Edinburgh Rugby posted a second successive European Challenge Cup win, emerging victorious in difficult conditions at Stade Armandie last night.
The only real disappointment was the absence of the four-try bonus point their superiority merited.
“Coming away to France and getting a win is big, it is important for us”, said Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons. “We are happy with two out of two and our position in the Challenge Cup.”
There was an understandably sombre tone to the pre-match proceedings but, following a minute’s silence, a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise appeared to invigorate the hosts. The French outfit’s focus is on securing survival in the Top 14 and coach Mathieu Blin is using the competition to blood some of the club’s rising stars and give game time to several of his fringe players.
However, any doubts over the intensity levels were dispelled in two minutes when a crunching collision ended Anton Bresler’s involvement.
Having survived an early spell on the back foot, Edinburgh, with a strong wind at their backs, raised the pace. With 20 minutes played, Greig Tonks opened the scoring with a penalty from the edge of the home 22, and he doubled the tally three minutes later with a more straightforward effort.
The momentum was firmly in Edinburgh’s favour and the visitors turned to the domination enjoyed by their pack to keep the scoreboard ticking over, opting for a scrum with their next penalty.
The hosts offended on four occasions and each time the scrum was reset. Eventually the referee lost patience and awarded a penalty try which Tonks converted for a 13-0 half-time lead.
The hosts replaced both props at the break but any possibility that the fresh legs would bring a change of fortunes at the scrum were soon dismissed and the set piece provided the platform for a second Edinburgh try, with the ball worked out to Matt Scott whose angled run took him to within a couple of metres of the target where he offloaded to Cornell Du Preez. The No 8 completed the job, with Tonks adding the extras.
The hosts clawed back six points with two penalties by Clement Darbo, but that was all they could muster from a spell of pressure. Scott almost broke through for try number three and, although he was thwarted just shy of the target, the score was only delayed. It came following a driven lineout, with John Hardie capping an impressive performance with the score – again converted by Tonks – that sparked the chase for the elusive bonus-point score.
“I was worried that 13-0 may not have been enough at the beginning but a try early in the second half was good,” admitted Solomons, who was effusive in his praise for the efforts of the Edinburgh front eight, adding, “Our forward pack laid the foundation. I thought our scrumming again was outstanding and some of our mauling was outstanding – that’s credit to Stevie [Scott], the forwards coach, and to the pack.”
Agen: Tardieu; Tagotago, Fouyssac, Heriteau, Nakosi; Bouvier, Darbo; Bethune, Barthomeuf, Chocou, Roidot, Bastien, Taufahema, Miquel, Baget-Rabarou. Replacements: Sicart for Tagotago (56), Guillimin for Bouvier (60), Cadiou for Darbo (72), Afatia for Bethune (41), Dufour for Barthomeuf (60), Ryan for Chocou (41), Vergnon for Bastien (57),Braendlin for Baget-Rabarou (57).
Edinburgh: Fife; Brown, Helu, Scott, Katoa; Tonks, Kennedy; Dickinson, Ford, Nel, Bresler, McKenzie, Manu, J. Hardie, Du Preez. Replacements: Kinghorn for Fife (72), Dean for Helu (72), Fowles for Kennedy (64), Sutherland for Dickinson (64), Cochrane for Ford (67), Berghan for Nel (67), Ritchie for Manu (70). Not Used: A. Toolis.
Sin Bin: McKenzie (80).