EDINBURGH made it three wins in a row in all competitions and twin victories in the European Challenge Cup, backing up last weekend’s win against Bordeaux with yesterday evening’s impressive showing against another Top 14 club.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Cuthbert. Cons: Heathcote. Pens: Heathcote (6). Lyon: Tries: Matadigo, De Marco. Cons: Porical, Loree. Pens: Porical.
Edinburgh were in control with a 22-7 lead at half-time but the home team managed just three points in the second half. A French fightback ensued, one converted penalty was followed by one converted try and suddenly the result was in doubt.
Edinburgh’s makeshift pack conceded two tries to driving mauls but did well to repel a third attack, winning a turnover, a scrum and then a precious penalty in the shadow of their own posts to lift the siege. On one other occasion replacement lock Ben Toolis rose in the middle of a defensive lineout to win another crucial turnover. It was nervy stuff.
In fact Alan Solomons’ team played with conviction and confidence, especially in that first forty, but they still owed at least some of this victory to the hopeless indiscipline of the French who gifted Tom Heathcote eight kickable penalties and the flyhalf duly converted six of those chances, ending up with seven from nine off the tee.
A gusty display by the home forwards earned Edinburgh most of those penalties and a good number of turnovers after holding the French up in choke tackles. Allan Dell impressed on his first start and David Denton got through a mountain of work after replacing Roddy Grant early in proceedings.
The big breakaway was only on the field because Edinburgh continued to be haunted by a horrendous run of injuries. Three home players from the starting XV were replaced before the match had even started, failing late fitness tests, and five black clad players limped off the field inside the first half an hour of play; Phil Burleigh, Roddy Grant, Sam Beard, Hamish Watson and Scotland’s newly appointed skipper Grant Gilchrist...the one man Vern Cotter did not want injured.
Edinburgh coped well enough in the circumstances, especially considering that reserve hooker James Hilterbrand played as a flanker for the majority of this match and Denton, who was promised 30 minutes on his return from a hamstring injury, ended up having to play over an hour.
The home side got off to a dream start, racing into a 13-0 lead while Lyon were still fast asleep. Heathcote kicked a couple of penalties, from an identical spot on the left, and in between times Jack Cuthbert, who was only there as a late replacement for Dougie Fife, finished off a belter of a try that was manufactured by Phil Burleigh.
The Kiwi centre picked a looping line and got outside his marker before giving the scoring pass to Cuthbert who could not fail to hit the back of the net, unopposed from 20 yards out.
Lyon reacted with their first attack of the game. Three times the referee penalised Edinburgh and three times the French club opted to kick to the corner rather than take the three. Their gamble finally paid off, third time lucky, as the muscular French forwards drove over with the Fijian No 8 Sakiusa Matadigo the last man up with the ball.
It almost proved a winning tactic.
Lyon enjoyed just one other attack in the first half and came close, the referee checked with the touch judge since there was no TMO present, and ruled against the visitors. At the other end of the field Lyon continued to antagonise the referee and Heathcote, in turn, continued to torment the visitors slotting three more penalties to give his side a handy 22-7 lead at the break. Jerome Porical got three back for Lyon early in the second half and the match should have been put to bed when Sam Hidalgo-Clyne threaded a perfect grubber kick into no man’s land but Tim Visser nudged the ball forward when bending to pick it up. He might have been better served hacking ahead.
Lyon gratefully accepted the stay of execution and scored their second try in the same way that they had claimed their first, with the big men marching the ball over the whitewash from another attacking lineout. The conversion made it an edgy five-point game with a quarter of the match to play.
Edinburgh spent pretty much the entire 20 minutes imprisoned inside their own 22 in increasingly desperate defence but the inexperienced side displayed spirit and resilience to hold out and keep their 100 per cent record in Europe.
Appropriately enough things ended with yet another penalty from man of the match Heathcote, his sixth in all, which won this match for Edinburgh.
Edinburgh: Tonks, Cuthbert, Beard, Strauss, T. Visser, Burleigh, Hidalgo-Clyne, Dickinson, Ford, W. Nel, Bresler, Gilchrist, Grant, Watson, Leonardi. Subs: Hilterbrand, Dell, Andress, B. Toolis, Denton, Kennedy, Heathcote, McLennan.
Lyon: Porical, Romanet, Bonnefond, Sukanaveita, Regard, Loursac, Loree, Mavinga, Fitzpatrick, Tui, De Marco, Basson,
Puricelli, Derrien, Matadigo. Subs: Colliat, Felsina, Pungea, Tuineau, Cerqueira, Bau, Tison, Martin.