In 2015 a TV producer in a London studio will most likely sit down and compile the best bits of the first 20 years of the Heineken Cup and will somehow have to cut this match down to 45 seconds or so. I don’t envy him because there were approximately 80 minutes of highlights on offer. “You won’t see a better match all year,” Michael Bradley said to a crowd of journalists the like of which is usually found only when there is a free drink on offer. I hate to disagree with him but you won’t find a better match all decade.
Admittedly the defence was not what it should have been, with 11 tries in all. Those who dismiss Super Rugby as “candyfloss” with “basketball scores” can now do the same for the Heineken Cup but, for sheer drama, this could not be beaten. If the character, confidence and self belief exuding from this Edinburgh squad could be bottled someone would make a million.
It wasn’t so much bizarre as freakish, with the home team racing into a 17-3 lead and then trailing 20-44 before a fourth-quarter rally saw them sneak home by a single point. Even then the agony and ecstasy wasn’t quite over as Racing’s Juan Martin Hernandez lined up a drop goal attempt after the 80 minutes was up, only to make a complete pig’s ear of the simple kick.
In the aftermath the players seemed almost subdued, as if the enormity of what they had achieved had yet to sink in. That much was confirmed by Netani Talei, the Fijian No.8 whose 63rd-minute try had kick-started the Edinburgh fightback.
“I’m still lost for words to be honest,” said the burly breakaway, pictured below. “We were all sitting in the (changing) room, quiet and thinking ‘did we actually just win that game, did we pull it off?’
“We were confident and the first ten minutes were good for us and then we let go for a bit, and then we regrouped and scored a few good tries but we’re still trying to cope with the win. It was a good win.”
With Edinburgh trailing by 24 points as the match entered the final quarter, the remainder of the game looked like an exercise in face-saving rather than any genuine attempt to carve out the four converted tries that were needed to win. But, to their credit, Edinburgh’s players kept the faith, the momentum grew with each score and picked up pace with the yellow card shown to Racing replacement Jone Nailiko. After Talei touched down, Tom Brown, Roddy Grant and Tim Visser (who else?) all followed him over the line .
Every one of the tries was expertly converted by Greig Laidlaw, including two from the touchline. So, exactly when did Talei begin to believe the unbelievable, that a win was on the cards?
“I think it was Roddy’s try,” said the Fijian. “Then they went one man down and they were playing with 14 and I thought ‘man, this is possible. We just have to play as a team and give it all and we came away with a win.
“At that last drop goal attempt everyone was about to hang themselves [if it had gone over] because we had the last try and we thought that was that. I was actually praying to God saying please, a miss will do for us!
“I had no doubt at all that Greig would make that last conversion to win the match. His kicking ability is tremendous. You give him a kick on 20 or 40 or 60 minutes and he’ll slot it without a doubt.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet but, after a few beers tonight with the boys, it will come home.”
The feel-good factor in Scottish rugby has just gone up another notch with players, coaches and even the journalists all basking in the warm glow of victory, everyone enjoying a rare chance to sup their fill at the well of success. It’s powerfully addictive stuff, this winning business.