Edinburgh suffer agonising defeat by London Irish but remain on track for knockout phase

Edinburgh remain on track to secure a spot in the knockout phase of the European Challenge Cup despite an agonising last-ditch 21-20 defeat by London Irish.

London Irish's Olly Cracknell celebrates scoring a crucial try against Edinburgh.
London Irish's Olly Cracknell celebrates scoring a crucial try against Edinburgh.

There were only occasional glimpses of the scintillating rugby the capital side has produced in recent weeks, but there was plenty of evidence that Mike Blair is building a squad than can be competitive in more ways than one.

This was a game that promised much, with both sides intent on playing open rugby. And, although the protagonists attempted to throw the ball around, it was messy stuff at times. The repeated involvement of the TMO was an unwelcome feature that added to the stop-start nature of the game.

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Ultimately, the exiles deserved the win on the basis of their determination to unlock a solid Edinburgh defence, despite being reduced to 14 men for the final quarter. It was a sore one for the visitors, but they will have learned lessons that should stand them in good stead as the season progresses.

Ollie Hassell-Collins of London Irish tries to break clear of the Edinburgh defence.

Emiliano Boffelli struck the post with Edinburgh’s first scoring opportunity, after a scrum penalty 40 metres out. Irish responded with a spell of intense pressure, and it took a desperate effort to hold out a string of attacks by a home side that varied the line of attack well.

Having escaped unscathed from a defensive shift lasting almost 20 minutes, a spilled ball 10 metres from the home line handed Edinburgh a scrum that was the foundation for the opening score.

Jamie Ritchie and WP Nel were both repelled from close range, but hooker Adam McBurney saw a gap and hammered his way over, and Boffelli added the extras.

The lead lasted only briefly and a slick move following lineout saw the ball shipped through five pairs of hands to Kyle Rowe, and the former Edinburgh man showed his pace to hurtle in at the corner. Paddy Jackson’s conversion squared matters.

Edinburgh's Blair Kinghorn is thwarted by London Irish.

Edinburgh had had few chances to attack at pace, but when they did offer a glimpse of their cutting edge it paid off with points. James Lang made the break and fed Blair Kinghorn who offloaded to Ramiro Moyano and the winger darted between two defenders then stretched over for the try which Boffelli converted.

Moyano suffered an injury in the move and was replaced by Jaco van der Walt whose first contribution was a penalty that concluded the first half scoring.

The hosts cut the deficit five minutes after the restart when Ollie Hoskins was awarded a try after the referee consulted the TMO. Jackson again converted before Nick Phipps and Kinghorn each had tries disallowed after the referee again referred to the television official, who was called into action again to replay an incident on the ground that showed a headbutt by Agustin Creevy on Jamie Ritchie that ended with a red card for the home side’s hooker.

Eventually the focus turned again to the scoreboard and it was to embellish the Edinburgh tally after van der Walt stroked over his second penalty of the match.

That wasn’t quite enough for Blair’s men. A penalty banged into touch allowed the hosts to launch another series of attacks that yielded a try for Ollie Cracknell with two minutes left and Jackson’s conversion snatched the victory, leaving Edinburgh with a potentially crucial narrow-defeat bonus.

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