Best of the Weekend: Edinburgh produce the greatest of comebacks

After another brilliant round of the Heineken Cup, Ben Coles sits down to look at the best, and worst bits, from Round 2. Here we go…

Magnificent Edinburgh complete the Heineken Cup’s greatest ever comeback

With Sky electing to show the Scarlets trip to Northampton and Cardiff Blues hosting London Irish, one match was more or less forgotten about on Friday night. But then the score from Murrayfield started trickling in. Mainly, that Racing Métro had opened up an impressive lead over the hosts Edinburgh, 20-44 with 53 minutes gone on the clock. Game over? How wrong we were.

Jonathan Wisniewski would add another three points for Racing to leave them on an impressive total of 47 points and 5 tries away from home, but Edinburgh blew them away. Four tries from Netani Talei, Tom Brown, Roddy Grant and lastly from Tim Visser brought Edinburgh back to the brink of victory, before captain Greig Laidlaw curled a superb conversion to give them an unbelievable lead. There was still time for Racing fly-half Juan Martín Hernández to attempt a drop-goal, but it was nowhere near. What a comeback from Edinburgh, but your heart bleeds a little for Racing. Perhaps a draw would have been fair, but Edinburgh’s hunger was extra special. 11 tries, 95 points. Game of the season? We won’t see another like it.

Scarlets and Blues set to progress as Saints are left stunned

Welsh momentum from the Rugby World Cup really has carried on through into this year’s Heineken Cup tournament. It was no coincidence that some of the standout performers in New Zealand shone for their provinces against Northampton and London Irish on Friday night. Northampton would have expected to bounce back comfortably after their harrowing injury-time loss to Munster last week, but this infectious, attacking brand of rugby that the youthful Scarlets produce lead to an astonishing result.

They capitalised on every single opportunity, be it George Pisi’s calamitous knock-on or the bounce of the ball. When Ryan Lamb’s penalty cannoned off the post late on and Chris Ashton spilled a simple pass, a poor performance became a nightmare. George North’s pace and Rhys Priestland’s finish meant that the Scarlets picked up an unexpected bonus point away from home, and leaves Northampton staring into the abyss. They may have two bonus points from their two losses, but to come back from this given the quality of the teams in their group seems impossible.

Cardiff are also two wins from two after seeing off London Irish in Cardiff, though they had a numerical advantage for 60 minutes after Steve Shingler was sent off for the visiting side. Sam Warburton crippled Irish at the breakdown throughout in an exceptional performance, whilst scrum-half Lloyd Williams scored what proved to be a sensational winning try in the second half, bursting off the base of a ruck down the blindside and showing off his pace.

Leicester, Bath and Leinster win at home whilst O’Gara and Quins do it again

The Tigers finally picked up a first home win of the season in a brutal encounter with Irish opponents Ulster on Saturday evening. Some immense physicality in defence by both sides left the ground shaking, Dan Tuohy on Tom Croft springs to mind, but Leicester dominated in the scrum, winning multiple penalties for Toby Flood to slot over. Ian Humphreys inconsistent work with the boot cost Ulster, who had Stephen Ferris back to his best in the loose, but Leicester scored the only try of the game after a well worked grubber from Toby Flood was pounced on by Matt Smith.

Stephen Donald enjoyed an impressive home debut for Bath on Sunday, picking up the man of the match award. His assist for Olly Woodburn’s opening score was excellent, a precise looped pass out to the right leaving Woodburn with an unopposed run-in. He also produced a length of the field sprint to set-up the second try, and a first, for David Flatman. Earlier in the day in Pool 3, Leinster clinically dispatched Glasgow, picking up a bonus point before half-time, with impressive young centre Eoin O’Malley bagging a brace. The champions are looking good so far ahead of their double header with Bath in December.

Meanwhile, Ronan O’Gara did it again for Munster down in Toulouse against Castres. Déjà vu is a wonderful thing in rugby, and at 24-24, once Munster got into the right position, there was only one outcome. Two weeks in a row is unbelievable luck, and you sense the Red Army may have had their fair share by now. Their double header with the Scarlets next month is the most attractive of all the fixtures.

Finally, Harlequins continued their best start to a season ever by going 12 from 12 against Gloucester at Kingsholm. Despite Gloucester enjoying plenty of possession and their exciting young talents Jonny May, Henry Trinder and Charlie Sharples gaining plenty of yards, their handling was atrocious at the right moments, and Quins simply plugged away with Nick Evans boot and good running from Nick Easter and Jordan Turner-Hall seeing them score three tries. How long can they keep this amazing run going?

Try of the Weekend goes to Takudzwa Ngwenya of Biarritz. This guy really is a one off. Combining superbly with his back three partners Iain Balshaw and Dane Haylett-Petty, Ngwenya took the ball on the switch and simply scorched away from around 70 metres out. Contender for Try of the Season.

This week’s Hero has to be that man Ronan O’Gara. Two match-winning drop goals in a week must be an unprecedented accomplishment, but ROG made it look easy. Without them, Munster would be sitting on 3 points rather 8 in Pool 1. Credit must go to Matthew Morgan of the Ospreys as well for his nerveless late kick which levelled the scores at 26-26 against Treviso.

Villain of the week had a few contenders, including Mike McCarthy of Connacht and Steve Shingler of London Irish for reckless tackles. But the award goes to Benoît August for his melodramatic reaction to a push from one of Saracens forwards. It won Biarritz an important penalty with Sarries metres from their line, but that kind of reaction has no place in the game. Shameful.

