• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Edinburgh 27 Perpignan 16: Try, try, try again as Scots overcome French resistance

Carl Bezuidenhout may have tested the Edinburgh fans' pronunciation skills when the club announced his arrival two weeks ago, but he proved just as perplexing to the Perpignan defence in the second half of this match when he twice joined the line to lay tries on plates for his team-mates.

Tom Brown crosses the line to score the first of Edinburgh's three touchdowns. Credit: SNS
Tom Brown crosses the line to score the first of Edinburgh's three touchdowns. Credit: SNS

That the 27-year-old South African, a fly-half by profession but playing out of position at full-back, could slot in so easily says much about his all-round footballing skills. But it also says something about the spring that has been added to Edinburgh's step just lately. The 'calamity club' of barely four months ago has given way to one that seems to have produced a rather neat inversion of Murphy's law. These days, if it can go right, it will.

In which light, Murphy himself - a well-known Munster supporter of course - might feel just a little anxious about the prospect of Edinburgh pitching up at Thomond Park on Sunday. The men from the south-west of Ireland have already nailed down a place in the Heineken Cup's knockout stages - for the 15th time in 16 seasons - as winners of Pool 6, but they will still be desperate to consolidate that achievement with one more victory to have a chance of securing the home quarter-final they crave. And Edinburgh, with the prospect of an Amlin Cup berth still in sight, will be just as desperate to stop them.

Thomond was still in its rickety pre-redevelopment incarnation when Greig Laidlaw, the Edinburgh captain, tasted victory there for the first and only time in his career. The propitious date was Friday 13 October, 2006, and Laidlaw came on as a replacement in a match in which Chris Paterson, Simon Webster and Ally Dickinson scored the tries that helped Edinburgh to their 21-10 win. As if to emphasise how ancient that piece of rugby history now is, Laidlaw offered the wry observation: "The Carruthers were in charge," a reference to that strange 2006-07 season when Bob Carruthers took part-control of the club.

Yet through all the seasons of disappointment since, Laidlaw has never lost his affection for the ground. "It is a great place to go and play," he smiled. "Their fans are phenomenal and they back the team through thick and thin. They have a great facility and, to be honest about it, we are a bit envious."

Laidlaw also made the point that Thomond's transformation into a shining sporting citadel had been helped by the Irish government - and added that Alex Salmond might like to follow their example. It is probably safe to assume that the First Minister has more pressing concerns right now but, whatever Edinburgh achieve, there will always be the nagging doubt that they could do much more if they had a home to call their own.

Still, the growing sense is that the ramshackle Edinburgh of the early weeks of this season - and all of last season - are genuinely coming together as a force. Even as they posted their tries against Perpignan, the most impressive part of their performance on Saturday evening was their defensive organisation. Neither was all a matter of last-ditch heroics, for most of the time they disrupted the Catalans in parts of the pitch where panic was never a factor.

That, or course, spoke volumes for their back row. In terms of their origins, Edinburgh have struck a blow for pan-African unity by settling on the improbable first-choice trio of South Africa-born Cornell du Preez, Dave Denton of Zimbabwe and Botswana's Roddy Grant, but there is no doubting the havoc they can cause for other sides. All three put in magnificent shifts against Perpignan, and when the Scotland RBS 6 Nations squad is named on Wednesday it will be a travesty if Grant is not included.

"The team is growing week by week," said head coach Alan Solomons. "We are improving week by week and every result we get generates more confidence. The side has done really, really well this season."

The odds are still stacked against the prospect of an Edinburgh victory in Limerick at the weekend, but Solomons was happy that the game still has meaning for his side. "It is important," he said. "It is positive that we go there with something to play for. But we treat every game as a challenge. This will be an almighty challenge and there is no question Munster will be up for the game. They are very good team, but the guys are looking forward to it. There is absolutely no trepidation about this team. Physically, we're happy to front up."

That much was quickly made clear to a Perpignan pack that, even by French standards, is on the large side. Perpignan hit the rucks hard, but they never matched the effectiveness of Edinburgh in contact. Indeed, Edinburgh's first try, after 16 minutes, was the consequence of their opponents committing too many players to the breakdown, leaving a massive gap for Tom Brown to race through when, inexplicably, the ball popped out on the Edinburgh side.

Bezuidenhout took over from Jack Cuthbert, who was suffering a back problem, at half-time. Seven minutes later, when Perpignan had just lost hooker and captain Guilhem Guirado to the sin bin, Bezuidenhout came in as first receiver in the swift attack that ended with Du Preez collecting the second try. Nine minutes on, Bezuidenhout again provided the critical touch, threading a superb grubber kick through for Dougie Fife to score the third.

Maddeningly, the steam seemed to go out of Edinburgh's game after that, denying them the bonus point that could prove critical in the qualification shake-up. Bizarrely, in fact, it was Perpignan who finished more strongly, with Maxime Delonca grabbing their consolation touchdown six minutes from the end.

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

205354