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.

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