European Challenge Cup: Edinburgh 34-33 Stade Francais
|Edinburgh (12) 34|
|Tries: Watson, Van der Walt, Rasolea Cons: Hidalgo-Clyne, Kinghorn Pens: Hidalgo-Clyne 4|
|Stade Francais (6) 33|
|Tries: Macalou, Nayacalevu, Burden Cons: Plisson 3 Pens: Plisson 4|
Edinburgh secured a home European Challenge Cup quarter-final after an enthralling see-saw victory over Stade Francais at Murrayfield.
The capital side led 12-6 at half-time via four Sam Hidalgo-Clyne penalties.
Jules Plisson’s third penalty and tries from Sekou Macalou and Waisea Vuidarvuwalu – either side of Hamish Watson’s score – put Stade 26-19 up.
But Jaco van der Walt’s try and penalty regained the lead, Craig Burden replied before Junior Rasolea’s late try.
Blair Kinghorn landed what proved the winning conversion with two minutes left, before a last-ditch Stade attack ended in an Edinburgh penalty.
A breathtaking victory was a fifth from five pool matches for Richard Cockerill’s side, who have secured a home tie in the last eight – prior to their final group match away to Stade in Paris next Saturday, 20 January.
Stade are a curious lot, a team that began their Challenge Cup campaign with a mind-altering loss to Krasny Yar in Siberia and followed it up with a 44-7 drubbing at home to London Irish. At that early stage in the group, they looked done. Their domestic season was going badly – they sit 11th in the Top 14 – and their focus seemed on survival in France rather than a defence of the title they won last season.
From disinterest came something different. They won two in a row and came to Murrayfield for the first part of a double-header with some hope and a whole lot of new-found determination.
Hidalgo-Clyne and Plisson traded penalties to make it 6-6 after the opening quarter. When Jonathan Danty went to the bin for persistent Stade offside, Hidalgo-Clyne kicked Edinburgh into a lead.
The scrum-half made it 12-6 just before the break. It wasn’t pretty, but it was intriguing. Edinburgh had spent much of the half on the front foot but Stade’s defence and their pushing of the boundaries of the offside law to breaking point kept it tight.
Tighter still when Stade began the second half with 10 rapid points. Things got manic from then. A thriller unfolded.
Plisson’s penalty and then phase upon phase of pressure in its wake saw Macalou blast his way over. With Plisson’s conversion, Stade hit the front at 16-12.
It veered crazily from there. Watson seized on a loose Stade line-out and galloped away like a good thing to score to put Edinburgh back in front, Hidalgo-Clyne’s sure boot landing the conversion.
But no sooner than they were back in the lead, Edinburgh were level after a Plisson penalty and then behind again when a ruthless thrust saw Nayacalevu go over.
That was on the hour – and it got even more frenetic. Jaco van der Walt ran in from the 22, dummying the French defence and giving Edinburgh the momentum again. The fly-half missed the conversion but a penalty soon after put the home team in front once more.
From the next play, they were behind again. A brilliant response with a short restart, great lines and a finish from replacement Burden. The extras made it 33-27 to the French with five minutes left.
The drama had one last act with that chip over the top by Nathan Fowles on a free play – Stade gave away a truckload of penalties throughout – which was jumped on by Rasolea. Try. Conversion.
A one-point win and glory for Edinburgh. The quarter-finals await them. A precious tie at home is everything they could have hoped for.
Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill told BBC Scotland: “I am delighted with the result. We found a way to eke a win out of what was an odd game. It was a bit of a mixed performance but it is a good learning tool, to win not playing as well as we can.
“Stade played well and we were little bit off defensively – the tries we conceded were soft. We made some poor decisions from our own half, I thought we over-played a little bit.
“But we stayed in the game, we worked very hard and the boys should take great credit because they eked out a great victory.
“We could easily have lost tonight and probably have no complaints. But we can enjoy a good win. We are in the quarter-finals of a European competition so that is something to look forward to.”
Edinburgh: Kinghorn, Hoyland, Bennett, Rasolea, Van der Merwe, Van der Walt, Hidalgo-Clyne; Sutherland, McInally (capt), McCallum, Toolis, Gilchrist, Bradbury, Watson, Mata.
Replacements: Cochrane, Shields (for Sutherland, 67), Bryce, McKenzie (for Toolis, 67), Ritchie (for Mata, 61), Fowles (for Hidalgo-Clyne, 57), Johnstone, Graham.
Stade Francais: Ensor, Martial, Nayacalevu, Danty, Arias, Plisson. McLeod; Van der Merwe, Panis, Alo-Emile, Gabrillagues, Flanquart (capt), De Giovanni, Ugena, Macalou.
Replacements: Burden (for Panis), Zhvania (for Van der Merwe, 66), Melikidze (for Alo-Emilie, 66), Cerqueira, Meite, Daguin, Geraghty, Yobo.