IN APPALLING conditions with driving rain and swirling wind, the tail end of Abigail’s anger, Edinburgh played some smart rugby to get their European campaign off to a winning start. Grenoble said they were up for this one but the coaching team made ten changes to their starting XV and it showed.
The home team scored their first try after just six minutes and followed it up with another two more in what was by necessity a fairly low-scoring match. If the home team’s handling had been better, Edinburgh might have won at a canter instead of waiting until the one-hour mark to put this one to bed.
Flanker John Hardie impressed on his Edinburgh debut in conditions that were ready-made for his destructive tendencies and Cornel du Preez grabbed a brace, but if any one unit won this match for Edinburgh it was their international front row trio of WP Nel, Ross Ford and Alasdair Dickinson, the latter making his 100th appearance for the club.
They milked scrum penalties at will, six in the first half alone, and then earned the second-half penalty try that made this game safe.
“I am happy with the win,” said coach Alan Solomons after the game. “Obviously the conditions were not the most pleasant. The guys said it was very, very cold out there.
“We obviously scrummed really well and I thought that was a key factor in us winning. I thought our scrum played a major, major role in that game. The Scotland front row were outstanding. They made a massive difference. No matter who they (Grenoble) put on they were under siege in the scrum.”
The half-backs had mixed fortunes. While Sam Hidalgo-Clyne kept his forwards going forward pretty well, peppering the corners, stand-off Greig Tonks was less assured, overcooking one kick, missing touch altogether on another occasion.
While Grenoble occasionally threatened to make a match of it – winger Daniel Kilioni spilled a scoring pass when this one was still in the balance – they never looked like having the weapons to go for the win. Their blitz defence did cause problems for the home side but never enough to make a difference. A yellow card in the first half and a red for winger Martino Nemani for abusing the ref near the end did little to help the visitors’ cause.
After Edinburgh’s early try – Du Preez from a driving maul – the match was something of a stalemate with most of the action taking place in the middle third of the field. It wasn’t until Grenoble had lost their starting tighthead to injury and their openside flanker Fabien Alexandre to a yellow card on 30 minutes, that Edinburgh extended their lead by two penalties from the boot of Hidalgo-Clyne following set scrum dominance that verged on the unseemly.
The second half started as the first 40 had finished, with Edinburgh bossing the play and Hidalgo-Clyne’s boot eking out another three points for the home team, only this time the slap on the scoreboard brought a response from the French who flexed their muscles in a driving maul, stressed the Edinburgh defence to win a penalty and kicked their first points of the match after exactly 49 minutes of play, Irish scrum-half James Hart doing the damage off the tee.
Dougie Fife enjoyed a great canter up the middle of the park, breaking from deep inside the Edinburgh half, only to see the final pass to Will Helu go astray. Still Edinburgh stayed on the attack, eventually earning an attacking five-metre scrum, quickly followed by a penalty try.
Edinburgh were dominating in all phases of play so when Kilioni finally scored the visitors’ first try it was against all expectations and all reason. Matt Scott spilled a pass and kicked the ball in frustration towards touch but it fell straight into the arms of the French winger who outpaced everyone over 80 metres to the Edinburgh line.
With the clock running down and Grenoble down to 14, Du Preez grabbed his second try in much the same way he scored the first.
Edinburgh got the start they wanted in this competition but they will need more than a front row if they are to better last season’s runners-up spot.
SCORERS: Edinburgh - Try: Du Preez (2), Penalty Try. Conv: Hidaldo-Clyne, Tonks. Pen: Hidalgo-Clyne (3); Grenoble - Try: Kilioni. Conv: Hart. Pen: Hart.
Edinburgh: Fife, Hoyland, Helu (Dean 70), Scott, Brown; Tonks, Hidalgo-Clyne (Kennedy 66); Dickinson (Sutherland 60), Ford (Cochrane 60), Nel (Andress 66), Bresler, Toolis, Coman (Capt) (Manu 50), Hardie (Watson 62), Du Preez.
Grenoble: Gelin (Dupont 53), Nemani, Farrell (Mignot 50), Willison, Kilioni; Bosch, Hart (Capt), Barcella (Taumalolo 50), Jammes, Goze (Desmaison 20), Percival (Hand 50), Marie, Diaby, Alexandre, Hayes