There are two rounds of fixtures remaining in the United Rugby Championship but Mike Blair’s side are so far adrift of the leading pack that they cannot make the play-offs. Europe was their last hope but it was extinguished by the English champions who won this last-16 tie 16-6. They will now play either Leinster or Ulster in the quarter-finals.
Jasper Wiese, the celebrated South African No 8, came up with the game’s defining moment, combining skill and strength to score the only try and wrest the match back in the Tigers’ favour after the visitors had threatened to spring an upset when two Emiliano Boffelli penalties had edged them ahead.
The outgoing Blair had called on Edinburgh to front up and they did that and more. It was hard going at times and referee Mathieu Raynal was not always too impressed by some of Edinburgh’s tactics but they limited Leicester to three points in the first half. Darcy Graham went close to pinching a try just before the interval after Henry Pyrgos’ box kick was dropped by Freddie Steward but the Scotland winger just ran out of track after he threaded a lovely chip down the touchline.Handre Pollard had given Leicester a fourth-minute lead with a 25-metre penalty following an Edinburgh infringement at the breakdown. It was harum-scarum at times, most notably when Kinghorn saw a clearance kick charged down by George Martin. The ball broke back to Boffelli who put Kinghorn in all sorts of trouble with a short pass and the stand-off found himself charged down again. It was a bit like pinball.
Wiese was a surprise omission from the Leicester starting XV but he appeared – ominously – at the beginning of the second half, replacing Olly Cracknell, and didn’t take long to make an impact. Edinburgh’s Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson and Viliame Mata had caused the hosts real problems in the first 40 and the visitors drew level soon after the interval, Boffelli kicking a close-range penalty after Leicester were punished for not rolling away. Pyrgos then broke free from his own 22, sidestepping his way past Dan Cole before kicking to the corner. Edinburgh were enjoying a period of ascendancy and took the lead with a second Boffelli penalty after Leicester were offside but the home side weren’t behind for long.
When Pyrgos’ kick was charged down in the 52nd minute Edinburgh were up against it. Leicester had a lineout close to the line, and although Sam Skinner pinched it, Duhan van der Merwe dropped the ball. Wiese seized upon it, taking the long way round before bouncing Ritchie out of the way and showing nimble feet to touch down in the corner. It was a brilliant try and Pollard added the conversion to put Leicester 10-6 ahead.
Boffelli looked like he’d drag Edinburgh back within a point but his penalty struck the post. Pollard made the visitors pay soon after, slotting his second penalty of the night as Edinburgh scrambled around in the greasy conditions. There was a sense that the game was starting to slip away from the visitors and Pollard’s third penalty with ten minutes remaining after Ritchie went offside simply strengthened this conviction.
Scorers: Leicester Tigers: Try: Wiese. Con: Pollard. Pens: Pollard 3. Edinburgh: Pens: Boffelli 2.