Bordeaux Begles 32
COLIN RENTON @ Stade Chaban-Delmas
EDINBURGH ended the afternoon empty handed against a clinical Bordeaux-Begles side, meaning the European Challenge Cup fate of Richard Cockerill’s squad now rests on their match at home to Agen next Saturday. The result was no great surprise given the current strength of Bordeaux, and Cockerill conceded that it would have been a massive achievement to become the first team to win at Stade Chaban-Delmas since last April.
“They are a very good side with a big budget,” he said. “At the moment, who are a better side in Europe than Bordeaux? We learned some lessons around if you make errors or give opportunities to big teams, you’ll be punished, and we did. I thought we stuck to task and I thought our character was big today.
“We stayed in the battle the whole time, But they deserved to win. They are a better team than us at this point in time and they were better today. There were little parts of our game that were pleasing and we’ve got to keep learning and building. There’s some guys getting some really good exposure and experience.
“Of course we’re disappointed – there are parts we could do better. We conceded four tries, a couple of those were off turnovers in the first half were disappointing. We’ve got to get better at that. I think there’s some real positives. I’m never going to be happy when we lose, for obvious reasons, but it’s a tough place to come and I thought we gave a good show of ourselves. We’ve got to keep building this group and get experience and learning from it.
“As a group we’ve taken a step forward today and sometimes winning isn’t the outcome that takes us a step forward from where we are as a club at this point.”
Bordeaux have stepped up a gear this season since the arrival of Christophe Urios as coach in the summer. They have never finished higher than third at the pool stage of the competition and were desperate to progress this time. Urios had selected a full strength side, including the five men named in France’s preliminary Six Nations squad earlier in the week, while Cockerill had rested a number of tight forwards and was missing injured captain Stuart McInally.
Edinburgh had a high energy start to the game and Darcy Graham made an early impression with a kick and chase that carried play to within a couple of metres of the line. That effort ended with the hosts earning a penalty, but the visitors were back on the offensive when Duhan van der Mewre broke two tackles and raced at the home defence.
Edinburgh resorted to the boot of Jaco van der Walt to claim the opening points of the contest with a well-struck penalty after 10 minutes. The hosts had been infrequent visitors to the visitors’ half up to that point but a couple of attacks ended with a penalty that Matthieu Jalibert converted to restore parity.
Graham gathered a chip ahead and, with another lung-bursting run, carried the ball back into the home 22 where his attempted kick bobbled unkindly. Bordeaux celebrated that escape with a controversial try, when Jalibert delivered a beautifully weighted cross kick to put Semi Radradra in space, but the Fijian winger appeared to have used a double movement and there was dubiety over whether he grounded the ball, before the referee awarded the score after consulting the television official. Jalibert booted the conversion to take the home side’s total into double figures.
The home side extended their advantage with a second score two minutes before half time. Radradra blasted through the middle of the Edinburgh defence and offloaded to Santiago Cordero. The Argentine international completed the job in the corner, and Jalibert added the extra points to complete the first half scoring, with the French outfit seemingly in control.
It was important for Edinburgh to strike first after the restart, and they did that in 49 minutes. With Bordeaux pressing on the edge of the visitors’ 22, Mark Bennett intercepted and fed Hamish Watson, whose offload found van der Merwe in space. He raced to dot down and leave van der Walt a straightforward conversion that brought the Scots to within bonus point territory.
However, Bordeaux stepped up a gear and by the hour mark were back in command. First Radridra did the damage in midfield before sending replacement scrum-half Yann Lesgourgues over with his first touch of the ball. Jalibert converted then added a penalty to extend the gap to 17 points inside the final quarter.
And the hosts clinched the bonus point try with nine minutes to play when Peni Kovakalou rumbled over from close range.
Edinburgh had the final word when Bennett scampered over in the final minute and Simon Hickey converted, but it was too little to have an impact on the final score, and Cockerill’s men must now bounce back against Agen at Murrayfield on Saturday to progress to the knockout stage of the competition.
Bordeaux-Begles: N Ducuing; G Cros (J-B Dubie 62) S Radradra, R Lamerat, S Cordero: M Jalibert (L Meret 71), M Lucu (Y Lesgourgues 57): J Poirotc (P Kovakalou 61), C Maynadier (A Pelissie 58) V Cobilas (L Kaulashvilli 52), K Douglas, C Cazeaux (J Marais 52), A Roumat, C Woki (M Diaby 57), S Higginbotham.
Edinburgh Rugby: B Kinghorn: D Graham, M Bennett, M Scott (J Johnstone 40), D van der Merwe: J van der Walt (S Hickey 63), N Groom (C Shiel 60); R Sutherland (P Schoeman 52), M Willemse, S Berghan (P Ceccarelli 52), S Thomson, L Carmichael, M Bradbury, H Watson (L Crosbie 66), V Mata (J Barclay 14).
Referee: Tom Foley (England)
Bordeaux-Begles: Tries: Radradra, Cordero, Lesgourgues, Kovakalou; Cons: Jalibert 3; Pens: Jalibert 2
Edinburgh: Tries, van der Merwe, Bennett; Cons: van der Walt, Hickey; Pen; van der Walt
Scoring sequence: (Bordeaux-Begles first): 0-3; 3-3; 8-3; 10-3; 15-3; 17-3 (h-t) 17-8; 17-10; 22-10; 24-10; 27-10; 32-10; 32-15; 32-17.
Man-of-the-Match: Home winger Semi Radradra showed while Bristol Bears have got out the check book to secured his services for next season.
Talking Point: Edinburgh could end up returning to Bordeaux for the quarter-final. It would be interesting to see how a full strength side would cope with the French outfit.