An Edinburgh season which started 357 days ago with a Guinness Pro14 thumping of Zebre was finally brought to a close as a sloppy opening ten minutes cost them dear in balmy Bordeaux as they slumped to a 23-14 defeat in the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
Two early tries were leaked to leave Richard Cockerill’s men on the back foot from the off and, despite some flashes of spirit which saw them claw themselves back in with a splendid try by Damien Hoyland, it was to be a fifth successive defeats in knockout games for the Edinburgh coach.
At 28 degrees it was even warmer than Cockerill was expecting as his side headed out into a Stade Chaban-Delmas backdrop of 1,000 vocal home fans in the early afternoon sun and the formidable French outfit turned the heat up further on the travelling Scots with a sizzling start.
“Keep it tight at the start” is a well-worn mantra for any away match but that went completely out the window as Edinburgh were lost in an early storm which saw them concede two tries in the opening ten minutes.
They were actually on a first foray into French territory when James Johnstone was stopped by opposing centre Ulupano Seutini and the Samoan took the ball is if candy from a baby. Argentine wing Santiago Cordero was unleashed deep in his own half and blazed past despairing defence to go all the way down the right touchline, with Matthieu Jalibert converting.
Jaco van der Walt’s right boot has been a reliable source of points for Edinburgh throughout the elongated season but when a penalty was awarded in a position he would normally regard as routine he saw it drift wide as the chance of an early riposte was spurned.
They were made to pay minutes later when 21-year-old tyro international stand-off Jalibert unlocked limited resistance from the visitors and centre Jean-Baptiste Dubie to crash over at the posts.
With a 14-0 lead and the sun on their backs, Bordeaux-Begles continued to dominate and Edinburgh knew another quick concession would all but end the contest before it had really started. Jalibert surprisingly opted for the posts from long-range. It was within his range but pushing a creaking Edinburgh back towards their own line seemed the better option and the effort sailed wide.
What could have been a 17-point deficit was cut to just 11 instead as Van der Walt got Edinburgh on the board before the penalty before the blow of seeing their marauding Fijian No 8 Bill Mata hobble off after he was caught badly by a double tackle from home lock Jandre Marais and openisde Guido Petti.
Edinburgh played their best rugby of the half in its final minute as good work from George Taylor and Blair Kinghorn’s slick hands had the French scrambling. However, it was the unlikely figure of Hamish Watson who squandered the pressure when he dropped a short pass from Damien Hoyland.
Edinburgh made a more sure-footed start to the second period, although handling errors continued to be a problem, although one was well saved by young scrum-half Charlie Shiel who got a boot to it and deftly volleyed it into sub back-rower Nick Haining in a move which led to a welcome penalty for the visitors, which was gleefully accepted by Van der Walt. Bordeaux-Begles reconsolidated their lead minutes later when Jalibert struck beautifully.
Edinburgh finally made the major impact on proceedings they craved to have a shot at victory with a brilliantly worked try. After a turnover Hoyland initially probed down the left before popping up in the right-hand corner to take a pass after magical wing work from Darcy Graham, who scrambled up from a tackle and then managed under pressure to get the ball inside with one boot millimetres from the touchline.
Van der Walt couldn’t make the conversion from out wide but, at 17-11 down, Edinburgh were within a converted score for the first time since the third minute.
It was frustratingly short-lived though as the Scots were penalised for not rolling away and Jalibert added to his tally.
A glorious chance was spurned when Kinghorn didn’t release Graham with a two-on-one which had the home line beckoning and, with 15 minutes left, Edinburgh’s opportunity to set up a nail-biting finish as they worked two five-metre attacking lineouts but came away empty-handed as Watson spilled again after a thumping tackle from sub centre Pablo Uberti.
That failure to cash in led Kinghorn to have a pop at goal rather than touch when Bordeaux’s mounting penalty charge sheet saw Ben Tameifuna sent to the bin. In a similarly infuriating failing from the recent Pro14 semi-final loss to Ulster, the points were followed by Haining dropping the restart.
From there the French closed out professionally and with the last kick sub Ben Botica ended Edinburgh’s marathon season.
SCORERS: Bordeaux-Begles: Tries: Cordero, Dubie; Cons: Jalibert 2; Pens: Jalibert 2, Botica.
Edinburgh: Try: Hoyland; Pens: Van der Walt 2, Kinghorn.
BORDEAUX-BEGLES: N Ducuing; S Cordero, J-P Dubie, U Seuteni, B Lam; M Jalibert, Y Lesgourgues; J Poirot, C Maynadier, V Cobilas, K Douglas, J Marais, M Diaby, G Petti, M Tauleigne. Subs: J Dweba for Maynadier 46, L Kaulashvili for Poirot 46, B Tameifuna for Cobilas 46, C Cazeaux for Douglas 65, C Woki for Diaby 46, M Lucu for Lesgourgues 42, B Botica for Jalibert 66, P Uberti for Seutini 65.
EDINBURGH: B Kinghorn; D Graham, J Johnstone, G Taylor, D Hoyland; J Van der Walt, C Shiel; P Schoeman, S McInally, S Berghan, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson, V Mata. Subs: M Willemse for McInally 65, R Sutherland for Schoeman 59, M McCallum for Berghan 66, A Davidson for Toolis 58, M Bradbury for Ritchie 65, N Haining for Mata 36, D Nutton, C Dean for Taylor 60.
Referee: F Murphy (Ire)
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