Leicester v Edinburgh: supersub Wiese kills off Scots’ hopes of upset

Two penalties by Emiliano Boffelli briefly give visitors hope before only try of game puts Tigers in charge

Blair Kinghorn
Blair Kinghorn is stopped by the Leicester defence. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

Leicester Tigers  16
Edinburgh 6

STUART BATHGATE
At Mattioli Woods Welford Road

EDINBURGH fought to the death in this Champions Cup last-16 tie, showing considerably more determination and defiance than they have done in some of their recent league defeats. At one point in the second half, an upset even seemed on the cards when they went 6-3 up as Emiliano Boffelli hit the target with two penalties.

In the end, though, Leicester were too powerful and marginally less error-prone. Jasper Wiese came off the bench at the start of the second half and scored the only try of the game shortly after Boffelli’s double, and after that the Tigers’ place in the last eight was secure.

Leicester are now either away to Leinster or at home to Ulster in next weekend’s quarter-finals, while Edinburgh have the weekend off after a result which has effectively ended their season. They still have two league matches to play, but their hopes of a place in the play-off were finally ended when they lost last week at Connacht. This defeat – their ninth in ten games – only highlighted the scale of the rebuilding job they will need to carry out between now and the start of the next campaign.

“I just felt we blinked first,” was head coach Mike Blair’s verdict on a dour match played out in difficult, damp conditions. “We maybe just pushed the extra pass.

“We felt we were in the fight. We felt our strategy had been good for the first 55 minutes or so. But with the pressure, they deserved the win.

“We’re really disappointed. We thought they were going to be really tough opposition, and they were, but we felt it came down to a couple of decisions or a couple of executions. When you’re under a little bit of pressure, that’s when errors come. So we just need to be a little bit more patient, and the result might have been different.”

Blair’s team began the first half here just as they had played in that match in Galway – making far too many handling errors and giving away too many penalties. With five minutes played, Tigers stand-off Handre Pollard punished that indiscipline, opening the scoring with a 25-metre penalty.

Then Emiliano Boffelli fumbled a long clearance into touch to give the home side another good attacking platform. But nothing came of that chance, and minutes later Edinburgh also managed to keep Leicester out from a lineout just metres from their own line. 

Midway through the half the normally reliable Pollard lined up another kick at goal after Edinburgh had been penalised for an offence on the deck. It was a longer-range effort this time – from about 40 metres out rather than 25 – and the South African sent his effort just wide.   

After 25 minutes, Edinburgh sent a penalty to touch on the edge of the Tigers 22 to give themselves a rare chance to attack. But they lost their own lineout – not for the first time in the evening – and the defence cleared up.

The one encouraging thing about play up to then was that, for all their errors and indiscipline, Edinburgh were still only three points behind. And as half-time approached they began to put the home team under a bit of pressure, with Henry Pyrgos lobbing a kick into touch just metres from the Leicester goal line.

Then came a kickable penalty chance, but instead of going for goal, Edinburgh went for touch, and again the Tigers were able to deal with the danger. 

There was still time for another attack after that from the visitors – but it ended when Darcy Graham kicked just too far ahead and the ball went dead.

In the last minute before the break, they almost paid the price for committing so many men forward when Leicester’s Freddie Steward hacked clear from his own 22 deep into Edinburgh territory. For a moment the full-back looked like winning the race and going on to score, but Boffelli got back just in time to dive on the ball then pass to a team-mate, whose kick to touch ended the half.

Leicester brought  Wiese on for the start of the second half,  but before the South African could make an impact, Edinburgh attacked right through midfield and won a penalty just a few metres out and in front of the posts. This time no thought was given to going for touch: Boffelli sent the kick between the posts to put his team level.

Pyrgos then broke out of his own half as Edinburgh’s fightback gathered momentum, but his kick ahead was shepherded into touch on the left before Duhan van der Merwe could reach it. A minute later, Van der Merwe came inside to join in an attack, his tackler was offside, and Boffelli scored with the penalty from the 10-metre line. With exactly 50 minutes played, Edinburgh were ahead for the first time.

But the lead lasted less than two minutes. Van der Merwe lost the ball forward as he ran out from behind his own goal-line, Wiese gathered, and the substitute bounced his way off three would-be tacklers before just grounding in the corner. Pollard added the conversion to make it 10-6. 

Boffelli could have narrowed the gap with a third penalty a few minutes later, but this time his effort came back off a post. At the other end, the Argentinian had to scramble desperately behind his own line to deny Leicester a second try after Graham had fumbled.

And that was as good as it got for the Scots. Right on the hour mark, Pollard scored with a penalty in front of the posts to extend his team’s lead to 13-6. The No 10 added another penalty ten minutes from time, and although Edinburgh kept fighting in search of a break, they looked less likely to eat into Leicester’s lead than the Tigers did to extend it.

