Edinburgh’s Heineken hopes kept alive at Gloucester

Ben Atiga of  Edinburgh is congratulated by team mates after scoring his try during (Getty Images)
Ben Atiga of Edinburgh is congratulated by team mates after scoring his try during (Getty Images)
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Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons must have allowed himself a wry smile after his side’s 16-10 win over Gloucester at Kingholm.

There had been a few raised eyebrows in the run-up to yesterday’s Heineken Cup Group Six match after he opted to rest a number of key players, including Scotland international trio Greig Laidlaw, Nick De Luca and David Denton, but it appears his decision paid off handsomely.

“We felt that we let ourselves down last week and we were determined to put things right this weekend. The players must take full credit,” Solomons said.

“Defensively, we were superb and the guys that came in all did justice to themselves. I believe we set the record straight with our performance.

“Wins on the road are not easy. Gloucester is a famous English club and Kingsholm has a tremendous reputation. We spoke about playing with character, courage and heart and the players certainly did that. We are pleased that we are back in the frame. That is really positive.”

Concern over Autumn Tests burn-out had played a part in his line-up decision. “I felt that they just had to have a break. The players who came in would be fresh. It was a win-win situation for all individuals and the team and fortunately it has turned out that way.”

Edinburgh had lost nine of their previous ten games on the European stage, but centre Ben Atiga’s second-half try and 11 points from the boot of full-back Jack Cuthbert left Gloucester reeling.

The Kingholm side’s hopes of reaching the Heineken Cup quarter-final hopes were thus left hanging by a thread. Gloucester’s erratic Aviva Premiership form surfaced at exactly the wrong time on a European stage as they struggled to subdue an Edinburgh outfit high on commitment and endeavour.

Gloucester claimed a 35th-minute penalty try converted by fly-half Freddie Burns, who also kicked a penalty, but they could have few complaints over the loss as Edinburgh posted a first Heineken away win since they toppled Racing Metro in January 2012.

Edinburgh made a composed start in miserable conditions, despite finding themselves under early scrum pressure, and former Bath back Cuthbert opened their account with a ninth-minute penalty.

Cuthbert then extended Edinburgh’s advantage thanks to a long-range penalty that went over after bouncing off the crossbar before Burns 
departed for treatment to a facial cut that required stitches.

Referee Romain Poite warned rival hookers Darren Dawidiuk and Ross Ford in an attempt to resolve scrummaging difficulties on both sides, and Gloucester finally opened their account five minutes before half-time.

The home forwards relentlessly drove a maul from just inside Edinburgh’s 22, and after the visitors threw bodies in to try to illegally halt it, Poite awarded a penalty try.

Burns added the conversion, but Edinburgh had enough time to regain an advantage as another Cuthbert penalty completed his penalty hat-trick and gave the Scots a 9-7 lead.

Edinburgh then stunned Gloucester with a 50th-minute try after a Burns penalty had edged his team in front. A passage of quick ball allowed a simple score for Atiga.

Edinburgh prop Willem Nel received a yellow card after Poite’s patience ran out at scrum time, and Gloucester immediately surged upfield.

Temporarily a man down, Edinburgh were forced into a defensive rearguard, but they survived as Gloucester’s attacking deficiencies were exposed. and Poite’s penalty count against them mounted.

“It is very frustrating that we couldn’t back our performance up from last weekend,” Gloucester rugby director Nigel Davies said. “We didn’t manage the game at all well. Conditions dictated that you had to play in a certain way, and we got it badly wrong. Our discipline let us down as well, and it fed Edinburgh. They played the conditions better than us.”