Edinburgh made an outstanding start to their European Challenge Cup Pool 3 campaign with a five-point haul that owed much to their determination and resilience. Indeed the fourth try appeared to have eluded Richard Cockerill’s men and it was deep into injury time before Cammy Fenton finally clinched the bonus point.
Coach Cockerill was delighted with the outcome. He said: “I thought we started really well and to fair to them they were pretty game. We made some errors in that second half. But we picked a team that we thought would come and perform.
“I think we did that in parts and it’s a good result for us. Mission accomplished in the fact that we came and we’ve got all the points. Overall we’ve got to be happy. We’re away from home, in France.”
Each of the sides made 12 changes from the line-ups that started in domestic matches last weekend. In Cockerill’s case, it was an opportunity to assess the strength in depth of his squad. For his Agen counterpart, Christophe Laussucq, it was more a case of needing to give players game time.
Cockerill, pictured, insisted his peripheral players could nudge their way up the pecking order.
Charlie Shiel, making his first start for Edinburgh, looked lively early on as the visitors had the better of the opening exchanges. But they fell behind to a penalty by Thomas Vincent. Sparked into action, Edinburgh bagged the opening try when they pieced together a slick handling move, started and finished by George Taylor and also involving Eroni Sau and James Johnstone. Simon Hickey added the extra two points.
Taylor had been looking lively with ball in hand and he confirmed that he was on song when he darted in for a second time. Hickey was again on target with the conversion, as he was in 27 minutes after Damien Hoyland had shown his pace to race on to his own kick ahead before gathering and dotting down for a third Edinburgh try that gave them a deserved 21-3 lead at half time.
Hickey added a further three points to the tally with a straightforward penalty six minutes after the restart. At that stage, the four try bonus looked to be a formality, requiring only patience and composure.
However, the hosts seized the momentum following a string of substitutions and they enjoyed their best spell of pressure. First they claimed a try with a slick handling move that ended with Benito Masilevu sliding in at the corner for a try that was converted by Raphael Lagarde.
That sparked a spell in the ascendancy that had Edinburgh’s defence scrambling to keep the hosts out.
Several times Agen came within a whisker of grabbing a second try. But, as they became ever more desperate, a spillage allowed Johnstone to hack the ball clear. That provided the platform for a string of attacks a Edinburgh pressed for the bonus-point try.
Ally Miller looked to have grabbed the elusive score but lost the ball in contact just short of the line. Then, with the clock having ticked past the 80 minute mark, three penalties handed the visitors one final opportunity. All three were booted into touch. The first two proved fruitless but, at the thir time of asking, a powerful surge ended with Cammy Fenton dotting down. Hickey’s conversion completed the scoring.