Rugby: Greig seals the great escape

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Edinburgh RUGBY came back from 20 points down with 14 minutes remaining to clinch one of the most remarkable victories in the history of the Heineken European Cup by 48-47 against Racing Metro at Murrayfield.

Scoring six tries the Scots were also 20-44 adrift midway through the second half but the most remarkable fighting spirit saw them close the gap with the help of a late sin-binning for French sub Jome Quvu Nailiko and there were just three minutes remaining when Tim Visser crashed over in the corner leaving Greig Laidlaw to cap a 100 per cent goal-kicking performance by landing the winning touchline conversion as part of a 23-point individual haul.

Even then Edinburgh, who had raced into a 17-3 lead early on, had to survive a last-gasp drop goal attempt for a win that backs up their opening-day victory at London Irish and creates an outstanding opportunity to reach the knock-out stages for the first time since 2004-05.

It took Edinburgh, who kicked off, just 38 seconds to go ahead as the prelude to one of the most breakneck opening quarters ever witnessed at the international stadium.

A high clearance was moved wide to Tim Visser who, after breaking a tackle, chipped ahead then controlled the bounce for a try which Laidlaw converted from wide out for 7-0.

It was arguably the quickest try seen at Murrayfield since John Leslie’s nine-second counter for Scotland against Wales in 1999.

However, a scrum infringement gave Racing a foothold and Jonathan Wisniewski’s penalty edged them into a lead that was restored almost immediately when offside at the restart allowed Laidlaw to make it 10-3.

The fireworks continued as Matt Scott broke and linked with Geoff Cross whose pass saw Visser again chip ahead only to be taken out illegally.

As the referee prepared to signal a penalty Edinburgh’s follow-up paid handsome dividends with Laidlaw latching on to a bounce that went over the head of Scott to run in at the posts and add the conversion.

After just eight minutes Edinburgh were 17-3 ahead and halfway to a four-try bonus point!

The spree showed no sign of abating and neat handling by Racing saw Chavancy give an inside pass to Julien Saubaol who sprinted over unopposed for Wisniewski to convert.

It was more like basketball than rugby as confirmed when Saubaol threw out a pass to Bousses that looked well forward before Imhoff galloped clear and Wisniewski’s conversion levelled the scores at 17-17 after 16 minutes.

Breathtaking didn’t begin to do justice to the start and Edinburgh could have had another if Cross hadn’t knocked on with the defence split.

A blatantly squint line-out throw by Racing raise7d further questions regarding Irish referee Lacey’s judgement but Edinburgh survived the subsequent drop goal effort. By now Racing had settled and Jim Thompson had no option but to concede a throw two metres out just as Scott retired with what looked like a hip injury to be replaced by James King.

There was nothing dubious about the next try, though, Wisniewski rounding on the slickest of handling moves on a clear overlap. The same player converted.

As the newcomer settled in Racing continued to ask questions and pressure told when, from a handling attack down the touchline, Henry Chavancy broke clear for a try which Wisniewski converted for 17-31 after 31 minutes.

With half-time approaching Edinburgh finally began to regain composure with Visser appearing on the shoulder of Laidlaw and threatening to blast through; a turnover eventually repelled the hosts.

Maintaining pressure Edinburgh were rewarded with a penalty by Laidlaw. Edinburgh withdrew 19-year-old Harry Leonard at the interval and with Mike Blair coming on at scrum half Greig Laidlaw switched to stand off. The half was only in its infancy, though, when Edinburgh strayed offside allowing Wisniewski to slot a penalty for 20-34. Worse was to follow as King was tackled in possession and the ball went loose before Saubade hacked on for Henri Chavancy to cross for Racing’s fifth try. Wisniewski converted.

Edinburgh sent on Tom Brown for Thompson as they desperately sought a way back from 20-41 only to force issues too much and concede another penalty for 20-44.

A burst by Jacobsen almost put Brown clear but the cover closed as Lee Jones attempted an awkward pick-up.

At least Edinburgh had some momentum again and hit back on 62 minutes.

Initially, Blair and Jacobsen threatened before quick re-cycling saw Laidlaw combine with McInally who sent Netani Talei in.

Laidlaw converted – if only Edinburgh could finish the match as they had started! Alas for home fans it was Racing who struck next with a penalty by Wisniewski. McInally continued to impress and his carry led to Laidlaw sending over Brown and at least Edinburgh would have a try bonus to show for their efforts. Laidlaw converted from the touchline and at 34-47 the Scots were at least within two scores of leading.

To help them on their way Nailiko was then sin-binned at the instigation of a touch judge and the French would spend ten of the last 11 minutes short handed. With eight minutes remaining Brown and King both broke and when the ball was fed out Roddy Grant went over for Laidlaw to convert for 41-47.

Racing looked rattled as shown when a penalty was advanced for dissent, Laidlaw setting up an attack inside the opposing “22” which – incredibly – ended with Visser going over in the corner.

As Murrayfield held its breath Laidlaw converted from the touchline for 48-47 with three minutes remaining and Edinburgh survived a last-gasp drop goal effort by Hernandez for one of the most famous wins in rugby history!

Scorers: Edinburgh: Visser (2), Laidlaw, Talei, Brown, Grant. Conversions: Laidlaw (6). Penalties: Laidlaw (2). Racing Metro: Tries: Wisniewski, Saubade, Chavancy (2), Imhoff. Conversions: Wisniewski (5). Penalties: Wisniewski (6).

Edinburgh: Thompson (Brown, 48 mins.) Jones, De Luca, Scott (King, 20), Visser, Leonard (Blair, 40) Laidlaw, captain, Jacobsen, Ford (Lawrie, 59), Cross, Lozada, Gilchrist (Turnbull, 59), Talei, McInally, Grant. Subs: Traynor, Gilding, Rennie.

Racing Metro: Wisniewski, Saubade,a Chavancy, Bouesses, Imhoff (Vakatawa, 51), Hernandez, Loree, Tuugahala (Ben Arous, 54) Noirot, Coetzee (Orlandi, 66) Ghezal, Nallet, Leo’o(Vaquin, 59), Chabal (Nailiko, 63) Le Roux (Battut, 67). Subs: Bianchin, Orlandi, Descons.

Referee: J Lacey (Ireland).

Attendance: 5067