Laidlaw's Edinburgh make Euro history
Edinburgh 19 Toulouse 14: Heineken Cup has first Scottish semi-finalist after Toulouse are vanquished
Sunday 08 April 2012
The countdown clock had less than a minute left on it when Edinburgh's designated water-carrier handed the kicking tee to his captain for the final act. Deemed surplus to playing requirements, despite his collection of 109 Scotland caps, Chris Paterson was wearing a blue bib marked "H2O". Greig Laidlaw was wearing the No 10 shirt but like the rest of his side he was not short of bottle on a momentous afternoon for Scottish rugby.
Victory was in the bag as the scrum-half turned fly-half stepped up and swung his right foot, with Edinburgh 16-14 to the good on the scoreboard. At the precise moment the clock ran down, the ball sailed over the bar and between the posts.
The crowd erupted in celebration. The Scottish national side might have been whitewashed in the Six Nations' Championship but Caledonian rugby has a team in the last four of the Heineken Cup for the first time. Edinburgh and their head coach, Michael Bradley, a former Ireland scrum-half, have a semi-final date in Dublin on 28 April against the winners of today's all-Irish quarter-final between Munster and Ulster.
And deservedly so. Toulouse rolled into town as the giants of European rugby, with their four Heineken Cup wins, but they were cut down to size by an Edinburgh team who kept their composure even after being reduced to 13 men for seven-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter. Edinburgh were astutely marshalled by Laidlaw, who kicked 14 points and produced the kind of inspirational performance his uncle Roy used to turn in routinely when he donned the Scotland scrum-half jersey.
"We have the ability to beat anyone on our day," Bradley said. "We've played a lot of good rugby in this competition and under pressure we've been able to deliver in vital moments. I think the key factor was the crowd – the support we had in that last20 minutes."
The attendance was a record for a Heineken Cup quarter-final on British soil. There were fireworks as the teams ran out and there was an explosive start to follow. With 90 seconds on the clock, Laidlaw launched a garryowen that Timoci Matanavou, the visitors' Fijian right-wing, was unable to gather. Mike Blair picked up the loose ball and twisted over the line. Nigel Owens, the referee, had to consult the television match official but replays showed that the Edinburgh scrum-half had grounded the ball despite the close attentions of his opposite number, the Wallaby Luke Burgess. Laidlaw converted and Bradley's men had a seven-point lead.
The cushion was all but eroded by the right boot of Lionel Beauxis, the Toulouse fly-half banging over a couple of penalties from the left touchline. Then, after 25 minutes, Matanavou took a quick tap penalty and was obstructed from a blatantly offside position by Allan Jacobsen. The loosehead prop was sent to the sin-bin and after Beauxis pushed the penalty wide Toulouse upped the tempo in an attempt to exploit their advantage. They were threatening to break through when Beauxis was halted by Ross Rennie, 25 metres out.
The openside flanker was sent to join Jacobsen on the naughty step, presumably for not rolling away in the tackle, and Beauxis's penalty nudged Toulouse in front by 9-7. With seven-and-a-half minutes to endure with 13 men, it looked bleak for Edin-burgh when Matanavou gathered a loose kick from Blair and galloped 60 metres to score unopposed.
Still, Beauxis failed to nail the conversion and Edinburgh reduced the deficit to 14-10 before the interval, Laidlaw dropping a goal from a neatly worked position.
The fightback continued after the interval. William Servat, Toulouse's veteran hooker, was shown a yellow card for a blatant offside obstruction, and Laidlaw kicked the penalty. The Edinburgh captain kicked another in the 52nd minute, easing Edinburgh in front 16-14, and that Toulouse were rattled was obvious when Beauxis scuffed a penalty, making it three failures with the boot for the out-of-sorts fly-half.
In the final quarter, Edinburgh looked in control. They might have earned a safety cushion with 12 minutes left had Tim Visser, their flying Dutch winger, not been impeded by the slipping Matanavou as he chased a Laidlaw chip down the left touchline.
As it was, they didn't need one. Toulouse failed to register a second-half point. There might have beenlittle joy for the pandas up the road at Edinburgh Zoo last week but there was a joyous climax for Edinburgh's rugby players yesterday.
Edinburgh T Brown; L Jones (K Traynor, 33-35), N De Luca, M Scott (J Thompson 11-17), T Visser; G Laidlaw (capt), M Blair (C Leck, 40); A Jacobsen (Traynor, 60-64), R Ford, G Cross, G Gilchrist, S Cox, D Denton, N Talei (R Grant, 70), R Rennie (S McInally, 70).
Toulouse Y Jauzion; T Matanavou, F Fritz (C Poitrenaud, 51), Y David, Y Donguy; L Beauxis, L Burgess (J M Doussain, 65); J B Poux (D Human, 52), W Servat (C Tolofua, 73),C Johnston (Y Montes, 60), Y Maestri (G Lamboley, 70), P Albacete, J Bouilhou (Tolofua, 48-56; Y Nyanga, 60),L Picamoles (G Galan, 47), T Dusautoir (capt).
Referee N Owens (Wales).
Pens: Laidlaw 3
Pens: Beauxis 3
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