Stade Francais 17
COLIN RENTON @ Stade Jean-Bouin
EDINBURGH suffered their first defeat of this European Challenge Cup campaign but there were plenty of positives from a game that was played in difficult conditions on a pitch that was not conducive to open rugby.
While the outcome disappointing for Richard Cockerill, who is not the type of coach to accept a loss in any circumstances, it has not affected Edinburgh’s next assignment in the competition – a home tie against Cardiff Blues, which will be played at BT Murrayfield at the end of March.
Of the two sides, Stade certainly had more at stake. In addition to professional pride, Stade had two incentives to win the game. Qualification for the knockout phase as second place finishers remained a possibility, and was the route by which they progressed last year before going on to lift the trophy at Murrayfield in May. There was also the hunger to succeed for coach Greg Cooper who had announced during the week that he would be leaving the club at the end of January – 18 months before his contract expires – to be with his ill daughter in New Zealand.
The French club made a perfect start to the contest and took the lead inside three minutes. A multi-phase effort carried play to within striking distance of the Edinburgh line and tight head Paul Alo Emile touched down against the right-hand post, with Shane Geraghty adding the conversion.
And the lead grew in seven minutes when Geraghty chipped cleverly over the Edinburgh defence and Jonathan Danty won the race to the line for a try that was awarded after referring to the TMO, following a suggestion that the scorer had been ahead of the kicker.
The Edinburgh scrum had struggled against a powerful home eight and their woes extended to the lineout where things went awry at two consecutive throw-Ins.
Stade were also guilty of wastefulness and capped a mounting tally of handling errors when Geraghty missed a penalty and that fate also befell the visitors when Jaco van der Walt was wide of the target at the other end with what proved to be the final scoring opportunity of the first half.
Edinburgh looked livelier after the restart and the introduction of Viliame Mata provided a new dimension to their attacking options. He featured three time as the visitors edged ever closer to the Stade line. Darcy Graham was hauled down just short but the ball was passed out to Damien Hoyland, who powered over for an unconverted score.
Another lost lineout allowed the Frenchmen to relieve the pressure and they scored again when Djibril Camara raced into Edinburgh territory and fed Seku Macalou, who offloaded to Sergio Parisse, and the Italian back-rower marked his return from injury when he blasted through two tackles to dot down.
A bonus point win would have boosted Stade’s seeding and they set about securing a fourth try with a sustained assault. But the Edinburgh defence held firm and they struck on the counter attack when Dougie Fife raced onto a kick through by Mark Bennett and dived on the ball just before it went dead.
That proved to be the final scoring of the evening that had featured several aspects that pleased Cockerill.
“Stade are a good side and for the first 30 minutes we got ambushed a bit by their physicality. It felt like we were not quite at the races which was disappointing. I thought we played some pretty good stuff in the first half towards the end”, he said.
“It was a game that we will learn from. We didn’t deserve to win but I was pleased that the players found a way to stay in the game.”
Edinburgh: D Graham (J Johstone 65); D Hoyland, M Bennett, J Rasolea, D van der Merwe (D Fife 57); J van der Walt, N Fowles (S Hidalgo-Clyne 56); R Sutherland (K Bryce 77), C Fenton (N Cochrane 48), M McCallum (M Shields 77), F McKenzie, L Carmichael (G Gilchrist 64), M Bradbury (V Mata 48), J Ritchie, C Du Preez.
Stade Francais: T Ensor; J Arias, W Nayacalevu, J Danty, D Camara (P Willimas 61); S Geraghty (J Yobo 58) C McLeod (A Coville 58); Z Zhvania (H van der Merwe 48), L Panis, P Alo Emile (G Melikidze 70), P Gabrillagues, A Flanquart, M De Giovanni S Cerquira 70), M Ugena (S Parisse 48), S Macalou.
Stade Francais: Tries: Alo Emile, Danty, Parisse; Cons; Geraghty.
Edinburgh: Tries: Hoyland, Fife
Scoring sequence: 5-0; 7-0; 12-0 (h-t) 12-; 17-5
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)