THERE was heartbreak in London for legions of Edinburgh Rugby fans who had flocked to the English capital to support their team in the first-ever European final appearance by a Scottish pro team.
Despite being heavily outnumbered at Twickenham Stoop in what seemed like a home match for Gloucester, the Edinburgh fans were in good voice and made themselves heard in the cosy little stadium but it was to no avail. Edinburgh lost an absorbing European Challenge Cup final 19-13, which they rarely looked like winning.
We lacked possession, we lacked territory and we were punished by turnoversAlan Solomons
Their head coach, Alan Solomons, felt his team was well prepared but admitted that they did not do themselves justice in the opening 40 minutes.
“I think we were mentally up for it but I think we didn’t have one of our best performances,” Solomons said.
“In the first half I don’t think we played particularly well. So we lacked possession, we lacked territory and we were punished by turnovers, players losing ball in contact, and some of our kicking was wayward. We weren’t great in the air.
“In the first half we allowed them far too much momentum.
“For me, what was important, was that we showed some resilience and stuck in and came back in that second period when we got a little bit of a momentum shift. But I don’t think it was a question of the players not being up for it at all.”
If their build-up was a little low-key then so was the way that Edinburgh came out of the blocks, slow and tentative.
In contrast, Gloucester did what they have done for decades and brought some muscle to bear, running hard with and without the ball.
The teams scored just one try apiece, but Gloucester triumphed thanks to four penalties from the reliable boot of former Edinburgh stalwart Greig Laidlaw compared to just two by his rival number nine, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.
Laidlaw said last week that he was happy to have made the move south and he will be even happier with the decision when he eventually wakes up this morning. The match was incident strewn with three cards in all which briefly threatened to change the course of this game. Anton Bresler earned a yellow in the first half for Edinburgh before second-half indiscipline by Gloucester allowed Edinburgh to fight their way back into the game. First up, flanker Ross Moriarty stuck his knee into Fraser McKenzie’s back and saw yellow for his trouble on the 56-minute mark. The controversy was ratcheted up when centre Bill Meakes stiff-armed Sam Beard and earned a red card for the dangerous tackle with much of the final quarter still to play.
Ross Ford capitalised on a two-man advantage with a late try that gave Edinburgh fans some hope but Gloucester slowed the game down and ran down the clock to record their second win of Europe’s “other” trophy. The match ended with Laidlaw hitting one late, last penalty just wide of the posts.
Edinburgh must now regroup to finish off their league season. Sitting one point behind the Scarlets in the coveted sixth spot, Edinburgh have two final games to salvage something from a season that had been so rich with promise just 24 hours before.
The Scottish side could have the chance for swift revenge; these teams will meet again in a European qualification play-off if Edinburgh finish seventh in the Guinness Pro12.
Man of the match Jonny May reflected on a glory night for Gloucester. May said: “[It means] everything. It’s a game that hung in the balance for so long, and to be at Gloucester for as long as I have, with my mates, just makes it a night I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”