STUART BATHGATE @ Murrayfield
EDINBURGH were thwarted at the death last night as a late penalty gave Bordeaux a share of the points in this Challenge Cup Pool Three game. Richard Cockerill’s side had led for roughly an hour, and were ten points up at one stage, but the French club deserved to take something from the game – and indeed might have gone home with the win but for some poor decision-making late on.
Blair Kinghorn scored an excellent try and Eroni Sau and Duhan van der Merwe put in some impressive kick-chase defending, but on the whole this was a disjointed performance from the home team. Bordeaux were by no means flawless either, and the result means that whoever wins today’s encounter between Wasps and Agen can close to within two points of the joint leaders.
At times the referee was as erratic as the teams, but Cockerill declined to criticise the official, concentrating instead on his own players’ shortcomings. “I’m disappointed, but they’re a good team and if you switch off for a second or you make basic errors and give them opportunity then they’ll take it,” he said.
“We did some good things but we’re disappointed we didn’t win. That’s a game that we should close out but we made poor decisions. But nothing’s lost or won from the pool stage today: there’s a long way to go.”
A kicking duel dominated proceedings for the first ten minutes and more – a spell enlivened only by Duhan van der Merwe’s mazy run past six or seven defenders from his own goal line to the edge of his 22. Eventually, we saw a kick with some purpose to it – a 30-metre penalty from Jaco van der Walt which gave Edinburgh the lead after quarter of an hour.
The award had come on a rare foray upfield from the home team, and the French side continued to have the bulk of possession after it, only for their bulky backs to be kept at bay by the Edinburgh defence. A lot of the decent position Cockerill’s team managed to find was squandered by some shambolic lineouts, but with 25 minutes played they doubled their lead with another penalty from the stand-off, this one from just beyond the 10-metre line.
However, just minutes later stand-off Matthieu Jalibert opened Bordeaux’s account with a slightly shorter effort, following which Ben Toolis and Luke Crosbie were injured, apparently after colliding with each other. The lock was able to resume after treatment, but Crosbie had to hobble off, to be replaced by John Barclay.
A match punctuated by stoppages was crying out for a moment of brilliance, and it came a few minutes before the break through Blair Kinghorn. A turnover saw space open up suddenly in midfield, and swift hands by Matt Scott and Mark Bennett gave the full-back half a chance. He needed no more, burning off three despairing defenders to touch down in the right corner.
Van der Walt converted superbly, and that contrasted with a botched penalty from Jalibert that came back off the post. Bordeaux were given another chance on the stroke of half-time, though, and on this occasion the stand-off was on target.
The second half was a more assertive, high-tempo affair as both teams tried to attack ball in hand. A third penalty by Van der Walt restored Edinburgh’s ten-point lead, but more disruption ensued when Barclay’s evening was ended by injury and lock Murray Douglas came on to join the back row.
Even so, Edinburgh had the bit between their teeth and should have gone further ahead following a penalty which they sent to touch. The maul from the lineout made good ground, but when the ball went down the line Kinghorn passed forward when Sau had a clear run to the line.
It was a costly error. A score then might have put the match beyond Bordeaux, but instead, within a minute, they were back in the game, as Semi Radradra shrugged off a couple of tackles to burst through from 30 metres out and touch down between the posts. Jalibert’s conversion made it a three-point game as the final quarter began, and a Van der Walt penalty went wide minutes later.
Bordeaux then threw a couple of expensive mistakes of their own into the equation, making a mess of an overlap on the right by passing straight to Van der Merwe and then knocking on with space opening up on the edge of the home 22. But with four minutes to go Jalibert made no mistake with a penalty, drawing his team level. A kick to touch then a drive might have been the better option, although they then appeared happy to run down the clock and settle for the two points.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; E Sau, M Bennett, M Scott, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, H Pyrgos (captain); P Schoeman, M Willemse, P Ceccarelli, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, M Bradbury, L Crosbie, V Mata. Subs: C Fenton, J Bhatti, S Berghan, M Douglas, J Barclay, C Shiel, S Hickey, G Taylor.
Bordeaux-Begles: R Buros; S Cordero, S Radradra, U Seuteni, B Connor; M Jalibert (captain), M Lucu; T Paiva, A Pélissié, L Kaulashvili, K Douglas, A Flanquart, B Gorgadze, C Woki, S Higginbotham. Subs: C Renaud, R Kovekalou, Z El Fakir, J Marais, M Tauleigne, J Gimbert, B Botica, S Tamanivalu.
Referee: C Ridley (England).
Scorers: Edinburgh: Try: Kinghorn. Con: Van der Walt. Pens: Van der Walt 3.
Bordeaux: Try: Radradra. Con: Jalibert. Pens: Jalibert 3.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 3-0, 6-0, 6-3, 11-3, 13-3, 13-6 half-time, 16-6, 16-11, 16-13, 16-16.