P Papé (c), J Ross (S Nicolas 35), S Macalou, S Parisse
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Hoyland, M Allen (G Bryce 33), C Dean S Kennedy 65), T Brown (D Weir 48) ; J Tovey, S Hidalgo-Clyne; A Dickinson, R Ford (c), S Berghan, F McKenzie (L Carmichael 57) , B Toolis, C Du Preez, H Watson, N Manu (V Mata 57)
Referee: D Phillips (IRFU)