IN THE build-up to tonight’s match a lot has been spoken about it being Edinburgh’s most high-profile game since their stunning run to the Heineken Cup semi-finals three years ago.
There has, in fairness, been no gilding the lily from the players, who are always quick to acknowledge that this is the second-tier European competition. However, just as reaching Uefa Cup finals was seen as huge achievements for football’s Old Firm in 2003 and 2008, so too would reaching the European Challenge Cup final at Twickenham Stoop on 1 May be a feat worth celebrating for Scottish rugby.
Boys have broken bones to get us here so we can’t let each other down now. It is a journey we are on that we want to finish.Dougie Fife
Scotland wing Dougie Fife has vivid memories of that famous quarter-final victory over Toulouse in front of 38,000 supporters in 2012 and he is thrilled by the prospect of playing his part in something similar.
“I was a development player and we all had tickets in the second tier out there,” said the 24-year-old pointing out to the BT Murrayfield stands. “It was an amazing feeling and I remember we all ran down to the changing rooms to celebrate with the players afterwards which was a fantastic appearance.
“Matt Scott, Grant Gilchrist, Hamish Watson and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne were all there that day and I’m so excited to be involved on the pitch tonight, especially as it is at home in front of our friends and family. It will be an awesome day.”
There won’t be 38,000 there tonight but it is hoped there will be a big crowd in attendance for the first ever European club semi-final to be played in Scotland.
It was only a week past Sunday that the game was secured as Edinburgh won their quarter-final 23-18 at London Irish, leaving less than two weeks to market the occasion – something made more difficult by the fact that fortnight coincided with the Easter school holidays. With the weather set fair it is hoped there will be a sizeable walk-up and a good atmosphere is created.
The European run has added a fresh dimension to Edinburgh’s season and Fife is keen for the journey to go all the way to Twickenham Stoop. “We have done a lot of work to get here,” he said. “When we saw our pool we realised it was going to be tough. We won away in France at Bordeaux and had that crazy game at home to Lyon and we have done bloody well to get where we are.
“We got a good win in the quarter-final away to London Irish. It has been a great journey and we can’t let ourselves down now as we have a massive opportunity to get to the final.”
That “crazy game against Lyon” is often referred back to by Edinburgh’s players and you suspect it is viewed by them as something of a Rorke’s Drift moment in their season.
In that October pool match at BT Murrayfield, Fife, Andries Strauss and Al Dickinson all dropped out injured before kick-off, then Phil Burleigh, Sam Beard, Watson, Roddy Grant and Gilchrist all left the field with injuries within the first 28 minutes. Despite this, Edinburgh gutsed out a 25-17 victory.
“The fact we have overcome that sort of adversity shows the depth of the squad,” said Fife. “We had guys playing totally out of position. Everybody just dug in and showed how much we wanted it that day.
“It is similar now as a few have gone down this week. When times get tough you look at games like the Lyon one. We say, this is what we have done to get here. Boys have broken bones to get us here so we can’t let each other down now. It is a journey we are on that we want to finish.”
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