Leicester Tigers: F Steward; A Watson, G Porter (C Atkinson 76), J Gopperth (D Kelly 57), H Potter; H Pollard, J van Poortvliet; J Cronin (T West 51), J Montoya (captain, C Clare 76), D Cole ( J Heyes 51), G Martin, C Henderson (E Snyman 72), H Liebenberg, T Reffell, O Cracknell (J Wiese 41). 

Edinburgh: E Boffelli; D Graham, M Bennett, J Lang (C Hutchison 67), D van der Merwe; B Kinghorn, H Pyrgos (B Vellacott 68); P Schoeman (B Venter 67), S McInally (D Cherry 50), W Nel (L de Bruin 67), S Skinner (M Sykes 71), G Gilchrist (co-captain), J Ritchie (co-captain), H Watson (L Crosbie 50), V Mata. 

Scorers: Leicester: Try: Wiese. Con: Pollard. Pens: Pollard 3.

Edinburgh: Pens: Boffelli 2.

Scoring sequence (Leicester first): 3-0 half-time; 3-3; 3-6; 8-6; 10-6; 13-6; 16-6.

Referee:  M Raynal (France).

Attendance: 12,844.

About Stuart Bathgate 1407 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

19 Comments

  1. Strangely Watson had his best game-for Edinburgh and/or Scotland for a couple of years.And yet Crosbie relaced him and was immense for 30 mins. So the problem was definitely not with the No. 7 jersey!

  2. Sat through this at the stadium with some decent Leicester fans. On paper they thought we’d give them a good game but it was a dour match and everyone was crying out for the ball to get to the world-class wingers on either team. Leicester play a horrible Borthwick/Jones kick and chase and Edinburgh have no discernible game plan. How can the team representing the capital city have no idea what to do when the ball does actually emerge from the forwards and you have two of the world’s best wingers spending the match as spectators? I read on here that some think Kinghorn kicked well, he did have some decent restart kicks and one good touch finder but I can tell you that watching live yesterday he was a disaster waiting to happen, trying to play off the cuff at the wrong times and without the skills, it’s as if someone has told him he is the heir to Russell and he actually believes he is the real deal. Edinburgh’s malaise is not all his fault, the club seems to be in disarray and it’s time someone gets it by the scruff of the neck and sorts it out. Start by putting a 10 on the pitch with Vellacott at 9 and then coach some attack where we get field position, go through some level-headed phases and then work the ball to Graham or VDM. Have to do better when you are fielding a team of players who are considered to be internationals.

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    • Mark, re Kinghorn 100% agree, he is a good player (back 3 player) but my overarching feeling (for a number of years) is – he’s not to be trusted. I’d sign Dobie and Cooney as new 1st 2nd choice 9s – Cooney to mentor Dobie (alas Pygros finished, Vellacott not good enough and Shiel hasn’t progressed
      from promising)

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    • Since my original comment has disappeared – I’ll chip in here. I feel once again I must defend Kinghorn a bit as whilst Im not saying that he is my favoured stand-off he wasn’t bad yesterday and there were problems all round the pitch that contributed to Edinburghs loss. In ugly weather it was always going to be a box kicking masterclass and we lost out on that one. Our wingers fielding of box kicks was dreadful – i’m not sure if they caught one between them the whole game. In tight games these are the things that make the difference. There were handling mistakes all over the park on both sides, we just made a few more mistakes than them. Most of the key moments had nothing to do with BK – Duanes loss of the ball near the line that led to their try with a few missed tackles on Wiese, Ritchies daft penalty near the end. Endless line out mistakes. Our one period in the 5m zone when Watson got held up over the line – wrong choice of when to go – should have scored.

      This was a game we could have won but again too many mistakes and wrong choices made across the team which has been our season. If we think its one thing that needs fixed we are deluded – its improvements across all areas of the team that are required and I look forward to a reset next season. Assuming Healy does the job at stand-off I think scrum half, tight head and wing/centre need strengthened in the close season.

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      • I agree there were problems all over the pitch and the weather was bad but it was same for both teams and let’s be honest the lads are used to playing in inclement weather! M sorry but you must have been watching a different game to me if you think Kinghorn wasn’t bad, apart from some decent restarts and one touch finder (surely basic skills if you’re given the job of kicking) he was truly awful and was a major contributor to the lack of direction. Compare him to the Leicester 10. Fed up knocking the poor bloke as he is clearly a winger but Kinghorn wouldn’t get anywhere near the starting 10 jersey of any top level team outside Edinburgh and that is the issue.

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  3. It says it all when we were beaten by a team with Harry Potter in it !
    It may be better in the long run that the game was lost as a win might just have papered over the serial cracks or set up a potential car crash quarter final.If Dodson makes an ambitious appointment of a new reputable coach then we shall see if the players are as good as we think they are and a consistent match winning competitive edge can be found . Unfortunately, the World Cup is likely to delay appraisal of the squad by the new coach unless league fixtures are suspended or Scotland fails to qualify for the knock-out stages. Stand-off is a matter of urgency. Let us hope that Healy turns out to be more than a journeyman addition.

