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PREVIEW: Cowan relishing ‘home’ shoot-out with Hardie

Wednesday 16th December 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Sean Maitland and Blair Cowan can't wait to head 'home' to Murrayfield in round four of the Challenge Cup. - 16/12/2015 17:49

Sean Maitland and Blair Cowan can't wait to head 'home' to Murrayfield in round four of the Challenge Cup. - 16/12/2015 17:49

Sean Maitland and Blair Cowan can’t wait to head ‘home’ to Murrayfield in round four of the Challenge Cup.

Not only do they want to keep Pool 5 leaders London Irish on course for a potential quarter-final slot, but they also want to take the chance to give the Scottish selectors a nudge ahead of the 2016 RBS 6 Nations.

Both men were included in the Scottish World Cup squad, although Cowan found newcomer John Hardie part blocking his way into the team. Having seen off one rival for the Scottish No 7 jersey, Hamish Watson, in last weekend’s game at the Madejski Stadium, Cowan knows that Hardie will be coming out all guns blazing in the re-match.

Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons had to make 11 changes from the side that had battled all the way against Ulster at the Kingspan the previous weekend for the trip to Reading. But he never thought the side he had selected would be put to the sword with six tries by a team that has yet to notch a win in the Aviva Premiership.

But the Exiles Scottish coach, Clark Laidlaw, believes their domestic position is a little bit false. What he does know is that his team will face a totally different Edinburgh team in the return fixture.

“We know it is going to be a different game at Murrayfield. They will be able to have their big name players back after the five week rest rule and that is going to make it much harder for us,” said Laidlaw.

“Our position in the Premiership isn’t a fair reflection of where we are because we’ve only played six games and we’ve played all the top teams. The Challenge Cup has given us the chance to gain some confidence and we will take that back into the Premiership.”

Club captain George Skivington could make a timely return at Murrayfield and everyone at London Irish knows that a third win in four games would be priceless as they chase another quarter-final place. Conversely, Edinburgh realise that a second successive defeat could be fatal for their chances of trying to reach the final again.

Match Facts

  • The spoils are split one apiece between these sides in the Challenge Cup after London Irish won 38-6 in the last round.
  • Edinburgh Rugby haven’t lost consecutive matches in the Challenge Cup since their first campaign in 1997 when they opened their account with three losses; they have not been beaten twice in a row in the 15 games since then.
  • Edinburgh Rugby have won their last six Challenge Cup home fixtures, outscoring their opponents 179-91 in the process.
  • London Irish are aiming to win both fixtures in the back-to-back rounds (3 & 4) of the Challenge Cup for the first time since 2008 when they beat Dax in consecutive weeks.


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REPORT: Defensive effort hands Edinburgh vital win

Friday 18th December 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Longtemps inquiété par les London Irish

Longtemps inquiété par les London Irish

Edinburgh clawed their way back into European Rugby Challenge Cup contention with a vital win over London Irish.

Last season's finallists twice came from behind at Murrayfield to clinch victory and leave Pool 5 wide open. Tom Brown crossed in the first half before Scotland international John Hardie scored the winner eight minutes from time.

But it was Edinburgh’s defence that proved the difference as London Irish dominated possession but only had tries from front-row pair Gerard Ellis and Tom Smallbone to show.

Edinburgh director of rugby Alan Solomons made 10 changes to the side humbled 38-6 at the Madejski Stadium. But the Exiles started at Murrayfield where they left off a week earlier in Reading with a try on nine minutes.

Tom Fowlie had already threatened before wonderful footwork took him close to the line from where hooker Ellis thundered over. Brown equalised when he wriggled over on 17 minutes and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne’s conversion handed the hosts a 7-5 lead.

The scrum-half added two more penalties, either side of an effort from Irish fly-half Shane Geraghty but it took a finger-tip tackle by Mike Allen on Fowlie and strong challenge by Brown to deny Alex Lewington in the corner to protect the 13-8 lead.

Edinburgh had enjoyed success at the scrum but lost influential lock Anton Bresler to injury just before the break. Irish looked to take advantage and regained the lead again through their pack.

The initial lineout drive was stopped but former England U18 prop Smallbone drove over from close range on 58 minutes. Geraghty’s conversion nudged the visitors ahead 15-13.

But it was in searching for the knock-out blow that they were caught with a classic counter-attack.
Irish threatened as they made ground until a series of crunching tackles forced a turnover. Hidalgo-Clyne had the pace to break clear, Brown and Jack Cuthbert followed and only a last-ditch tackle prevented Damien Hoyland scoring.

From the resulting lineout, Edinburgh’s pack drove on and Hardie touched down. Hidalgo-Clyne missed the conversion but Edinburgh survived a late surge to clinch the win. 

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