In recent years, any depiction of an Edinburgh Rugby victory over Toulon would have been filed under “fiction” but these two teams have been on radically divergent paths and the three-time Heineken Cup winners not only lost but did so pretty meekly.
Edinburgh scored three first-half tries and added the fourth, bonus point, touchdown six minutes from time to add the icing on this Champions Cup cake, surely one of the club’s best ever wins.
“It’s right up there,” said skipper Stuart McInally. “I just felt that our preparation was good. We knew what they would bring. We knew they had some really, really talented individuals.
“We spoke a lot about it, just trying to shut them down, take the space away, and nullify their attacking threat.
“We kept the pace of the game high which they struggled to live with, especially early on. So, yeah, I thought it was the complete performance so I was really happy.”
The giant Toulon lock Sebastien Taofifenua scored a good try on the 20 minutes mark but overall Edinburgh’s defence coped admirably in the second half when Toulon threatened a comeback.
Bill Mata was the best player on either team.
His coach Richard Cockerill, pictured above, jokingly claimed he preferred the Fijian to his own wife (I presume it was a joke). He made huge gains every time of asking and prevented one surefire Toulon try.
Henry Pyrgos scored a good try and managed the game beautifully from number nine.
Matt Scott made one superb try and kept Mathieu Bastereaud under wraps.
Recalled stand-off Jaco van der Walt kicked 100 per cent off the tee and Darcy Graham punched way above his weight in attack and defence, a bundle of tricks.
But this match was won by the sweat of the Edinburgh forwards who deserve all the accolades even if Toulon were so poor you fear for their place in the Top 14.
Such was the home side’s superiority in the first half yesterday that, when offered the option of a set scrum or a free kick, Toulon tapped and ran the ball rather than risk a humiliating set piece retreat.
Only in the second half did the French big men flex their muscles and make their weight advantage count and only after Edinburgh had gone to their bench.
The home side were quick out the blocks, opening the scoring with an early penalty before Pyrgos tapped a penalty right under the Toulon posts and, to the scrum-half’s relief, Ben Toolis came up with the try after McInally came mighty close. Taofifenua replied for Toulon but the slap in the face only served to spur Edinburgh on.
Three minutes later Scott picked an angle of geometric beauty to slice open the Toulon line on the opposition 22 and found Pyrgos running his favourite inside line when confronted by the full-back Hugo Bonneval.
Those two tries and four penalties gave Edinburgh a 26-7 lead at the break and if the game wasn’t yet decided it surely was four minutes into the second half when McInally grabbed Edinburgh’s third touchdown after Graham’s dancing feet took play up to the Toulon line.
Staring at humiliation, Toulon unearthed the best of themselves, with some direct running from the big men stressing the Edinburgh defence.
Stand-off Belleau would have scored but for Mata’s brilliant tackle and the same man came up with the ball from another Toulon driving maul.
Edinburgh’s thin blue line performed several minor miracles to keep their line intact as long as they did, Graham collaring Malakai Fekitoa in the wide channels and Simon Berghan preventing the flying winger Josua Tuisova from scoring in the corner with a brilliant diving tackle.
Eventually Toulon got some reward for all their pressure. With the game breaking up and Edinburgh threatening, the otherwise under-performing Bastereaud took a quick tap penalty deep inside his own half and the flowing move was expertly finished off by replacement Daniel Ikpefan with seven minutes left to play.
Anything you can do… with six minutes remaining on the clock Edinburgh’s own super sub Chris Dean crossed for Edinburgh’s fourth, bonus point try to cap a memorable afternoon for the home side.