hosts help themselves to win bonus points

hosts help themselves to win bonus points

DAVID BARNES @ DAM Health Stadium

AFTER a narrow defeat at Saracens last weekend, Edinburgh ensured their Champions Cup campaign is very much alive at the halfway point of the pool stage by producing a bonus-point win over a Castres side that lacked a number of big names but still posed a formidable physical challenge .

It wasn’t the most polished performance Mike Blairthe team will be hoping to produce this season, but it was a comfortable win in the end, and all the more satisfying because it was achieved despite losing three key players before the game was 15 minutes old, with Duhan van der Merwe drop off before kick-off with an ankle injury, Stuart McInally picked up a concussion in the third minute and Blair Kinghorn withdraws due to a back spasm at 13 minutes.

“That’s why I don’t want to be critical of today — we found a way to win,” head coach Blair said when asked about those early upsets. “We faced a bit of adversity just before half-time as well and I was pulling my hair when we gave away that penalty, but not conceding anything else in those minutes before half-time was really good and meant we could go into the dressing room with our chests out after playing into a tough wind and being a point up.

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“I was really impressed with Castres,” he added. “They’ve got size, they’ve got cohesion and they don’t do a lot of special things as a team, but they hang in there and their set piece was good so it put pressure on us, especially in the first half when the breeze was against us.

“The breeze died a bit in the second half, which was a shame, but we found a way to win.

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“Today was one of those days where we created a good amount but the ball didn’t stick,” he added. “Sometimes you have days like that and I’m just glad it came on a day where we were still able to get five points in the bag.

“We’ve now got six points from two games and seven points got you into the knockout stages last time but it depends on what pool you’re in and if some teams drop out if they think they’re not going to qualify after the first couple of games . We will just wait and see and try to win all our games.

The capital now face their traditional double-header against Edinburgh and will return to European action in the New Year with their two remaining pool games against Castres away on Sunday January and Saracens at home seven days later.

Blair said he could make no guarantees but revealed he hopes van der Merwe, McInally and Kinghorn can all return to the mix for next weekend’s trip to Scotstoun.

It was even early on, even though Castres had the first two clear scoring chances, with Asian Usarraga spearheading a breakaway from their own 22, but what could have been the killer pass to send Antoine Bouzerand on an unchallenged run until the line floated forward, and a few minutes later, scrum-half Julien Blanc hacking in front twice before James Long managed to get across and hoof the ball into touch five yards from Edinburgh’s line.

So it was Edinburgh who broke the deadlock after 19 minutes when their first concerted period of pressure earned a breakdown penalty just under the posts. Pierre Schoeman took the tap and produced a rapid recirculation which William Mata crashed over.

Emiliano Boffelli added the easy conversion, but Castres hit back almost immediately, with a collapsed scrum penalty – echoes of last week – kicked to the corner, and then Jamie Ritchie got up to disturb the line-out ball deflected to hooker Pierre Colonnawho shrugged off Mata and Damien Hoyland on his rampage to the line.

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There was no conversion on this occasion, but Edinburgh’s narrow lead only lasted a few more minutes, with a holding penalty awarded to Ritchie and Castres marching downfield to score again through Blanc, after some sharp running from Martin Laveau and Reconciliation Zeghdar up on the right side line.

Edinburgh assembled, and Grant Gilchrist break from the bottom of a row was held up over the line, before then the home side managed to regain the lead with less than four minutes left in the half when Castre’s loose header Quentin Walker yellow carded for entering the side to collapse a line-out maul as it drifted towards his team’s line.

Despite being a man down, Castres completed this opening 40 minutes, the stronger of the two sides, with Julien Dumora slotted a scrum penalty against Schoeman to reduce it to a single points game and the French, who spent the final minutes camped out on Edinburgh’s line, although they could not find a way over the chalk.

Edinburgh started the second period brightly and after Boffelli missed a golden opportunity when he failed to collect Lang’s offload, the home side struck again when the substitute stopped. Charlie Savala wrapped around Lang and crept behind his back Luke Crosbiehis dummy run to sniff out a gap to the line, setting up an easy Boffelli conversion.

Castres cleared his bench and it initially had the desired effect, leading to several minutes of pressure inside Edinburgh’s half, but the home defense weathered the storm – not helped by Boffelli losing contact with a penalty clearance for the second time in the game – and they then stretched further forward with a sweeping counter-attack attempt from inside their own 22 off Chris Deanhis delicate two-poke which released Lang to the right, who then hacked his way into the goal area, which Martin Laveau appeared to have covered before his misjudged bounce allows Ben Vallacott to sneak in for the experiment.

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It meant the bonus point and a 15-point cushion, but Edinburgh took their foot off the gas and Castres moved back into the contest as a long spell of play culminated in Adrien Seguret strolling through a gaping gap and over to try as Ben Botica converted.

However, that’s as close as the visitors got, with a long period of Edinburgh steadying any home nerves that may have frayed when Boffellli slotted a braking penalty in front of the posts.

Team –

Edinburgh: E Boffelli; D Hoyland; M Currie (C Dean 48), J Lang, W Goosen; B Kinghorn (C Savala 13), B Vellacott; P Schoeman (B Venter 62), S McInally (T Cruse 3), W Nel (A Williams 62), G Young (M Sykes 57), G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, L Crosbie (B Muncaster 68), V Mata.

Castres: J Dumora (T Larregain 53); M Laveau, A Zeghdar, A Seguret, A Bouzerand; B Botica, J Blanc (R Kockott, 62); Q Walcker (L Guerois-Galisson 53), P Colonna (B Humbert 51), A Azar (A Guillamon 53), G Maravat (F Vanverberghe 53), T Hannoyer, B Delaporte, A Usarraga (J Raisuqe, 74), K Kornath (L Guerois-Galisson 38-45, B Cope 53).

Judge: Tom Foley (England).

Scorer –

Edinburgh: Tries: Mata, Penalty Try, Savala, Vellacott; Cons: Boffelli 3; Pen: Boffelli.

Castres: Samples: Colonna, Blanc, Seguret; Con: Botica; Pen: Dumora.

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-10; 14-10; 14-13 (hr) 19-13; 21-13; 26-13; 28-13; 28-18; 28-20; 31-20.

Yellow cards –

Castres: Walcker (36 minutes)

Participation: 5,567

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