Edinburgh stay top after stunning Champions Cup win in Toulon
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