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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 4 March 2021


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Good afternoon and a very happy Easter weekend to you all. We can’t guarantee this will an egg pun free zone for the rest of the weekend, but we can bring you all the (ahem) cracking good action from all four Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

Murrayfield is our first stop where Edinburgh and Toulouse will fight it out for the right to face either Munster or Ulster in the Aviva Stadium.

Hot on the heels of this game, Patrick McCarry will be sunning himself in that very ground bringing you all you need to know from Leinster v Cardiff.

On with the show.

Murrayfield is a little echoey while the tannoy announces the teams. The main stands are full enough, but there are swathes of empty seats behind the goal, particularly in the upper tier.

Here are your 30 gladiators (and Nigel). Check out that beefy French bench!

EDINBURGH: T Brown; L Jones, N De Luca, M Scott, T Visser; G Laidlaw , M Blair; A Jacobsen, R Ford, G Cross, G Gilchrist, S Cox, D Denton, R Rennie, N Talei.

Replacements: A Kelly, K Traynor, J Gilding, S McInally, R Grant, C Leck, P Godman, J Thompson.

TOULOUSE: Y Jauzion; T Matanavou, F Fritz, Y David, Y Donguy; L Beauxis, L Burgess; J Poux, W Servat, C Johnston, Y Maestri, P Albacete, J Bouilhou, T Dusautoir , L Picamoles.

Replacements: C Tolofua, D Human, Y Montes, G Lamboley, J Doussain, C Poitrenaud, Y Nyanga, G Galan.

Referee: Nigel Owens

May we have your predictions please? Greig Laidlaw has just kicked the game off. Louis Picamoles collects and Toulouse will get us moving.

TRY: Well, this game is well and truly on. Edinburgh gain possession and hike the up-and-under high. David Denton caused enough confusion to keep the ball loose five meters out and Mike Blair picks up the scraps.

After a quick TMO Edinburgh have a maximum score. Laidlaw with the conversion.

The hosts appear to have poked the beast somewhat. Yann David makes a big breakthrough and the Scots are sealed for sealing him off.

Beauxis, from all of 50 meters on the left touchline, nails the penalty.

As you would expect, the visitors are bossing the possession. Not making any great in-roads though and with 10 minutes on the clock, Edinburgh are looking fairly solid.

David is Toulouse’s main ball carrier, he crashed into contact in front of the posts within Edinburgh’s 22. However the white shirts knock on in the next phase and Jacobson, Ford and Cross crouch down and win a penalty from Census Johnson.

Stade’s French contingent have obviously been wary of David Denton’s threat after the damage he caused here in the Six Nations. He’s been well marshaled so far today. His only telling intervention resulted in the try.

Louis Picamoles a little over-zealous at the breakdown, there. He’s penalised for taking out Blair. Laidlaw pins Toulouse back onto their 22 meter line. The fly-half is kicking  very well from hand today.

Johnson gets on back on Jacobson. After clearing his lines, Beauxis is given another penalty chance from distance. Munch the same angle as his first attempt and the same result.  The visitors trail by just a point now.

The Garryowen is the key for the home side. Tim Visser this time lofts the ball up and challenges Jauzion, his knock-on is collected on the 22 by Ross Rennie, but he can’t take full advantage. Attacking scrum here to Edinburgh.

Netanai Talei knocks on at the back of the scrum and Toulouse come away. The Fijian back row hasn’t made any ground with ball in hand yet. Plenty of pace and physicality, but his running lines just haven’t been convincing.

SIN-BIN: Alan Jacobson is off for 10 minutes. Beauxis’ high ball was knocked on by Visser and the prop lazily stood in the way of Matanavou as he tried a quick tap.

This time the long-range effort is wide, but Toulouse know what this opportunity means and they have their tales up.

SIN-BIN: Oh, it’s all gone a bit Pete Tong for the home side. Ross Rennie joins his prop on the naughty step. Youlouse just cliked into an extra gear and Rennie refused to let go of the tackler in front of the posts. Toulouse take the lead with Beauxis’ penalty.

TRY: Well, when you’re up against 13 men there is little substitute for raw pace. Matanavou claims Laidlaw’s clearing kick 30 meters from his own line. He jinked left, spied the gap and turned on the after-burners, beating three black shirts to the corner.

From the right-hand touchline, Beauxis misses the conversion.

That really was an impressive sprint and finish from Matanavou. We’ll try and get you a video of that, stat!

Alan Jacobson has returned to the field, but has the damage already been done? At least the home side have the ball in opposition territory now.

Drop-goal: A nice phase of possession looked to be yielding nothing more than wasted time for the 14 men. Toulouse held firm, but Edinburgh were patient. Eventually the ball was clean enough to put Laidlaw in the pocket and he dispatched the chance with aplomb.

Edinburgh regained their full compliment just in time to quash Florian Fritz’ attack down the right.

The half time whistle blows and having been down to 13 men, Michael Bradley will have to be pleased to enter the break trailing by only four points.

Stay tuned here, this game is just simmering nicely.

Toulouse were definitly feeling the effects of the sapping Top 14 campaign there. Edinburgh are in with a major chance of turning them over here. Lets not forget that Toulouse are only here because of connacht’s shock win over Harlequins, while Bradley topped his pool.

