Ed­in­burgh steel ex­poses lack of unity among galac­ti­cos

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - By Richard Bath

If ever there was a match to re­mind us that rugby is, above all, a team game, it was this one-sided Cham­pi­ons Cup en­counter at the Stade Mayol. In one cor­ner you had Ed­in­burgh’s hun­gry up-and-com­ers; fac­ing them was the rud­der­less col­lec­tion of galac­ti­cos whose only con­nec­tion seemed to be their Toulon shirts and the hu­mon­gous quan­ti­ties of eu­ros re­ceived from owner Mourad Boud­jel­lal.

There was no con­test. Ed­in­burgh were com­fort­ably the su­pe­rior team. Start­ing the tour­na­ment as 14-1 out­siders to reach the knock­out stages, they top the pool with 19 points. If they beat Mont­pel­lier at Mur­ray­field next week they will rightly be re­warded with a home quar­ter-fi­nal.

“The way we con­trolled the game in that sec­ond half was as well as we’ve played,” said coach Richard Cock­er­ill. “We coughed the ball up a lot in that first half but we knew that if we put them un­der pres­sure then we would have op­por­tu­ni­ties. This puts us in a great po­si­tion to qual­ify, but we haven’t qual­i­fied yet.”

Ed­in­burgh’s evening got off to the worst pos­si­ble start when Grant Gilchrist failed to claim the kick-off and Bill Mata gave away a penalty, Toulon kick­ing to the cor­ner for hooker Guil­hem Guirado to force his way over with barely a minute on the clock.

But when Math­ieu Bastareaud in­fringed at a ruck, Jaco van der Walt kicked the vis­i­tors off the mark. Four min­utes later, James John­stone’s mazy run took him into the Toulon 22, and a su­perb Jamie Ritchie off­load put Darcy Gra­ham into space down the touch­line, the diminu­tive wing run­ning over full­back Math­ieu Smaili to touch down.

From a line-out drive, No8 Raphael Lakafia was hauled down inches short and flanker Fe­cunda Isa dot­ted down. An­thony Bel­leau’s con­ver­sion gave Toulon a 12-8 cush­ion at the break.

Van der Walt had missed a last-gasp 40-me­tre penalty be­fore the break, and Ed­in­burgh ap­peared to have let more points slip straight af­ter the res­tart when they kicked for the cor­ner only to lose the line-out. But from the next line-out John­stone put through a de­light­ful grub­ber that popped up into Blair Kinghorn’s arms, Van der Walt con­vert­ing the try.

As Toulon’s heads went down and the French­men fell off tack­les, Ed­in­burgh turned the screw. Two penal­ties put them nine points clear, but the best was yet to come. Toulon threw cau­tion to the wind and worked their way into Ed­in­burgh’s 22 only for prop Mar­cel van der Merwe to knock-on. Man of the match Mata picked up and weaved his way past sev­eral tack­lers be­fore hit­ting the half­way line and throw­ing an au­da­cious one-hand off­load to John­stone, whose in­spired one-handed take en­abled him to go over from half­way.

De­spite a late Ju­lian Savea try, that was game, set and match.

In clear: James John­stone gets the third try

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