IT WAS always going to take a lot to live up to the classic Heineken Cup encounter between these two teams just over 12 months ago when Edinburgh came from 24 points down with 20 minutes to go to snatch an astonishing single-point victory in a 48-47 nine-try thriller.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Pen: Francis. Racing Pens: Barkley, Germain 4.
Last night in the pouring rain and the freezing cold at Murrayfield it never came close. Points and tries were as scarce as they had been abundant last time round with the added millstone round the game’s neck that Edinburgh, whatever happened, they were not going to get out of the group.
Racing had a shot at it, however. They could progress, and ultimately they did because they were the more street smart. They smothered Edinburgh’s disappointingly half-hearted challenge and left them with nothing, not even a useless bonus point. French international hooker Dimitri Szarzewski named man of the match and that was a pretty good indication of how it played out.
The result means that Edinburgh now have a dismal average of three points a game in this wretched Heineken Cup campaign and last season’s semi-finalists have yet to score a try.
Edinburgh took to the field with an unfamiliar line-up of aspring new boys and seasoned experience. Scotland centre Ben Cairns returned after more than a year out through injury, and New Zealander Piers Francis made his first start for the club at stand-off. It was Racing who started clinically with two quick long-range penalties that flew between the posts, the first from the centre of the pitch by stand off Olly Berkley and the second from out on the right wing by full back Gaetan Germain.
Edinburgh might as well have given up then because margin created within five minutes would prove beyond them in the end.
A Francis penalty attempt from similar range fell short and that was the sum total of the action in the first quarter apart from a couple of scrums where Edinburgh established control and No 8 Stuart McInally was spoken to by the referee for getting a little too close up and personal in the faces of the French back row.Then the game loosened up just a little and Edinburgh began to have more success in the loose and to make more intelligent use of their possession. A Racing hand in the ruck 35 metres out gave Francis a second chance at a penalty but it slid wide of the right hand post.
Edinburgh were cranking up the pressure, charging down a cleance kick after a line-out on the right, and then forcing winge Sireli Bobo to carry the ball into touch on the left. The line-out that followed resulted in a penalty and this time Francis did the necessary to put three points on the board.
Then international hooker Ross Ford burst through weak tackles to reach the Racing 22 and, once again, French hands went into the ruck to slow the ball but Francis, once again, couldn’t convert the penalty. The miss gave Racing a breathing space that allowed them to reach Edinburgh territory and keep them penned in for the remainder of the half.
A minute after the restart, Racing were awarded a rare penalty against Edinburgh’s front row but Germain’s kick came back off the post. Edinburgh fought their way upfield and a Greig Tonks up and under caused confusion that led to another penalty by Francis that fell short. The game fell into the same pattern as in the first half with unproductive and unimaginative kicking from hand while the teams’ arm-wrestled in the area between the 22s but neither really threatening to score a try.
The balance changed when Edinburgh No 8 Netani Talei was yellow carded for a late tackle on Berkley that allowed Germain to knock over his second penalty, Racing’s third. Tempers flared at a breakdown in the Racing half as replacement lock Perry Parker made his presence felt and a general rammy ensued. The referee consulted both touch judges before sending French prop Eddie Ben Arous to the bin.
But full back Greig Tonks, taking over the kicking duties from Francis, missed the penalty, immediately regretting it as Racing edged further ahead moments later when Germain kicked a penalty from just inside the Edinburgh half. And within minutes he added a fifth penalty to stretch the lead to 12 points.Edinburgh knew it was all or nothing with less than ten minutes go to.
Edinburgh: G Tonks; L Jpnes,B Atiga, D Fife, P Francis, C Leck, J Yapp R Ford, G Cross, R McAlpine, G Gilchrist, S McInally, R Grant, N Talei. Subs: A Titterell (not used), A Jacobsen (For Yapp 48), W Nel (for Cross 48), P Parker (for McAlpine 48), D Bailaia (not used), R Rees (for Leck 68), G Hunter (for Atiga 61), S Visser (for Cairns 76).
Racing Metro: G Germain, S Bobo, G Bousses, A Dumoulin, J Imhoff, O Barkley, S Descons, E Ben Arous, D Szarzewski, L Ducalcon, K Ghezal, F van der Merwe, A Battut, B Le Roux, J Kronje. Subs: T Bianchin (for Szarzewski 75), J Brugnaut (for Battut 63), JP Orlandi (for Ducalcon 67), J Qovu (for van der Merwe 61), M Belie (for Dumoulin 77), JM Hernandez (for Barkley 68), C Gerondeau (for Cronje 70), A Galindo (for Le Roux 50).