Conversely of course, on the soon-to-be defunct Aironi franchise are below the Scots in the Pro12. Toulouse put the ‘top’ in Top 14.

Which goes to show; you can prove just about anything with statistics.

The second half is under way with an immediate blow for the hosts as try-scorer Mike Blair doesn’t make the second period, Chris Leck is on in his stead at scrum half.

SIN-BIN: Nigel Owens showing his consistency. William Servat takes an enforced rest for cynicism in the mould of Jacobsen.

Laidlaw bisects the posts with the resulting penalty and the gap is down to the minimum again.

Another boost for the home side. Just as Thierry Dusatoir is dumped into touch, Louis Picamoles limps off, he is replaced by Galan.

And it keeps coming, the talismanic Jean Boullihou will temporarily make way so  that Tolofua can act as hooker. From that very 8 v 7 scrum, Toulouse concede another kick-able penalty. Converted by Laidlaw from 41 meters.

Clement Poitrenaud comes off the bench in place of Florian Fritz.

You know, I was wondering the very same thing….

Lionel Beauxis is really showing his flaky side.

First a drop-goal attempt is well wayward and then he kicked out on the full. From the line-out inside the Toulouse half, Edinburgh finally got Tim Visser into some space on the left wing. He kicks a grubber for himself, but it comes to nout.

Servat is back in action, which means Jean Bouilhou can also return.

Some more frantic defending, led by Denton forces another kickable penalty. This one proves just out of Laidlaw’s range.

Nyanga is now on for Bouilhou as a permanent substitution. Toulouse are on the rocks, Edinburgh have 17 minutes to apply the coup-de-grace and make their way to a first semi-final. ‘Squeaky bum time’ as another Scot in another sport once said.

Guy Noves is standing upright on the touchline beside Jean Marc Dousain who is preparing to enter the fray in place of Burgess.

Alan Jacobsen has been withdrawn and Kyle Traynor is now at the coalface.

a little controversy, the crowd were certainly baying for a penalty try. Visser chased Laidlaw’s cross-filed kick. Matanovou allowed it bounce and the Dutch winger kicked on. The Fijian slipped and accidentally took the flyer out. Nothing to see here, says Nigel.

Edinburgh through 12 phases now, slowly being pushed back from the 22 meter line. can they engineer another drop goal chance?

Lamboley is sent on in place of Yoann Maestri. With 10 minutes to go, Toulouse need the ball in their opponents half, but Laidlaw is doing a nice job of pulling the stings.

You would have to say his opposite number, Lionel Beauxix has had no such composure. Does any team who picks a fly-half THAT chunky deserve to win?

McInally and Grant take the field for the team in black. Rennie and Talei make way.

Toulouse briefly threaten down the right through Matanavou, but it’s quelled by Brown and the Scots counter-attack. Once again Laidlaw plays the percentages and pins the aristocrats onto their five meter line.

Tolofua is on in place of William Servat. Is that his last appearance in the Heineken Cup? Six minutes to go.

There is a massive crowd gathering just a few feet from the touchline, they smell an upset. Guy Noves must smell it too, because his nose is turned up as if something putrid has assaulted his nasal cavity.

The white shirts briefly make in-roads into the Edinburgh half and we sensed momentum could well be built to steal the game. Tolofua winds up offside and the hosts clear.

It’s topsy-turvy, this game. Dusatoir steals the line-out. Brace yourself for the finish, it’s only two minutes away.

Edinburgh are absolute in their assurance. It’s quite astonishing to compare this side with the team sitting 11th in the Pro12.

Another penalty is smashed over by Laidlaw and that is full time.

The crowd goes wild. Michael Bradley makes history with Edinburgh, pushing a Scottish side into the Heineken Cup’s final four for the first time.

They’ll be dancing in Princes Street tonight and there are already plenty of tears being shed.

They were second best in the first half, but held onto French coat-tails when they were under the kosh and two men down. They trailed by four at the break, but won the second act 9 – 0.

A master-class in, not only goal-kicking, but managing a game from Greig Laidlaw. He’s my man of the match.

Laidlaw, understandably was still on a high when speaking to Sky post-match:

“We’re absolutely over the moon. The players put in a great shift today especially down to 13 men. Toulouse are a great side with great players. it’s hard enough to play them with 15, never mind 13.”

Laidlaw revealed the central tent of Bradley’s half time team-talk: “get them on the back foot and pick up a couple of penalties.”

Simple and, when executed by Laidlaw in this form, extremely effective. The fly-half also highlighted a slight upturn in Scottish rugby fortunes, pointing to a 38,000 crowd in the national stadium as evidence.

“With Glasgow going well and the league and us into a European semi… When we’re in these big games there is support out there for us.”

Well, that’s it from me. Toulouse are left with only one trophy to chase this season. Today, they looked nowhere near the required standard to win this competition. Particulartly at half back where Luke Burgess and Lionel Beauxis were comprehensively out-played.

As good as Edinburgh were, Munster and Ulster will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing them in the Aviva.

Speaking of which, be sure to follow all our lie updates from Leinster v Cardiff.

About the author:

Sean Farrell