Edinburgh on brink of quarter-finals after historic win in Toulon

Blair Kinghorn takes on the Toulon defence

European Champions Cup
Toulon (12) 17
Tries: Guirado, Lakafia, Savea Con: Belleau
Edinburgh (8) 28
Tries: Graham, Kinghorn, Johnstone Cons: Van der Walt 2 Pens: Van der Walt 3

Edinburgh moved to within touching distance of a place in the European Champions Cup quarter-finals with a historic victory in Toulon.

Richard Cockerill’s side became the first Scottish side and only the third ever to win in Europe at Stade Mayol.

Tries from Guilhem Guirado and Facundo Isa gave the hosts a 12-8 lead, Darcy Graham replying with a fine finish.

But tries from Blair Kinghorn and James Johnstone put Edinburgh clear and they held out despite Julian Savea’s score.

This was a sixth successive win for the capital side, surpassing their previous best run under Cockerill.

They are now three points ahead of Montpellier, who thrashed Newcastle 45-8 earlier, at the top of Pool Five, with Vern Cotter’s side heading to Murrayfield next Friday to determine who tops the group.

Defeat may even see Edinburgh through as one of three best runners-up from the five pools, but the prize of a home quarter-final is now tantalisingly close.

Table of Champions Cup Pool 5

Edinburgh show attacking prowess

Given their form in recent weeks, and an unbeaten home record this season, they will fancy their chances of taking another scalp and sealing the deal.

This was far from a complete performance, their victory illustrating just how far Toulon have fallen from the heights of their three successive triumphs in the competition from 2013-15.

The visitors made a dreadful start, Grant Gilchrist failing to gather the kick-off, Bill Mata infringing at a ruck and after Toulon kicked the penalty to the corner, captain Guirado was driven over.

But Edinburgh settled, Jaco van der Walt landing a penalty before the visitors showed their attacking prowess with a wonderful try.

Ben Toolis claimed a line-out, big carries from Hamish Watson and Stuart McInally took Edinburgh within striking range and flanker Jamie Ritchie showed sublime skill to offload out the back of his hand to Graham, who stood up Toulon full-back Mathieu Smaili before dotting down brilliantly in the right corner.

Van der Walt couldn’t land the conversion but Kinghorn’s weaving break provided further evidence of Edinburgh’s burgeoning confidence.

Despite bringing an expansive edge to their attacking game, Edinburgh’s defence, which had conceded just four tries in their last five games, was breached for a second time in the 22nd minute.

Toulon kicked another penalty to the corner, number eight Raphael Lakafia was held up short, but Argentine flanker Isa dotted down from inches out.

20 unanswered points in 20 minutes

The visitors continued to threaten, but Van der Walt pushed a penalty wide with the last kick of the half to leave them four points adrift at the interval.

Their expansive approach was rewarded, though, with 20 unanswered points in a 20-minute blitz on the resumption that took the game beyond Toulon.

First Johnstone, on an arcing run in midfield, threaded a left-footed kick through for Kinghorn to collect and dive over. Van der Walt landed the extras, and his second penalty made it 18-12.

The fly-half’s superb break almost brought another try, only for Chris Dean’s kick ahead to elude Duhan van der Merwe and bounce into touch.

A dart down the right touchline from the electric Graham also might have brought a score, only for the young wing’s pass to Henry Pyrgos to fall forward.

But Van der Walt landed another penalty before Edinburgh applied the coup de grace. Number eight Mata, in another prodigious performance, broke free before finding Johnstone with a sensational offload, the centre scooting over to all but seal the outcome.

The hosts did stir briefly with Savea’s score, but this was Edinburgh’s day and they saw it through in some comfort. On this evidence, their horizons are broadening by the week.

Toulon: Smaili; Pietersen, Bastareaud, Trinh-Duc, Savea; Belleau, Webb; Gros, Guirado, Setiano, Kruger, Taofifenua, Mbarga, Isa, Lakafia.

Replacements: Etrillard (for Guirado, 61), Chiocci, M Van der Merwe (for Setiano, 52), Monribot, Carbonel (for Smaili, 52), Zeghdar (for Pietersen, 41), Cottin (for Webb, 66), Gorgodze (for Taofifenua, 56).

Edinburgh: Kinghorn; Graham, Johnstone, Dean, Van der Merwe; Van der Walt, Pyrgos; Schoeman, McInally (capt), Nel, Toolis, Gilchrist, Ritchie, Watson, Mata.

Replacements: Cherry (for McInally, 72), Dell (for Schoeman, 68), Berghan (for Nel, 68), McKenzie (for Toolis, 67), Crosbie (for Ritchie, 67), Fowles, Hickey, Socino.

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BBC Sport – Rugby Union

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