These teams arrived at Murrayfield intent on playing attacking rugby and they didn’t disappoint because this was an absolute classic marred only by four yellow cards and too many handbags in what was a bad-tempered encounter.
The two sides shared 11 tries, six to the home side. Both sets of attack were on top and it made for great entertainment – at times it looked like every move would result in five points.
It was be a topsy-turvy contest. When Harlequins opened the scoring with a try from winger Charlie Walker inside three minutes, it looked like the writing was on the wall. Edinburgh then produced an astonishing display of quite brilliant running rugby which resulted in four tries inside the next 22 minutes.
Trailing by 15 points at the half-time break, Harlequins fought back in the second 40, squeezing Edinburgh with their driving maul. The visitors took the lead with 15 minutes left on the clock but couldn’t hold on. Seven minutes from time Edinburgh winger Tom Brown rose above his namesake Mike to claim a Damien Hoyland kick to score the winner.
“It was a rollercoaster of a game,” said home coach Duncan Hodge. “After two minutes we’d made three bad errors in a row and they got the softest try and you think, ‘oh crikey, here we go’, and then to come back and play as we did for half an hour was unbelievable.
“Then we completely lost out way for a number of reasons. We lost our shape, we lost our discipline and we were pounded for that 25 or 30 minutes. But to somehow find the will to win in the last ten minutes was just unbelievable.”
Replacement prop Murray McCallum had an interesting afternoon, scoring a try for Heriot’s before being whisked off to Murrayfield after Rory Sutherland dropped out late. The youngster got the last five minutes for Edinburgh. Heriot’s also won to give him two victories in one afternoon!
Damien Hoyland was outstanding, showing both pace and strength in the contact. Blair Kinghorn was brilliant in attack and defence but even he was overshadowed by Hamish Watson, who made a good case for starting the upcoming autumn internationals.
Allan Dell scored Edinburgh’s first try after Phil Burleigh’s run and Kinghorn claimed the second, a solo effort. The third went to Nasi Manu after Damien Hoyland did all the hard work, collecting his own chip kick, and the best was still to come.
Watson was a huge presence throughout and the little flanker started and finished the next move which went a full 70 metres. The openside helped poach turnover ball deep inside his own half. The ball went right through numerous hands, Hoyland and Kinghorn making most of the running, before Watson popped up on Kinghorn’s inside shoulder to apply the coup de grace.
Quins’ big men earned a penalty try before the break to give the visitors some hope and they were on the attack again, with the clock well over the 40 minute mark, when the visitors spilled the ball. Hoyland scooped it up and ran 80 metres for Edinburgh’s fifth try of the match immediately before the break.
A bizarre incident as Hoyland was in the act of scoring meant that both sides were reduced to 14 men for the first ten minutes of the second half. Jason Tovey looked like the innocent party when he got into an off-the-ball scrap with Quins’ Walker but Roman Poite flashed yellow at both of them.
Quins trailed by 31-14 at the break but that gap was seven points narrower just four minutes into the second half when prop Kyle Sinckler scored in the corner.
A little later Joe Marler upended the Edinburgh lock Ben Toolis in dramatic fashion at a lineout, Toolis spinning like a Ferris wheel before landing awkwardly. Marler was lucky to see yellow rather than red and even luckier when Grant Gilchrist joined him in the sin bin a little later.
From being totally dominant, Edinburgh were now in danger of losing this match, with Quins enjoying the lions’ share of territory and possession and making good ground with their driving maul which had eventually found fourth gear.
Sure enough Edinburgh, who were ill-disciplined throughout, conceded another penalty. Quins kicked to the corner and Poite awarded another penalty try when he deemed the home team guilty of collapsing the visitors’ maul. It was decisive refereeing even if the crowd were none too happy about it. Edinburgh’s 15-point lead was now reduced to three but not for long because Quins’ replacement flanker Mat Luamanu barrelled over in the corner and the visitors had their noses in front for the first time since the opening exchanges.
Edinburgh roused themselves and rediscovered the irresistible rugby that had served them so well in the first half.
It looked like Glenn Bryce had regained the lead only for the TMO to spot a forward pass. But with seven minutes to play Hoyland went to the air, Brown beat Brown in the air and Edinburgh’s defence held out for a famous win…if only just.