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Edinburgh 3 Racing Metro 15: What a different a year makes as Bradley's men endure further misery

The 100 or so flag-waving Frenchmen perhaps thought otherwise but, for the rest of the crowd inside Murrayfield, last night's Heineken Cup tie was as dispiriting as the meeting between these sides had been uplifting in this tournament last year.

Olly Barkley, the Racing Metro fly-half, looks to get the better of Edinburgh's Ben Atiga, left, and Ben Cairns in this game of “football” at Murrayfield. Picture: Getty

Circumstances and conditions, both competitive and meteorological, had ensured that this encounter, played out in front of what was rather surprisingly recorded as 4598 people, was never going to be a rerun of that famous tie contested by these two teams over a year ago.

Then, the two clubs had gone into what had been pretty much a knockout match in the second round of pool matches; Edinburgh having won away from home in their opening match while Racing had lost at home. In fine mid-November conditions both teams played with verve and gusto, with Edinburgh establishing a 17-3 lead within nine minutes before Racing wiped that out within six minutes, then building a 24-point lead of their own going into the final quarter. The French were then overhauled in the dramatic final stages. Even then, the outcome remained undecided until Juan-Martin Hernandez's missed drop-goal left the home team 48-47 ahead.

This time around, Edinburgh, who had used that win as their springboard to becoming the first Scottish team to reach the semi-finals of the competition, had effectively been knocked out of this year's tournament even before last week's trip to Paris.

For their part, Racing could still win the pool, but even the men from the French capital were always going to struggle to produce flamboyant rugby amid last night's steady downpour.

They were still able to grab an early lead with a brace of penalties – the first registered by Olly Barkley and the second from much further out by the full-back Gaetan Germain – then pretty much went into their shells for the next half hour.

During that period Edinburgh created just enough pressure to earn four penalties of their own that Piers Francis, their English-born stand-off, thought were within his range. Unfortunately for the new boy he was only able to hit the target with one of them.

In fairness, the rain was making it very difficult for everyone and Barkley missed with his second attempt late in an unremarkable half, before Germain missed his first early in the second, albeit his effort rebounded off the right post. Francis was then given yet another opportunity to level the scores but came up short once more with his fifth shot at goal.

With Racing looking to grind their way towards the win they needed, dominating possession for lengthy periods without looking particularly threatening, the sin-binning of Netani Talei 13 minutes into the second half looked as if it would be crucial.

The Fijian No.8 suffered his punishment for a late tackle on Barkley and as the English stand-off received treatment, Germain slotted his second penalty to open up a six-point lead. Yet the 14 men then looked as lively as they had all night and did enough to generate sufficient frustration that, when Edinburgh were awarded a penalty, Eddy Ben Arous, the Racing loosehead prop, protested so aggressively that he followed Talei into the sin bin.

Once again the offence was committed within kickable range and Greig Tonks stepped up for the first time . However, he could not get the ball over the bar either.

After all that had gone before it was something of a shock when Germain then produced a superb strike from close to the halfway line and wide on the right to extend the Racing lead once more; their 12-3 advantage early in the final quarter looking almost as imposing, in the context of the match, as the 24-point margin had been at the same stage last year.

It was consequently vital that if Edinburgh were to have any chance of getting back into the match they had to take advantage of Talei's return, which afforded them a man advantage.

Instead, the last action before Racing were restored to full strength was another lazy swing of Germain's right leg which sent the ball over from the 10-metre line to ensure that his team will still have everything to play for when Saracens visit Paris in January.

Edinburgh, meanwhile, all but confirmed that they are to emulate their predecessors of eight years ago in following up what they had hoped was a breakthrough campaign when reaching the Heineken Cup knockout stages, by finishing bottom of their pool in the ensuing season.

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