For the second week in succession, Edinburgh Rugby coach Alan Solomons was full of praise for the work of his pack as the Capital men shrugged off wind and rain to post an impressive win away to an Agen side that posed a decent test but rarely looked likely to upset the visitors.
“Again, in weather conditions like this, our forward pack laid the foundation, our scrum was outstanding and some of the mauling was outstanding. So well done to Stevie (Scott), the forwards coach and the pack,” said Solomons. “We also did well at the lineout, which is absolutely vital in these conditions.”
Edinburgh launched last season’s run to the final with two successive wins over French opposition and this year’s campaign is in an equally healthy state with last night’s victory coming seven days after beating Grenoble at BT Murrayfield.
The mood before kick-off at Stade Armandie was understandably subdued, but, although chastened by the events of the previous week, the players quickly turned their focus to the task at hand.
“They were prepared for it because Agen had advised us well in advance. Everybody is supportive of France at this terrible time,” said Solomons.
And, after taking time to settle, the visitors produced a solid performance that featured significant contributions by Matt Scott and John Hardie who, in only his second match, again underlined his attributes at the breakdown and in open play. Scott had been pinpointed as a ‘menace’ in the hosts’ pre-match briefing notes and he lived up to both English and French meanings of the word.
Solomons’ men suffered an early blow when Anton Bresler was helped from the field. Then, despite playing into a strong wind and driving rain, the home side had a spell in the ascendancy but failed to capitalise on two penalties kicked into touch.
The first scoring opportunity came the way of Edinburgh in the form of a penalty which Greig Tonks steered between the sticks to break the deadlock. The Edinburgh stand-off added another three points a couple of minutes later when the hosts offended in front of their posts.
The Capital men were soon back on the offensive and camped in the opposition 22.
With the pack dominating the home eight in the scrum, they opted for the set piece with the next penalty award. Agen thwarted the Edinburgh drive illegally yielding another penalty which ended in similar fashion. And, after four occurrences, the referee ran between the posts to signal a penalty try. Tonks converted to extend the lead to 13 points.
However, despite continuing to press, the visitors failed to add to their points haul before the break. The question at that stage was whether the Frenchmen could harness the elements in the second period to engineer a fightback.
Edinburgh restarted in a manner that suggested the answer was negative as they added another seven points. Matt Scott was the architect, powering through the defence then feeding Cornell Du Preez who fell backwards over the line but managed to touch down. Tonks was again on target with the kick.
Solomons had also been of the belief that the margin may not be sufficient to see out the job, saying: “I thought conditions were difficult, we lost the toss and played with the wind in the first half – and I was worried that 13-0 may not have been enough at half-time, so I was glad we got that try right after the break.”
Agen opened their account with a penalty by skipper Clement Darbo in 50 minutes and he repeated the success five minutes later.
However, Edinburgh were soon back on the attack and again it was Scott who raced towards the whitewash. He was collared just short and the move foundered when the wet ball slipped from Tom Brown’s grasp.
With ten minutes to play, Edinburgh gave themselves a chance of securing the bonus point when a penalty was kicked into touch then, when the resulting lineout was driven over, Hardie applied the final touch and Tonks converted. However, Edinburgh despite their best efforts, were unable to garner a fourth try.
“Coming away to France and getting a win is big, it is important for us. We are happy with two our of two and our position in the Challenge Cup,” added Solomons. “To come away and win and to put out a good performance like that under difficult conditions, that is good and good for the confidence of the team.”
SU Agen: F Tardieu, L Tagotago (B Sicart 57), P Fouyssac, J Heriteau, F Nakosi, F Bouvier (T Guillimin 62), C Darbo (B Cadiou), Q Bethune (V Afatia 40), M Barthomeuf (F Dufour 60), N Chocou (D Ryan 40), J-B Roidot, L Bastien (F Vergnon 58), S Tau, A Miquel, M Baget (C Braendlin 58)
Edinburgh Rugby: D Fife (B Kinghorn 73), T Brown, W Helu (C Dean 73), M Scott, O Katoa, G Tonks, S Kennedy (N Fowles 65), A Dickinson (R Sutherland 65), R Ford (N Cochrane 67), WP Nel (S Berghan 67), A Bresler (A Toolis 2), F McKenzie, N Manu (J Ritchie 71), J Hardie, C Du Preez
Referee: P Fitzgibbon (IRFU)
Scorers: Agen – Penalties – Darbo (2). Edinburgh – Tries – Penalty, Du Preez, Hardie. Cons – Tonks (3). Penalties – Tonks (2)