Edinburgh edge past London Irish in Challenge Cup

Edinburgh progressed to the European Challenge Cup Semi-finals by beating London Irish 18-23 at the Madejski Stadium

A WP Nel try and three Sam Hidaglo-Clyne penalties saw the Scots sail into a 16-0 lead before London Irish marched back into the contest. Conor Gilsenan scored on the stroke of half-time to cut the gap to six points at the break.

Scott Steele gave Irish the lead after the break before Fraser McKenzie crashed over for Edinburgh. And they looked to have thrown it away in the final act, but Alisdair Dickinson held-up David Paice over the try-line.

They now have a Murrayfield date with the Newport Gwent Dragons to look forward to in two week’s time.

Hidalgo-Clyne fired his team towards their first European semi-final in three seasons in the opening two minutes after Irish skipper George Skivington left a high tackle on outside-half Tom Heathecote. The slight scrum-half – who maintained a 100 percent kicking record against the Scarlets last weekend – continued his form with a long distance penalty for an early 3-0 lead.

The Exiles could not stop Edinburgh’s lightning fast start and found themselves with a 10-point gap to close after just 12 minutes. Edinburgh earned a lineout five metres from the hosts’ line and attempted to shunt their way over. The initial drive was held up but barnstorming prop WP Nel splintered off the back and crashed over and Hidalgo-Clyne added the extras.

The 20-year-old added another two three-pointers before London Irish finally got on the scoreboard. Andy Fenby sliced through on half-way to spark an Exiles attack before the move broke down deep in enemy territory. But referee Pascal Gauzere was playing advantage for a penalty which Geraghty converted.

The Scottish side seemed to be cruising towards a 13-point half-time advantage, but London Irish flanker Conor Gilsenan had other ideas. The blindside broke free 40 metres from the line and streaked in to score. Geraghty landed the conversion to cut the gap to 16-10 at half-time.

The momentum was only with one side after the break and Irish made it 18 unanswered points to snatch the lead. With a penalty advantage coming, Geraghty put a speculative chip over the top which Tom Fowlie and Tim Visser contested. The battle went to ground before Steele spotted his opportunity and sniped in at the corner against his compatriots.

But Edinburgh were far from dead and buried and snatched back the lead eight minutes later. Hidalgo-Clyne spotted a gap and broke downfield before Fraser McKenzie eventually found a gap to crash over. Hidalgo-Clyne converted to give them a 23-18 advantage heading into the final quarter.

They almost threw it all away in the final play of the game when Irish drove over the try-line, but Dickison was on hand to hold-up Paice and seal their first European semi-final since they were beaten by Ulster in the Heineken Cup three years ago.

Final Score London Irish 18 (10) Edinburgh 23 (16)

Scorers

London Irish
Tries – Gilsenan, Steele
Pen – Geraghty 2
Con – Geraghty
Drop –
Cards –

Edinburgh
Tries – Nel, McKenzie
Pen – Hidalgo-Clyne 3
Con – Hidalgo-Clyne 2
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France),
Assistant ref: Laurent Cardona (France),
Assistant ref: Tual Trainini (France),
TMO: Eric Gonthier (France),
Citing Commissioner: Eddie Walsh (Ireland)

Teams

London Irish

Andrew Fenby; Topsy Ojo, Eoin Griffin, Eamonn Sheridan, Alex Lewington; Shane Geraghty, Scott Steele; Tom Court, David Paice, Halani Aulika, George Skivington (c), Nic Rouse, Conor Gilsenan, Blair Cowan, Tom Guest
Replacements: Jimmy Stevens, Matt Parr, Leo Halavatau, Jebb Sinclair, Luke Narraway, Darren Allinson, Chris Noakes, Tom Fowlie

Edinburgh Rugby

Jack Cuthbert; Dougie Fife, Phil Burleigh, Andries Strauss, Tim Visser; Greig Tonks, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (c), WP Nel, Anton Bresler, Ben Toolis, Roddy Grant, Hamish Watson, David Denton

Replacements: Stuart McInally, Rory Sutherland, John Andress, Fraser McKenzie, Tomas Leonardi, Nathan Fowles, Tom Heathcote, Sam Beard

With thanks to EPCRugby.

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