Edinburgh RUGBY coach Michael Bradley hailed the never-say-die attitude of his men after they preserved their hopes of booking a spot in the knockout phase of the Heineken Cup with a performance brimming with character in Paris last night, beating Racing Metro 27-24.
“I am absolutely thrilled and delighted to get another fantastic Heineken cup win,” said a beaming Bradley. “It was another exhausting 80 minutes and I am very proud of the boys’ performance.”
Few who witnessed the epic first meeting at Murrayfield believed they would ever see a repeat. But the pair came desperately close to a reprise at Stade Yves Du Manoir in an engrossing encounter. Over 160 scintillating minutes, the duo chalked up a combined tally of 146 points, with Edinburgh edging the “aggregate” by a mere four.
But that was sufficient to leave Bradley’s men with their destiny in their own hands. The Irishman is now relishing the clash with London Irish at Murrayfield a week tomorrow, adding: “Next week is another huge game and I hope that all of Scotland will come out to join us for that one.”
Racing Metro coach Pierre Berbizier has come under growing pressure as a result of the Parisian outfit’s indifferent form this season. So, while their chances of progressing to the latter stages of the competition were slim to non-existent, there was never any chance of anything but a wholehearted effort from the hosts.
Their determination to carry the game to the Scots was evident from the outset. Local hero Sebastien Chabal was conspicuous in the opening minutes with a couple of thundering runs, and he came close to opening his side’s account in four minutes, knocking on over the line.
Francois Steyn was awry with a long-range penalty attempt, and Greig Laidlaw was off the mark with a similar effort as Edinburgh began to play more of the game in opposition territory. And Bradley’s men made the breakthrough in 17 minutes when Laidlaw threw out a perfectly weighted pass to Ross Rennie, and the flanker bounced off two defenders then darted through a gaping hole in the Racing defence to touch down and leave Laidlaw a simple conversion.
Stung into action by that effort, the hosts responded with another powerful run, this time by Andrea lo Cicero, with the recycled ball worked to Fabrice Estebanez who sucked in two defenders then freed Steyn to race in before adding the conversion to restore parity.
That situation prevailed for six minutes before Netani Talei – who was later named man of the match – displayed his big game temperament to power past Francois Van Der Merwe and stretch over the whitewash to restore a lead which grew to seven points when Laidlaw slotted the conversion.
The hosts looked capable of cutting loose from all areas of the pitch and ended the half with a string of attacks which all foundered on errors.
And within two minutes of the restart, Racing were back on level terms after full back Juan Imhoff, who had had an error strewn first half made no mistake when he pounced on the edge of the Edinburgh half and galloped down the flank, outpacing Chris Paterson to touch down. Steyn’s conversion again squared matters.
Once again, the response came in kind. Another ball spilled by the Frenchmen offered a chance for Bradley’s men to counter attack and the ball reached Dave Denton just inside opposition territory. The flanker completed a full house for the Edinburgh back row when he blazed past two defenders and angled his run perfectly to touch down, Laidlaw again adding the extras.
But, like a prize fighter refusing to buckle as the teams slugged it out, Racing again responded with another hefty blow. This time Julien Saubade did the spadework for Antoine Battut and Sebastien Descons assumed the kicking responsibilities to haul his side back onto level terms for a third time.
Steyn came close with a penalty from inside his own half, before Racing took the lead for the first time when Jonathan Wisniewski made no mistake from close range after Paterson had been penalised for holding on in the tackle. However, again, the riposte was constant, Laidlaw banging over a mighty kick.
Wisniewski was wide of the mark with what proved to be the Parisians’ final opportunity to win the match. And it was Edinburgh who finished the stronger of two battle weary sides and, snatched a dramatic victory when Phil Godman slotted a drop goal with the final play of the match.
Scorers: Racing Metro 92: Tries – Steyn, Imhoff, Battut. Cons – Steyn (2), Descons. Pen – Wisniewski. Edinburgh: Try – Rennie. Talei, Denton. Cons – Laidlaw (3). Drop Goal – Godman
Racing Metro 92: Imhoff, Vakatawa (Vaquin 75), Steyn, Estebanez, Saubade; Hernandez (Wisniewski 56), Descons (Loree 71), Lo Cicero, Arganese (Bianchin 65), Orlandi (Sa 50), Nallet [capt], Van Der Merwe, Leo’o, Batut, Chabal (Le Roux65)
Edinburgh Rugby: Paterson (Brown 70), Jones, De Luca, Scott, Visser, Laidlaw [capt], Blair (odman 67), Jacobsen, Ford, Cross (Glding 67), Gilchrist, Cox, Denton, Rennie (Grant 48), Talei
Referee: D Pearson (RFU)