Ed­in­burgh stay top af­ter stun­ning Cham­pi­ons Cup win in Toulon

The Herald on Sunday - - SPORT - BY STE­WART WEIR

TOULON 17 ED­IN­BURGH 28

UN­TIL last night, only two teams had ever de­feated Toulon in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion at the Stade Mayol.

Sara­cens stood alone un­til this sea­son when New­cas­tle Fal­cons achieved the feat.

Make that three teams now af­ter Ed­in­burgh de­feated the for­mer three­time cham­pi­ons of Europe 28-17 with a gutsy dis­play to leave them­selves a win, next Fri­day evening against Mont­pel­lier, away from reach­ing the knock­out stages of this sea­son’s pre­mier cup com­pe­ti­tion.

If this vic­tory is re­mem­bered fondly in years to come, as it will be, then so too will the fab­u­lous off­load from Fi­jian mae­stro Bill Mata to set up Ed­in­burgh’s match-win­ning score.

It was a mo­ment of magic, a mo­ment of ge­nius, and a mo­ment that showed there is no sub­sti­tute for nat­u­ral abil­ity.

Toulon were never ex­pected to be hos­pitable hosts af­ter that match at Mur­ray­field when Ed­in­burgh ran riot, win­ning 40-14.

A minute and 20 sec­onds in, and Toulon had al­ready crossed the Ed­in­burgh line.

The Toulon pack was im­me­di­ately on to the front foot and, af­ter drives by Fa­cundo Isa and then from gi­ant cen­tre and skip­per Math­ieu Bastareaud, hooker Guil­hem Guirado was bun­dled over for the score. This was not the start Ed­in­burgh needed.

How­ever, Ed­in­burgh shook off that early blow. Keep­ing ball in hand, and mov­ing the Toulon pack side­ways, Ed­in­burgh forced an off­side call from ref­eree Wayne Barnes.

Jaco van der Walt split the posts and the Scots trailed 5-3 some 11 min­utes in.

There was no doubt Ed­in­burgh were, un­der the in­struc­tion of at­tack coach Dun­can Hodge, try­ing to be quick and di­rect. It ap­peared to un­nerve Toulon and, when that hap­pens, there is a like­li­hood of in­dis­ci­pline, which more than once meant try­ing to slow up Ed­in­burgh ball.

Noth­ing, how­ever, was go­ing to halt Darcy Gra­ham.

Af­ter a well-de­layed pass from Jamie Ritchie to wide man Gra­ham, full- back Math­ieu Smaili was knocked off-bal­ance and Gra­ham ploughed through for the try.

Ed­in­burgh looked up for the test. Blair Kinghorn showed speed and cut be­tween the Toulon de­fend­ers to make good yardage. Keep­ing Toulon hemmed in, though, was not easy.

Fran­cois Trinh-Duc split the Ed­in­burgh de­fen­sive line, Bastareaud in sup­port, forc­ing the penalty. Toulon con­tin­ued to push and, af­ter tak­ing a quick tap from a line-out in­fringe­ment, Raphael Lakafia was held up inches short. But not Isa. An­thony Bel­leau con­verted to give his side a 12-8 lead.

Both sides were show­ing a real will­ing to give the ball some air. Spin­ning it wide, Ed­in­burgh gave Duhan van der Merwe space to work in, but he put a foot in touch as he eluded Julian Savea and Smaili halted his progress.

Gra­ham probed a few times, as did Bill Mata. In first-half stop­page time, van der Walt shanked a penalty at­tempt from 40m out that would have put his team within a point.

It didn’t ap­pear costly, though, as they pounced on a Toulon han­dling er­ror straight from the kick- off. They then forced the French side to han­dle in a ruck, gift­ing Ed­in­burgh field po­si­tion.

While the ini­tial line-out went askew, f rom Stu­art McI­nally’s se­cond throw Ed­in­burgh se­cured quick ball from the front of the line, trans­fer­ring the ball across the backs.

Cen­tre James John­stone broke and kicked, the bounce be­ing kind to Kinghorn who gath­ered and touched down. Van der Walt, left of the posts, con­verted and Ed­in­burgh led 15-12.

An­other three points were gifted when Toulon col­lapsed a scrum. But cracks were be­gin­ning to show in the French de­fence and in their dis­ci­pline, all of it down to pres­sure ex­erted by the Ed­in­burgh for­wards.

Gra­ham was ex­ploit­ing his space down the right. He was un­lucky that his pass to Henry Pyr­gos was for­ward, while Bel­leau made a des­per­ate clear­ance af­ter Gra­ham had probed with a neat chip.

That gave Ed­in­burgh an­other plat­form f rom which to at­tack, re­sult­ing in van der Walt kick­ing his third penalty goal to stretch out a nine-point lead.

It was to get bet­ter, how­ever, for Ed­in­burgh.

Sixty-three min­utes gone and, af­ter Kinghorn made the ini­tial break, man of the match Mata made a won­der­ful carry, cut­ting through de­fend­ers be­fore l ob­bing an ou­tra­geous off­load for Chris Dean to burst on, win­ning the foot race from the Toulon 10m line. Van der Walt con­verted.

How­ever, Toulon were not go­ing to throw in the towel just yet, and Kiwi fin­isher Savea crossed in the cor­ner.

Eight min­utes re­mained but not h i ng c ould have ups e t Ed­in­burgh.

Scor­ers: Toulon – Tries: Guirado, Isa, Savea. Con: Bel­leau.

Ed­in­burgh – Tries: Gra­ham, Kinghorn, John­stone. Cons: Van der Walt 2. Pens: Van der Walt 3

Toulon: Smaili (Car­bonel 52); Pi­etersen (Zegh­dar 40), Bastareaud, Trinh-Duc, Savea; Bel­leau, Webb (Cot­tin 66); Bap­tiste Gros, Guirado (Etril­lard 66), Se­tiano (van Der Merwe 52), Kruger, Taofifenua (Gor­godze 56), Onam­bele, Isa, Lakafia (Mon­ri­bot 62) Sub­sti­tutes: Chiocci, Ed­in­burgh: Kinghorn; Gra­ham, Dean, John­stone, van der Merwe; van der Walt, Pyr­gos; Schoe­man (Dell 69), McI­nally (Cherrt 74), Nel (Berghan 69), Too­lis (McKen­zie 66), Gilchrist, Ritchie (Cros­bie 66), Wat­son, Mata. Sub­sti­tutes: Fowles, Hickey, So­cino.

It was a mo­ment that showed there is no sub­sti­tute for nat­u­ral abil­ity

Ed­in­burgh’s Chris Dean pow­ers ahead, try­ing to gain vi­tal ground against Toulon

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