COLIN RENTON @ Stade Jean Bouin
STADE FRANCAIS 26
EDINBURGH suffered their first defeat of the European Challenge Cup campaign, leaving them with little room for manoeuvre over the final two rounds of fixtures if they hope to feature in the knockout phase of the competition. However, a late try by Sam Hidalgo-Clyne garnered a losing bonus point that could prove vital in the final analysis.
Acting head coach Duncan Hodge could not hide his frustration as he reflected on a contest that was lost in the opening 40 minutes.
“There was some better stuff than last week in the first half, there was some good bits of play and then the sin-bin knocked the stuffing out of us a bit,” he said. “We got a try disallowed, we cost ourselves a try with a two-on-one, so it was just really frustrating.”
However, he was heartened by the second half effort, adding: “We matched them in attack and the defence was really good in the second half as well. We got some speed in the game. We still made a couple of errors but they were a very good side. Coming away with a bonus point, but I’m frustrated.”
This was a match that some observers had said could go Edinburgh’s way if, as is often the case with French sides, the European rugby holds less allure than the Top 14 competition. However, there was no doubt that the Parisians were up for the task, meaning both sides had much at stake.
A coach with an uncertain future, several big names out of contract in the summer and inconsistent form in a bid for a top six finish. That situation applied equally to the two combatants. Another hint at how it might go came from a glance at the record books, which showed that the sides had previously met three times on European duty and the result had gone with the home side on each of those occasions.
The hosts had made 11 changes from the side that started at BT Murrayfield, among them was the return from suspension of talismanic Italian international Sergio Parisse. And his presence proved to be a further catalyst at Stade’s state of the art stadium that uses solar power for the floodlights and recycled rainwater on the pitch.
The home side were quicker into their stride, playing the sharper rugby. And they also had the upper hand up front. They deservedly took the lead when, from a drive following a penalty that was booted into touch and ended with Remi Bonfils applying the final touch, with Jules Plisson converting
Edinburgh had try disallowed after Ben Toolis was deemed to have crossed the line using a double movement. They did get some points on the board when Jason Tovey landed a penalty but the hosts responded with an unconverted score by Hugo Bonneval for an unconverted touchdown.
Stade earned a penalty and opted for the scrum. They shunted the Scots back to earn a converted penalty try and, compounding Edinburgh’s problems, Simon Berghan was yellow carded. The hosts secured the bonus point when Geoffrey Doumayrou raced over. Plisson again converted for a 26-3 interval lead.
Edinburgh had overturned a 17 point deficit at BT Murrayfield five days earlier and a repeat became more likely when Fraser McKenzie was in the right place to pick up and complete the job after Hamish Watson was thwarted just short of the whitewash.
Blair Kinghorn should have trimmed the gap further after he produced a mazy run that enabled to cross the line. But he had the ball knocked from his hands before he could ground it. The score came shortly afterwards when Viliame Mata powered over – Tovey added the conversion.
The prospect of another spectacular fightback edged closer when Sam Hidalgo-Clyne sprinted over with a minute left to play. However, on this occasion, Edinburgh’s gallant effort fell just short, leaving a big smile on the face of one man with an Edinburgh connection – Stade Francais defence coach Omar Mouneimne.
Stade Francais: H Bonneval; J Sinzelle, G Doumayrou, J Danty, J Raisuqe; J Plisson, C Daguin; E Felsina, (G Melikidze 58), R Bonfils (C Burden 65), R Slimani (Z Zhvania 58) , H Pyle, P Papé (c), J Ross (S Nicolas 35), S Macalou, S Parisse.
Edinburgh Rugby: B Kinghorn; D Hoyland, M Allen (G Bryce 33), C Dean S Kennedy 65), T Brown (D Weir 48) ; J Tovey, S Hidalgo-Clyne; A Dickinson, R Ford (c), S Berghan, F McKenzie (L Carmichael 57) , B Toolis, C Du Preez, H Watson, N Manu (V Mata 57).
Referee: D Phillips (IRFU)
Stade Francais: Tries: Bonfils, Bonneval, Penalty Try, Dumayrou; Cons: Plisson 3.
Edinburgh: Tries : McKenzie, Mata, Hidalgo-Clyne; Con: Tovey; Pen: Tovey.
Scoring Sequence (Stade Francais first): 5-0, 7-0, 7-3, 12-3, 17-3, 19-3, 24-3, 26-3 (h-t) 26-8, 26-13,26-15, 26-20
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: He has been perennial thorn in the flesh for Scotland in the international game, and Italian number eight Sergio Parisse was at it again, wreaking havoc wherever he went.
Talking point: If Stade perform like this against Harlequins a win is not impossible, so all is not lost for Edinburgh.
Image courtesy: David Gibson – www fotosportuk.photoshelter.com