Edinburgh maintained their winning streak in the European Challenge Cup with this victory over Premiership whipping boys London Irish. The home side had banked the bonus point before half-time and, while Irish opened the scoring, Edinburgh were never headed once they regained the lead shortly after. They remain at the top of Pool 4.
The Edinburgh back row trio all carried with menace aforethought, Fijian Viliame Mata looking like he means it these days. The front five were made to work in the set piece but the hosts’ entire backline emerged with credit.
After this display it is easy to see why the Exiles are struggling to keep their place in England’s top league, what you can’t comprehend is how they managed to beat Harlequins on the opening weekend of the season, their only league win to date.
Irish ineptitude was underlined when Blair Kinghorn scored Edinburgh’s second try of the evening. The big full-back went on the attack and, short of support, he kicked ahead more in hope than expectation. Irish full-back Greg Tonks, a former Edinburgh player, appeared to have the danger covered but somehow lost control over his own line and Kinghorn only had to dive on the loose ball to score.
Perhaps the only place that London Irish had a clear advantage was in the set scrum and, boy, did they milk that for all it was worth. One scrum, reset perhaps five, six, even seven times, in the north west corner of the old stadium took a full eight minutes to complete. Edinburgh loosehead Rory Sutherland earned himself a yellow card in the process and still Irish couldn’t make it stick, Edinburgh winning a turnover at a breakdown to lift the siege.
“It was a good win, Some good tries, some good passages of play so all very positive,” said Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill after the match, which was switched from Myreside to Murrayfield yesterday amid fears of a frozen pitch. “We are slowly building our game, I am a little bit disappointed around the tries we conceded but I thought the boys showed some character. When they sat on our line for ten minutes and we had a scrum fest it was good to see we found a way out of it.”
A Scot, in the form of scrum-half Scott Steele, was probably the most energetic member of the visiting squad. He sparked the best move from Irish with a counter-attack from his own 22, which resulted in a try for winger Ben Ransom, who latched on to a kick ahead to score a nice try against the run of play.
It was mostly one-way traffic, with Stuart McInally opening the scoring in the eighth minute and reserve scrum-half Sean Kennedy wrapping things up with Edinburgh’s eighth try after the 80 was up. In between times Irish managed three tries themselves.
Edinburgh’s backs enjoyed the run of the place with Phil Burleigh, capped in the autumn series, grabbing two first-half touchdowns, the second of which gave Edinburgh their third bonus point in Europe.
For the first, Magnus Bradbury made the initial breach in the opposition line and when the ball was recycled Burleigh threw an outrageous dummy and everyone in the opposition bought shares.
The second was a little piece of magic. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne broke and kicked ahead, Chris Dean collected the bobbling ball and while it looked like he could have made the line himself, the midfielder offloaded beautifully to give Burleigh his second in as many minutes.
Edinburgh took a four-try, 26-10 lead into the half-time sheds and they scored another four after the break, helped by Tonks sitting out ten minutes in the bin, with Irish managing two in reply, one of which went to another Edinburgh old boy, Mike Coman.
A slew of substitutes arrived but nothing would stop Edinburgh gorging themselves at this feast. Hidalgo-Clyne’s pace bought him a score on 49 minutes and Darcy Graham on debut touched down acrobatically three minutes later.
Irish got one back through Coman before normal service was resumed, Junior Rasolea scoring with his first touch of the ball after replacing Jaco van der Walt on 66 minutes.
Irish replacement scrum-half Ben Meehan finished off a good move to claim the visitors’ third try of the evening but Sean Kennedy took advantage of a kind bounce to round off Edinburgh’s scoring spree and Kinghorn’s conversion made it a round half hundred.
“We have to get maximum points out of Krasny Yar next week and if we get a result against them I’d like to think we’d be in shape for qualifying,” added Cockerill, with a quarter-final berth already in sight.