TWO tries coughed up in the first ten minutes left Edinburgh with too much ground to make up in this scrappy Challenge Cup quarter-final clash at the Stade Chabon-Delmas, meaning a season which had promised so much for the capital club before lockdown has ended in disappointment, with three defeats from four matches since the resumption of rugby.
Edinburgh battled back from 14-0 down to have Bordeaux on the ropes with 10 minutes to go, but those familiar failings of poor discipline and lack of composure under pressure meant that they could not find the killer blow they needed.
This was the fifth straight knock-out match defeat for the capital club since Richard Cockerill’s arrival in the summer of 2017, and perhaps the most frustrating yet given that the team’s sluggish start left them with a mountain to climb in order to get the result they needed to keep their season alive. At least against Ulster last time out they could draw some comfort from having got themselves into a winning position before combusting.
In fairness, we should acknowledge that Edinburgh were missing several key players – including Duhan van Der Merwe, Mark Bennett, Henry Pyrgos and Nic Groom – who they would normally have turned to for leadership in a game such as this. Despite this, they showed in flashes that they were good enough to claim a major scalp here, but they just couldn’t keep their focus for long enough chunks of the match to really take control.
They now face a two-week break before the 2020-21 PRO14 season get under way, so there isn’t going to be much time for the licking of wounds.
Edinburgh fell behind in the fourth minute when James Johnstone tried to keep his options open in the tackle and ended up being stripped by Ulupano Seateni, who then released Satiago Cordero for an unchallenged 60-metre sprint to the line.
With Viliame Mata having already fumbled the kick-off to hand the hosts all the early momentum, it was a far from ideal start for Edinburgh. Jaco van der Walt did get an opportunity to settle nerves with an offside penalty but missed the target. Instead, Edinburgh promptly found themselves even further behind when Charlie Shiel guddled a high ball, gifting Bordeaux the platform from which stand-off Matthieu Jalibert expertly sent outside centre Jean-Baptiste Dubié over off the back of totally dominant scum, with just nine minutes on the clock.
Edinburgh managed to stem the flow of points for the remainder of the half but could not hold onto the ball for long enough to stretch their opponents in any meaningful way. Bordeaux, meanwhile, might have been frustrated by some of their indiscipline and inaccuracies but continued to threaten from all over the park, with a blockbuster charge from deep by winger Ben Lam – swatting off Johnstone and Blair Kinghorn along the way – requiring a well-timed last-ditch tackle from Mata to prevent a third home try.
Van der Walt did get Edinburgh onto the scoreboard near the half hour mark with a fairly straightforward penalty when a Bordeaux player was called for not rolling away in the tackle, but they then suffered a setback when Mata limped off with a leg injury with just over five minutes to go in the first period.
Shiel and Hamish Watson did well to get back to rescue the situation as Bordeaux pushed for a third try just before the turnaround, but when Kinghorn and Shiel (again) managed to pierce Bordeaux’s defence for the first time in the game a few moments later the opportunity was squandered by an unforced fumble by Watson.
Van der Walt kicked his second penalty – once again for the tackler not rolling away – early in the second half, but that was quickly cancelled out by a side-entry penalty for Jalibert.
Then a moment of pure magic from Darcy Graham hauled Edinburgh right back into the game. The diminutive winger, twisted and turned, ducked and bounced his way through four opponents inside a two-metre squared box in the bottom right corner of the field, then had the presence of mind to release the ball as he jumped back to his feet following a tackle, before releasing back inside to Damien Hoyland for the try just before being bundled into touch.
Van der walt couldn’t manage the tricky conversion, leaving it as a six-point game. Bordeaux pulled themselves more than a converted try ahead again with a Jalibert penalty, but momentum was now firmly with the visitors.
Kinghorn might have released Graham for a try in the corner but decided it was too high risk – which was probably the right call – and Edinburgh got a side-entry penalty which allowed them to continue pressing, but then Watson once again dropped the ball, Bordeaux were able to clear their lines.
Back Edinburgh came, and when referee Frank Murphy lost patience at the number of penalties being conceded by Bordeaux within ten metres of their own line, replacement tight-head Ben Tameifuna – who had just crawled all over the tackled man – found himself shuffling off to the sin-bin for a ten minutes breather and Kinghorn slotted the easy three points.
Edinburgh now had 10 minutes to score a converted try for the win – but they needed composure. It wasn’t to be. Replacement hooker Mike Willemse gave away a cheap penalty for going off his feet and was lucky that the resultant shot at goal didn’t have the legs. But the visitors then lost the ball as they tried to build a driving maul, and found themselves pinned back on their line for the remainder of the match thanks to a badly executed line-out throw to the tail.
Ben Botica kicked a late penalty for Bordeaux in the final play of the match.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Graham, J Johnstone, G Taylor (C Dean 60), D Hoyland; J van der Walt; C Shiel; P Schoeman (R Sutherland 59), S McInally (M Willemse 67), S Berghan (M McCallum 67), B Toolis (A Davidson 59), G Gilchrist, J Ritchie (M Bradbury 60), H Watson, V Mata (N Haining 34).
Bordeaux-Begles: N Ducuing; S Cordero, J-B Dubié, U Seuteni (P Uberti 65), B Lam; M Jalibert (B Botica 67), Y Lesgourgues (M Lucu 43); J Poirot (L Kaulashvili 47), C Maynadier (J Dweba 47), V Cobilas (B Tameifuna 47), K Douglas (C Cazeaux 42-54), J Marais, M Diaby (C Woki 47), G Petti, M Tauleigne.
Referee: F Murphy (Ireland).
Bordeaux: Tries: Cordero, Dubié: Cons: Jalibert 2; Pen: Jalibert 2, Botica.
Edinburgh: Try: Hoyland; Pens: Van der Walt 2, Kinghorn.
Scoring sequence (Bordeaux first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 14-3 (h-t) 14-6; 17-6; 17-11; 20-11; 20-14; 23-14.
Yellow cards –