Edinburgh fell heartbreakingly short in their bid for historic European glory as their former skipper Greig Laidlaw kicked Gloucester to the Challenge Cup trophy at Twickenham Stoop.
Alan Solomons’ side were always chasing the game and, despite a spirited late rally which had a vocal Edinburgh support believing victory could be snatched, it was not to be.
After all the hype surrounding the scrum-half battle between Laidlaw and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, it was the Scotland skipper who took the spoils with a controlled display behind a dominant pack and a near faultless kicking display - plundering 14 points in the Gloucester total. Ross Ford scored Edinburgh’s try in the 66th minute following a red card for Gloucester’s centre Bill Meakes following an off-the-ball clobbering of Hidalgo-Clyne. That brought Edinburgh to within a converted score of victory. But Laidlaw had the final say.
Edinburgh got off the perfect opening as their forwards made an aggressive start and forced the English side into a second-minute penalty, which Hidalgo-Clyne nailed from almost 40 yards.
There then followed a breathless period of play as Gloucester hit back. Full-back Charlie Sharples made the initial incursion and Edinburgh’s defence was tested for the first time.
Some desperate scrambling kept the Cherry and Whites out but a penalty was the end result and Laidlaw made no mistake from close range to square things up.
Within minutes the breakthrough was made and it was Gloucester who struck the blow as right wing Jonny May burst through the heart of the Edinburgh defence and fed his skipper for an easy score under the posts, which Laidlaw duly converted.
It was proving a difficult spell for the Scots as their opponents began to take a grip of the game. During a stop in play a rousing rendition of Flower of Scotland broke out amongst the Edinburgh support as they tried to lift their team. But there was no let up and it continued to be one-way traffic and Solomons’ side were hanging on for dear life.
It was nervy and frenetic stuff and only an incredible tap tackle by Cornell du Preez prevented May from storming in the left-hand corner.
Lock Anton Bresler was yellow-carded for killing the ball in the aftermath and Gloucester’s growing confidence was evidenced by the fact they went to the corner rather than a kick at goal with the penalty as they scented Edinburgh blood.
More desperate defending ensued and, despite getting over the Scots’ line the TMO said no try.
Gloucester set up camp in the corner and turned the screw with a series of scrums before a penalty brought sweet relief.
It sparked Edinburgh’s best passage of play since the start of the game and a Hidalgo-Clyne penalty pegged it back to 10-6. Frustratingly, however, a penalty was conceded immediately and Laidlaw restored the seven-point cushion. Hidalgo-Clyne had another difficult chance from wide out on the left on the stroke of half-time but couldn’t convert as a breathless first half came to a close.
Edinburgh would have hoped to make a strong start to the second period but Gloucester again dominated possession and territory and a couple more accurate penalties stretched the lead out to 13 points.
The game was starting to slip away and when Gloucester flanker Ross Moriarty was sin-binned and you felt it had to be now or never for Edinburgh.
They started to get the English on the back foot and built sustained pressure on the line but to no avail and the match returned to a rather frantic phase. It wasn’t pretty but it was compelling as Edinburgh threw everything at trying to reduce the gap and Gloucester looked to hit them on the counter.
Then came the Meakes red card and the Scots struck, Ford barging over and Hidalgo-Clyne converting. Game on.
Sensing glory, Edinburgh surged at a depleted Gloucester, who for the first time in the match were rocking.
But from somewhere they found the reserves to wrest back the initiative, denied Edinburgh the ball in the closing minutes and, a final penalty award ticked the clock down to spark Gloucester celebrations.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Try: Ford; Con: Hidalgo-Clyne; Pens: Hidalgo-Clyne (2); Gloucester: Try: Twelvetrees; Con: Laidlaw; Pens: Laidlaw (4)