What were your highlights from this weekend’s matches?

by Ben Coles

25 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Edinburgh produce the greatest of comebacks

  1. I particularly enjoyed the scarlets win. A clumsy performance from northampton well punished by the Welsh team. Northampton seem to have that arrogance that England are frequently guilty of where they don’t even contemplate that the opposition might challenge them. Then they fall apart when they do. Mallinder for the England job? Well, it looks like he won’t have the heineken cup to worry about.

    1. I’d say that Ashton should give half his pay to Foden. Without Foden Ashton looks clueless. He can finish a scoring opportunity in world class fashion, but he needs Foden there first to create the opportunity for him.

      About the arrogance thing .. is that the teams or just the “we only watch the GP here” Sky coverage? In the build up to the Saints match it was all about whether Saints could get a BP win. The week before the commentator described Connaught, when coming back to within a few points of Quins, as “in their wildest dreams!”, as if a team like Connaught could not even imagine mixing it with the likes of Quines. Also there has been a lot of “well team X is at position N in the GP, so they’re widely expected to beat ” shite pre-match analysis on Sky. I think genuine rugby fans were not that amazed by the Scarlets win, or Connaught’s performance, or the Blues win in Paris, or Glasgow beating Bath, or Edinburgh beating London Irish… I could go on. It’s just that the pony Sky presenters make out like they speak for the entire English nation when they dismiss the non-GP/Leinster/Munster/Pro-14 sides. The Saints players themselves genuinely seemed ok after the Scarlets match. Sky’s take on it always seems to be that a top performance from Saints would always beat a top performance from Scarlets, whereas the English rugby fans I know would not be so sure of that.

      1. Reverting over to rugby league here (apologies), the commentary for the 4N final was the most one-eyed and biased i’ve ever heard. I think it was on Sky, it was taken with English commentary on Foxtel in Oz. I’m pretty sure one of the commentators mistakenly thought he was on “fan-zone” when coming out with such gems as “he’s hit our player high there” or “we are defending terribly”. They barely knew who a lot of the Aussie players were. I was embarrassed for them.
        I know a lot of people have their views on BBC rugby commentators over the years but at least they try to remain un-biased and are constantly reminded by their directors (and public) that they are not meant to support one team over another.

    2. I was hoping to see the Scarlets deliver on the promise of North, and Prietland et. al. They delivered in spades. I would always support an Irish team but after that, I think I’d like to see Scarlets win it. Who knows, it could be a Welsh double this year with Ospreys in the Pro 12 and Scarlets in the HC. The Welsh deserve some silverware if they play like that. On the flipside, Northampton were desperately unlucky. As were Castres though.

  2. I was following that Edinburgh game on Twitter – remarkable scenes at Murrayfield, by all accounts. Ironic that it was one of the only games Sky didn’t cover fully, much to the annoyance of the Scots.

    I was very frustrated with Gloucester’s performance having backed them on SportGuru. They had more than enough ball to win that game, but a combination of excellent Quins defence and silly Glaws errors cost them in the end.

    I can’t imagine they’ll qualify, and I’m now going to check the tables to see who else’s European dream is ruined after two rounds…

  3. My play of the weekend, i am biased admittedly, but Joe Marlers try saving tackle. If Quins had conceded then, Gloucester would truly have gone on to test the Quins resolve.

    August’s reaction was more like one seen on the Champions League. All that was missing was the over dramatic 7 rolls as he hit the floor.

    Again though the European rugby weekend didn’t disappoint.

  4. Villain of the Week has to be Sky, not for having one camera but for skirting round the fact in the weekend review show. A simple apology and explanation would have gone a long way in my book. Just because they didn’t have the footage doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and so a review show should at least have discussed the biggest fightback ever rather than basically pretended it didn’t happen. Pathetic.

      1. Thanks for the highlights link – Edinburgh looked good but some pretty poor tackling as well

        Anyone know how long it will be till Visser qualifiers to play for Scotland? – I do think he is an excellent player

          1. Tough one for him

            I always feel sorry for players of undoubted skill whose talents never get the world-wide platform they deserve because they play for smaller countries

  5. Anyone know where I can see highlights from the Quins match, Am intrigued to watch Nick Easter’s”breakaway” try

    How on earth could nobody catch him over 20m or so??

    1. Haha, I saw that game and was mildly amused. His grounding was fairly dubious though.

      Sky Sports probably your best bet for highlights?

      1. OK, sorry – how did no-one catch him unti lthe final half-metre of the 20 or so metres he ran?

        I like Easter but he is not fast by any standard. Glos defence must have been awful

        1. Paolo – everyone on the field was so gripped with surprise that Easter had accelerated past sloth speed that they simply stood still in amazement.

    1. Watched a football game(sorry!) on S4C a couple of weeks ago. Very surreal if you don’t speak Welsh. Bizarrely they don’t have words for Hat-trick, Captain or Shoulder pads (don’t ask!) but the coverage was excellent – they should be applauded for the way they cover Welsh sport.

      1. We do (captain is “capten” in Welsh so it sounds v similar) but often, especially with the footie which is more anglicised, the English words creep in.

        The BBC Wales sports coverage is also excellent, pretty much the same team as the S4C team. Whenever debates about licence fees come around I always consider how lucky I am that my favourite sport is covered extensively by my lic fee – you often see 3 RaboPro games, a league game and perhaps some HC highlights on over a single weekend.

        1. Apologies – this is why someone who struggles with English, shouldn’t start commenting on other languages!!

          1. No offence taken. I’ve learn’t Welsh as an adult so I know how odd it can sound to people who don’t hear it a lot.

  6. As a Munster supporter it was a great weekend with O’Gara doing his thing again. Well done Scarlets for putting one over on arrogant Northampton. Three good reasons to dislike the Saints:
    1. Heineken Cup Final 2000
    2. Dylan Hartley
    3. Chris Ashton

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