EDINBURGH rounded off a highly satisfactory weekend of European action for the Scottish pro teams by making it two out of two after Glasgow’s earlier win over Exeter.
Edinburgh: Tries - Brown, Du Preez, Fife; Penalties - Laidlaw (2); Conversions - Laidlaw (3).
Perpignan: Try - Delonca; Penalties - Hook (3); Conversion - Hook.
The home side scored first, raced into a ten-point lead and were never headed. Perpignan turned the screw, especially midway through the first half when the visitors muscled the ball over the Edinburgh line from an attacking lineout, but the match officials were unable to confirm the grounding. Edinburgh survived that scare and grew in confidence, although they may regret not claiming a bonus point after scoring three tries before the hour mark.
“We played well, that was a really good performance from the team,” said coach Alan Solomons. “That was a really tremendous defensive effort, overall a really good performance and we deserved the result.
“I don’t think frustrated is the word [about the lack of a bonus point]. Everyone is a little disappointed. We had three opportunities to get the try, we went for it, we didn’t take the penalties but, unfortunately, we didn’t get through but I don’t think we should allow that to detract from what was an outstanding performance. We’ll approach Munster as we approach each game. We look to try and improve each game. We look to rise to the challenge each game and we look to put in a good performance each game.”
Edinburgh disappointed last time out against Glasgow when they let a first-half lead slip but there was little danger of that happening last night. The home side won thanks to a defence that seemed to gain confidence the more the opposition piled on the pressure.
Time and again the Edinburgh defenders rocked their visitors back in the tackle and, if they can manage the same for 80 minutes in Limerick next Sunday, they may yet cause an upset against Munster.
After allowing Perpignan’s big men to drive over from a lineout for that disallowed try, the Edinburgh forwards repulsed the very next drive and they ended up bossing the second-half collisions, which should do wonders for confidence in the camp.
After some aimless kicking, the game soon settled and both teams were each committed to playing a bit of rugby. Greig Tonks is getting better by the week in his new stand-off role and he stayed there even when specialist No.10 Carl Bezuidenhout entered the action for the second half. Full-back Jack Cuthbert did well to retrieve a hanging up and under and he a found a little space with the odd dart out wide, so he must wonder why he was only given the first 40 minutes.
No.8 David Denton carried tirelessly as usual, getting off the mark with a bullocking run as if to warn the Perpignan tacklers what was in store. Flankers Cornel du Preez and Roddy Grant worked their socks off, with Grant, the form Scots openside heading into the Six Nations, claiming an assist for the opening try.
There was little to separate the two packs, at least in the first half, although Perpignan seemed to have a small edge in the set scrum where referee Peter Fitzgibbon pinged Alasdair Dickinson a couple of times as the loosehead came under pressure. Edinburgh improved after the break and got at least one back.
The referee made one howler when he penalised Cuthbert, on the touch judge’s advice, for a perfectly legitimate hit on Perpignan’s full-back James Hook, who picked himself off the Murrayfield turf and claimed three points for his side. In fact Hook’s foot contributed all of Perpignan’s points until the final minutes of the match, when the visitors claimed a consolation try.
For their part, Edinburgh managed three tries, the first of which went to Tom Brown, a livewire all night, after just 15 minutes.
Perpignan took the ball into contact just outside their own 22-metre line but Grant got a hand in and ripped it out. The ball flew straight up, a surprised Brown snatched it out of night sky and set off for the Perpignan line like a scalded cat. Not a hand was laid upon him. Laidlaw added the extras, as well as an early penalty to give his side the best start possible.
Edinburgh’s other tries came in the third quarter of the match. The home team won an attacking penalty when Perpignan’s hooker Guilhelm Guirado was shown a yellow card and, rather than go for goal, Laidlaw opted for the corner. The ball was spread to the right and then back to the left, where Du Preez was able to ignore Brown on his outside to barge over in the corner himself.
That seemed to settle the home side, who then withstood a Perpignan onslaught with patience and discipline before eventually winning a turnover.
Edinburgh attacked and it was Perpignan’s defence that was falling off the tackles. Recent signing and replacement Bezuidenhout grubbered the ball behind the French defence and Dougie Fife was on hand to claim the try after Wandile Mjekevu failed to secure the ball.
The match was won inside the hour mark and Edinburgh spent the final quarter of the match looking for that elusive four-try bonus point that would make their task of qualifying for a place in Amlin Challenge Cup that little bit easier.
Instead, Perpignan’s reserve hooker Maxime Delonca scored the final try of the match and Bezuidenhout kicked the ball dead with the clock in the red numbers. Edinburgh have it all to do at Munster’s Thomond Park, where they will almost undoubtedly need a win.