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  4. They looked like a team who have lost confidence , cohesion and no answer to fast line speed . We need a complete reset we have lost our way. Nothing seemed second nature , no well oiled repeating processes to rely on when things are tight. Individuals trying hard to make a difference in bursts but other the players not on same wavelength. Hard to say it but one or two senior players had no fight once went behind and I had feeling they just wanted season to end and stay injury free for World Cup ! Its unbelievable how whole squad has just gone back the way from last year. Please please let’s invest in a top class coach and soon.

  5. It is rarely a chore to get through watching a game of rugby, but this was one such occasion. Dull weather. Dull game. Too may mistakes. Too many penalties. Shocking performance yet again from a talent-packed side. Edinburgh badly need a new coach. Hoping Glasgow will cheer me up.

  6. In the end Leicester deserved the win but it felt like a game Edinburgh could have won. Unfortunately, some of the Scotland stars failed to shine and some individual errors proved costly. As the season has progressed, it’s hard not to feel the oppositions best tactic is to give the ball to Edinburgh and wait for the error or penalty. Let’s hope they can sort it for next season

    • Yup…a game that Edinburgh could have won were it not for the number of handling errors, some of which occurred at key times – at least three critical times, by my recollection! Let’s hope that this is the last time we see Kinghorn at ten.

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  7. Game could have gone either way, both teams looked short of a spark in attack. Kinghorn had some great clearance kicks but was poor with his passing and failed to bring the wingers into the game. The pack matched Leicester for grunt. Crosbie looked powerful when he came on but for those lamenting the demise of Mish, I thought he was a standout , back to pinball ing forward and jackalling.

  8. I started watching the game, and stayed to the end as it evolved in to a tough dour cup tie but an engrossing game non the less. If Wiggles thought his team was in charge he must have been watching some other game. However Edinburgh seem to have gone seriously backwards through the season and all their old problems of being unable to convert their pressure in to points was there to see. That said there were some very good performances I thought Crosbie added go forward , the scrum went well and some of Kinghorn’s kicking was immense , Darcy and VDM were starved of possession. I think all the parts for a really good team are there but they are not being used well enough and it has to start by getting Kinghorn to 15 not 10.

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    • Interesting discussion on the coverage last night suggesting Steve D could be a sort of director of rugby while Mike B operates just as coach …. might work?

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      • Must have missed that. Was it in the few seconds that Austin Healey wasn’t discussing his hat?

  9. Certainly can’t criticise the effort last night – unfortunately it is months too late.

    Some of the penalty calls were verging on scandalous – quite what the nearside assistant was seeing in the first quarter was beyond me but after that, I thought the decisions were a bit more even-handed.

    I would say Edinburgh were pretty unlucky overall. Not much ran their way, I lost count of the number of missed lineouts that ended up being recovered by Leicester due to the bounce of the ball for example.

    However, all that said, had we not committed so many unforced errors we could have comfortably won that game.

    Says a lot about the respective strength of the leagues that a team near the bottom of the URC on a dreadful run of losses can play like that and feel unlucky not to have won an away game at a team near the top of the Premiership who are on a lengthy winning run.

  10. Always going to be a scrappy game in tough conditions and we did get stuck in and fought all the way but once again simply far too many errors all over the park. It was never a day to get the ball wide. The game hinged on the box kick and they won that contest hands down. Im afraid our 2 star wingers both had nightmares under the high ball and I cant remember a single clean catch from either of them. Even Boffelli started badly with a couple of drops although he did improve. Big Duane couldn’t get into the game and was well shackled and he twice lost the ball in contact once leading to their try. Whenever we got some momentum we would make a mistake – knock on or turnover and just hand it back to Leicester. They were happy to kick in the air and wait for our mistakes.

    This sums up our season – too many basic mistakes and wrong decisions all over the park.

    Thought young Cameron Henderson was one of their stand out forwards and although not the biggest he is very mobile and athletic for a 2nd row.

  11. Lot more spirit in terms of effort and fight, so some light at the end of the tunnel. Thought that they were a bit unlucky with some of the refs calls which could have gone the other way. Really only one moment of magic that separated the two sides, and away from home.

    Even as a Weegie, I simply don’t understand why Crosbie isn’t a starter in these big games….. looked great when he came on and Watson just isn’t back to those levels yet.

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  12. Fair summary in the first couple of paras …. I thought we were a little unlucky, the Mata break originated from the ball coming off his foot, so we should probably have got a try, but can’t say Leister weren’t slightly the better team.

    Thought Wigglesworth’s interview was poor, tried to make out they were in control .. when they clearly were not …

    Hoping for better next season !

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