London Irish v Edinburgh: Blair’s team defeated at the death

Exiles edge Challenge Cup clash despite playing with 14 men for last quarter

Mike Blair
Mike Blair saw his Edinburgh side lose just their second competitive match of the season this afternoon. Image: © Craig Watson -




@ Brentford Community Stadium

EDINBURGH suffered a first defeat since October when they succumbed by the narrowest of margins in a European Challenge Cup clash that promised much but delivered only in brief patches. It was a game the visitors could have won, particularly after the hosts had a man sent off, but it was also an outcome over which they could have few quibbles.   

While frustration was the overriding emotion, Edinburgh coach Mike Blair was in no doubt that the true impact of the result will only be known when he sees how his men react.

“We’re frustrated with that. Sometimes when you have a red card it can galvanise a team as well, and potentially you can relax a little bit thinking that 15 v 14 and you’re six points up”, admitted Blair, who insists that the result will deliver a valuable lesson.

“Sometimes you learn more in defeat than you do in victory. We’ve got some inexperienced players in there and we’re going to learn a lot from that. It’s frustrating that we’ve lost the game. We’ve won some close games as well – and we’ll lose some more close games. Frustrating that we’ve not come away with the victory when we’ve put ourselves in the position to do that.

“Fair play to London Irish. They kept going at us after their red card. They had a lot of the game. They deserved their win.”

Blair will now turn his attention to Friday’s clash at home to his former side Brive, a match that has now assumed greater importance as Edinburgh chase one of the three qualifying spots in the knockout phase of the competition.

“London Irish are ahead of us in Pool C, but I haven’t given that too much thought. We’ve got a six-day turnaround for Brive, so we’ll have a few changes in the team. It will be good to see the reaction to this defeat – see how much we pick ourselves up.”

The contribution of a parsimonious defence has been largely underplayed, such has been Edinburgh’s positivity going forward this season, but Calum MacRae’s work was exemplified in an opening quarter that saw the capital side under intense pressure.

A missed penalty by Emiliano Boffelli was the only scoring opportunity for the visitors before Irish looked destined to score. But they were held up over the line and penalised for a double movement before a crucial interception by Henry Immelman quelled another effort by the enterprising hosts.

Edinburgh gained some respite with a penalty that was booted deep into opposition territory where Kyle Rowe, the Scotland age group and sevens international, knocked on. Edinburgh used that as the basis for a move that saw Jamie Ritchie and WP Nel come close before Adam McBurney spied a gap and plunged over. Boffelli’s conversion handed the visitors a seven-point lead against the run of play.

The advantage was short-lived. Irish showed that they are also adept when it comes to attacking at pace. Clean ball at a lineout on the left touchline was swept across the pitch to Rowe who showed his finisher’s pace to blast his way over at the corner. Paddy Jackson’s conversion restored parity.

Edinburgh seized back the lead when James Lang powered clear and fed Blair Kinghorn, who freed Ramiro Moyano. He powered over, despite the attention of two defenders then stretched over to dot down, although an injury sustained in the move meant it was his final involvement. Boffelli again added the additional two points and the gap grew to double figures when Jaco van der Walt – on for Moyano – kicked the final points of the half with a penalty.

Irish cut the deficit shortly after the restart with an Ollie Hoskins try, converted by Jackson, and awarded after the referee had looked closely at an obstruction that took Magnus Bradbury out of the game. The next reference to the TMO went in Edinburgh’s favour, with a Nick Phipps touchdown ruled out for an offside in the build up.

And the man upstairs also had a key part to play in a pivotal decision after 57 minutes when Agustin Creevy was red-carded for a headbutt on Jamie Ritchie after the play had moved on.

Eventually the scoreboard creaked back into action when van der Walt booted another penalty that left Edinburgh six points clear and with an extra man. However, that lead was tantalisingly short of forcing the Exiles to throw caution to the wind. And they gradually wore down the Edinburgh defence, which again did some magnificent work before finally yielding with two minutes to play when Olly Cracknell crashed over. Jackson was left with a simple conversion to complete the win, and he duly delivered.

Teams – London Irish: L Cinti, K Rowe, C Rona, B van Rensburg, O Hassell-Collins, P Jackson, N Phipps (A Dell 61), W Goodrick-Clarke, A Creevy, O Hoskins (L Chawatama 51) G Nott (A Coleman 51), R Simmons (B White 61), M Rogerson (c) (M Cornish 58), T Pearson, A Tuisue (O Cracknell 56).

Edinburgh: H Immelman; E Boffelli, M Currie, J Lang (C Dean 58), R Moyano (J van der Walt 33); B Kinghorn, B Vellacott; B Venter (P Schoeman 46), A McBurney, W Nel (L Atalifa 62), J Hodgson (M Sykes 52), G Gilchrist (captain), N Haining, J Ritchie, M Bradbury (C Boyle 58).

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy).

Scorers:  London Irish: Tries – Rowe, Hoskins, Cracknell; Cons – Jackson 3  

Edinburgh: Tries – McBurney, Moyano; Cons – Boffelli 2; Pens – van der Walt 2.  

Scoring sequence (London Irish first): 0-5, 0-7, 5-7, 7-7, 7-12, 7-14, 7-17 h-t 12-17, 14-17, 14-20, 19-20, 21-20.

Red card: London Irish: Creevy.

Man of the match: Kyle Rowe showed his pace and played a key part in the Exiles’ fightback. And, given his impressive form this season, it would be no surprise if he is figuring in Gregor Townsend’s thoughts ahead of the Scotland squad announcement.

Talking point: There was less of the champagne rugby than in recent weeks but, despite the result, Edinburgh showed that they can also go toe-to-toe in a tight affair. 

About Colin Renton 212 Articles
Colin has been a freelance writer on various subjects for more than 20 years. He covers rugby at all levels but is particularly passionate about the game at grass roots. As a fluent French speaker, he has a keen interest in rugby in France and for many years has reported on the careers of Scots who have moved across the Channel. He appreciates high quality, engaging writing that is thought provoking, and hopes that some of his work fits that bill!


  1. Hmm, we should have one that one, lost a bit of composure I think.

    Ref was very inexperienced. I’ve never heard a ref change his decision following challenge from the teams.

    For the try, my view was that Ritchie was clearly obstructed.

    I’m struggling to see why we keep handing the kicking back to Kinghorn, he’s turning into a decent 10, but he just can’t kick, where other teams are getting 40+ yards from a penalty, we’re lucky to get 20.

    • Yes, very noticeable that Kinghorn was getting very little distance from his kicks. I’m actually not too impressed with him generally and not sure the stand-off experiment is working.

  2. A lot of hard graft for little reward but perhaps also a result of too much inaccuracy. Losing Moyano seemed to set us back as cohesion in the backs seemed hampered by the reshuffle. Any win would have been an excellent return against good opponents so a one point revers doesn’t sink us. A chance next week to get back on the horse can’t come quickly enough.

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