Edinburgh recovered from a nightmare start to record a remarkable victory over Stade Francais last night and complete a famous Parisian double for the Scottish pro teams in Europe.
Trailing 20-3 at half-time and then seeing centre Phil Burleigh sent off for a 55th-minute punch, the odds on the home side following Glasgow’s heroics in the French capital with a Gallic scalp at BT Murrayfield looked remote.
However, Duncan Hodge’s men showed magnificent grit to fight their way back in the second half and then carve out a highly impressive winning finish.
After clawing themselves back to within a point it was Duncan Weir who shook off an off-colour start individually to boot his side to a victory and keep them on course for the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
Recent results would have had Edinburgh keen to get off to a good start and build a bit of much-needed confidence, so going 10-0 down within seven minutes wasn’t really what the doctor ordered.
Stade’s beefy backline rocked the home side back on their heels from the off and the French only needed a couple of bash ups towards the Edinburgh line before centre Waisea Vuidarvuwalu powered over.
Morne Steyn added the conversion and then popped over a drop goal minutes later to milk further profit from the visitors’ complete early domination.
Edinburgh attempted to respond but were hampered by a couple of bum notes from the usually reliable right boot of Weir. First he misjudged an attempted penalty kick to the corner which went dead in goal and then drove another from hand out on the full to the groans of the home support.
More misery was soon forthcoming when the French again punched holes in the creaking Edinburgh defence and flanker Sekou Macalou finished off a slick move. Steyn converted to leave the Scots 17 points adrift.
They were given a potential foothold back into the match when Stade centre Paul Williams was rightly yellow carded for a dangerous tip tackle on Viliame Mata. Weir’s three points after Edinburgh won a scrum penalty in front of the posts was a start but Steyn had the last word of the half with one of his own to leave the Parisians in a commanding 20-3 lead at the break.
A positive start to the second period was clearly imperative and, after a subdued opening five minutes, Edinburgh got the boost they desperately craved as right wing Damien Hoyland swung round and burst into the line down the left, straightening then weaving over the line.
Weir’s kicking gremlins continued as he dragged the tricky conversion a whisker to the left, but Edinburgh continued to get the heads down and figure out a way to drag themselves into this match. They found it through the most direct route as a brilliantly executed maul was finished off by lock Ben Toolis.
Weir was on the mark this time and, all of a sudden, Edinburgh were within five points.
That momentum was stalled when Burleigh lashed out at Pascal Pape and was given his marching orders by English referee Craig Maxwell-Keys after consultation with the TMO.
Three minutes later Steyn pinged over another penalty to take the visitors beyond a converted try lead, but the 14 men of Edinburgh responded magnificently with a spirited attack down the right by Blair Kinghorn, which sparked a wave of attacks on the French line culminating in scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne spotting the gap and wriggling over. Weir’s conversion brought the home side to within one point and the French side were looking shaky.
A Kinghorn charge-down then ended up with the scrambling Stade defence forced to touch down behind their own line and concede a scrum-five.
The pressure continued as the visiting eight wheeled and Weir banged over the three points to put Edinburgh ahead for the first time at 25-23.
Stade Francais put one last big effort into making the most of the one-man advantage and wresting the game back in their favour ahead of Thursday’s return encounter in Paris. They met with heroic defence however, and it was Weir who supplied the coup de grace with the clinching penalty.