IF LAST season’s journey to the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup was something of a fairytale for Edinburgh, this season’s campaign has been more of a nightmare.
Scorers: Racing Metro – Tries: Imhoff, Ben Arous. Pens: Barkley (2), Marchenaud. Edinburgh – Pens: Laidlaw (3)
Three wins, three defeats, not a single try and zero points as they prop up Pool 1.
This latest 19-9 defeat by Racing Metro at the Stade Yves du Manoir was not on the same scale as the heavy and rather embarrassing whutewashes against Saracens (0-45) and Munster (33-0) but it has all but closed the door on Edinburgh featuring in the latter stages of the tournament.
The other three teams in the group all have two wins and one defeat. It will take a minor miracle for Edinburgh to progress. “We have to be realistic,” said coach Michael Bradley. “With three defeats it is unlikely that we will be playing in Europe much longer this season. We have to beat Racing next week and see what happens.”
Yes, these two meet again at Murrayfield on Friday, an early chance for Bradley’s team to inject some pace and purpose into their attacking play and, perhaps, extract a first win of the campaign.
“I felt that we could take plenty of positives out of this game apart from the result,” said Bradley. “We had plenty of ball, plenty of possession and plenty of chances. We just didn’t make the most of them.
“We had a very good period at the start of the second half. I felt that, if we had scored then, we would have gone on to win the game but Racing defended well and we couldn’t do it.”
One of those positives was new stand-off Piers Franci, signed from Waikato Chiefs, coming on in the second half for his first taste of Edinburgh rugby and teaming up nicely at half-back with Greig Laidlaw.
“He has only just joined us so I hope he enjoyed himself. It was good to get him on the pitch,” said Bradley.
Edinburgh battered hard at the door but simply didn’t have the materials on hand to unpick the lock.
Laidlaw did at least kick three penalties to give Edinburgh their first points in this year’s competition but the skipper also missed three others in the first half, all long range but within the Laidlaw compass.
Racing, though, scored two tries which illustrated the different facets of their game.
The first was a sweeping move from right to left which found left wing Juan Imhoff in space and able to step inside Tom Brown for the score.
Brown, incidentally, was a second-half casualty. A damaged knee saw him stretchered off and he is doubtful for the rematch.
The second try came on the hour through the forwards, replacement prop Eddie Ben Arous finishing off an impressive rolling maul by crashing over.
Seven points adrift at 9-16, Edinburgh still had a shout of a draw or a bonus point until Maxime Marchenaud took over kicking duties from Ollie Barkley to convert a last penalty and deny them even a defensive bonus.
Racing Metro: JM Hernandez; V Vakatawa, G Bousses, F Estebanez (A Dumoulin 60), J Imhoff; O Barkley, S Descons (M Machenaud 70); J Brugnaut (E Ben Arous 55), T Bianchin, B Sa (JP Orlandi 55), F Metz (J Qovu 60), F van der Merwe, A Batut (C Gerondeau 65), J Cronje, M Matadigo (B Le Roux 50).
Edinburgh: G Tonks; T Brown (L Jones 65), N De Luca, M Scott, T Visser; G Laidlaw, R Rees (P Francis 54); J Yapp (A Jacobsen 64), R Ford (A Titterrell 64), G Cross (WP Nel 42), G Gilchrist, S Cox (P Parker 64), D Denton, R Grant, S McInally.