EDINBURGH 25 LYON 17
Injured Scotland captain Gilchrist could miss autumn Test series
EDINBURGH will pay a heavy price for keeping their European Challenge Cup hopes alive with Grant Gilchrist leading the list of players forced off in a brutal first half.
Just four days after he was named as Scotland captain for next month’s Tests, Gilchrist had to leave the field just before the half-hour mark holding his right arm in a way that suggests he has damaged the elbow or wrist and he is certain to be a doubt for the Tests. The seriousness of the damage was confirmed later when the team said he was one of the group taken to hospital to have the injury treated.
The team is in real trouble as a result. Three players had gone down in 24 hours before the game and Gilchrist was one of five forced off before the match had reached the 30-minute mark, leaving the club with serious problems across the whole side but in particular in the back row.
They were already down to bare bones in that area and with Hamish Watson, who has been called up to train with the Scotland squad, breaking a jaw and Roddy Grant, the other flanker, fracturing a cheekbone, Edinburgh will be struggling to field a back row against Leinster next week.
On top of that, having lost Andries Strauss before the game, Phil Burleigh and Sam Beard, the other two centres also went off, so that the midfield is almost as badly hit. On top of those who went off, a number of players carried on despite picking up knocks that might have forced them off if the team were not already in crisis.
“In my whole coaching career, which goes back 37 years, I have never seen anything like it,” said Alan Solomons, the head coach, afterwards. “They did incredibly well to have held together. It was remarkable, absolutely remarkable. The composure they showed and the decision-making was remarkable. It was unbelievable. Before this game we were already down to four loose forwards and we lost another in this game and finished with James Hiltebrand, a hooker, playing flanker.”
A couple of weeks ago, it was the kind of misfortune that might have rocked the team’s confidence, but it is remarkable what a couple of wins can do. Within 10 minutes they were 13 points to the good with Tom Heathcote slotting two penalties and converting a perfectly judged try made by Phill Burleigh, the centre, and finished by Jack Cuthbert, drafted in on the wing.
Lyon are not such a bad side, however, and they hit back with a series of lineouts on the Edinburgh line that they turned into mauls, until eventually Edinburgh broke and Sakiusa Matadigo, the No.8, was there to touch down.
They may have been helped by the carnage in the Edinburgh ranks, with both flankers, Hamish Watson and Roddy Grant, as well as both centres, Burleigh and Sam Beard, being forced off in a 10-minute spell that shook up the team even further.
Heathcote did manage to settle a few nerves with a couple more penalties but when Grant Gilchrist, the Scotland lock and captain, became the fifth first-half casualty, they must have started to wonder what else could go wrong.
At first, not much. They eased even further ahead with Heathcote continuing to find the posts with his kicks, and by half-time they were sitting on a promising 15-point lead. Lyon cut the deficit to within two scores with Porical adding a penalty early in the second half but it looked as though the Edinburgh defence was going to hold strong until the start of the third quarter.
That was when the French started to bring on their fresh replacements and with all the Edinburgh subs on the field early, they had nobody left to freshen their team in reply.
What they did have was a willingness to tackle and though it was not enough to stop Didier Tison, the replacement No.8, scoring a secondhalf try that was a replica of their score in the first period, they did keep the opposition at bay for the rest of the game and even managed a late Heathcote penalty to edge them eight points clear and deny the French a losing bonus point.
ANKLE-BITER: Edinburgh scrum-half Sam HidalgoClyne goes down after a tackle by Damien Fitzpatrick.