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11th January 2014 19:12

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Castled: Dan Leo

Edinburgh turned in a dominant performance in defeating Perpignan 27-16 in Saturday's Heineken Cup clash at Murrayfield.

Indicative of the more pragmatic style introduced by head coach Alan Solomons, the hosts' victory was built on the foundations of an excellent defensive effort; the in-form back-row trio of Cornell du Preez, Roddy Grant, and - in particular - Dave Denton powerful in the tackle, and ever-willing ball-carriers.

Crucially, however, the Scots were unable to bag a fourth try in the closing stages, mathematically ending their involvement in this season's Heineken Cup.

Edinburgh were handed an extended break heading into this fixture, having not played since Boxing Day's derby defeat to Glasgow Warriors.

There were little signs of rustiness in the home ranks, though, as Solomons' men enjoyed a solid if unspectacular start to proceedings. The Edinburgh forwards, marshalled well by half-backs Greig Laidlaw and Greig Tonks, set up the platform for the former to open the scoring with a straightforward penalty.

Things were soon to get better for the hosts too, as Jack Cuthbert - surely pushing for Scotland recognition - burst into the Perpignan half. It appeared as though possession had been snaffled by the visitors, but great work from Grant saw the ball pop out from the breakdown and into the grateful arms of Tom Brown; the winger showing good pace to dash home from twenty-five metres. A bizarre try for certain, but well-taken by Brown, and converted by captain Laidlaw.

James Hook hit back for the visitors with a penalty on 20 minutes, and with referee Peter Fitzgibbon twice adjudging home loosehead Al Dickinson guilty of collapsing the scrum, the Perpignan pack soon mauled their way over the line.

On first glance, it looked as though the visitors had grounded the ball, but TMO Marshall Kilgore ruled the footage inconclusive, with Grant cleverly infiltrating the French pack. Edinburgh's defence remained resolute in the face of the onslaught that followed.

They were on the back foot again on the half-hour mark after Grant, writhing around on the wrong side, was penalised for not rolling away. The level of the home crowd's indignation at this decision was surpassed moments later as Cuthbert was harshly pinged for what the officials decreed a late hit on centre Sione Piukala. Hook slotted the simple three points.

Laidlaw saw a penalty attempt drift wide on 33 minutes, but another infringement saw Tonks kick to the corner; and from the resultant driving maul, mop-haired openside Jean-Pierre Perez came in from the side. This time, the scrum-half made no mistake from the tee, restoring his side's seven-point advantage.

A late error from Grant Gilchrist handed Perpignan a chance to attack with clock red, but - in what was to prove the theme of the day - were unable to break through the home rearguard, ensuring Edinburgh held a 13-6 lead at half-time.

Hook knocked over his third penalty from long-range early in the second half after Tonks couldn't resist ripping the ball from the grasp of an opponent on the ground, but the full-back's error gave Edinburgh prime attacking position minutes later.

The Welshman kicked out on the full, and from the resultant lineout, hooker Guilhelm Guirado came in from the side and was shown a yellow card by Fitzgibbon.

Tonks kicked to the corner, and powerful carries from Gilchrist and Grant set up space for du Preez to crash over on the left-hand-side. Laidlaw struck a fine conversion from the touchline to put Edinburgh in the driving seat.

There followed another concerted period of Perpignan pressure, but in over twenty phases, failed to make more than a few metres; the black jerseys refusing to yield.

Edinburgh then swept their way downfield courtesy of smart work by Nick De Luca, and more bruising carries from the pack. Replacement Carl Bezuidenhout, making his club debut, grubbered cleverly to within a metre of the visitors' line, and with bodies flying everywhere in pursuit, winger Dougie Fife was adjudged to have grounded the ball by TMO Kilgore. Laidlaw, from the opposite touchline, struck another superb conversion.

The hosts, now chasing a bonus point, looked set to throw the kitchen sink at Perpignan in the final 20 minutes, but it was the Top 14 outfit who enjoyed the bulk of possession in the closing stages.

And indeed, after scything breaks from Richard Haughton and substitute Joffrey Michel, fellow replacement Maxime Delonca burrowed over in the corner. Hook slotted the touchline conversion.

With five minutes remaining, Edinburgh tried in vain to bag the all-important fourth try, but fell short through a combination of errors and a frustrating scrum penalty. On the whole, however, a very encouraging note for Solomons, and one that points the way for the future.

The scorers:

For Edinburgh:
Tries: Brown, du Preez, Fife
Cons: Laidlaw 3
Pen: Laidlaw

For Perpignan:
Try: Delonca
Con: Hook
Pens: Hook 3
Yellow Card: Guirado

The teams:

Edinburgh: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Greig Tonks, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Dave Denton, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 Izak van der Westhuien, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Al Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Aleki Lutui, 17 Wicus Blaauw, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tomas Leonardi, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Carl Bezuidenhout, 23 Matt Scott.

Perpignan: 15 James Hook, 14 Richard Haughton, 13 Lifeimi Mafi, 12 Sione Piukala, 11 Wandile Mjekevu, 10 Tommy Allan, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Karl Chateau, 7 Jean-Pierre Perez, 6 Dan Leo, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Guilhelm Guirado (c), 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Maxime Delonca, 17 Jean Baptiste Custoja, 18 Kisi Pulu, 19 Luke Narraway, 20 Tom Ecochard, 21 David Marty, 22 Joffrey Michel, 23 Guillaume Vilaceca.

Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ire)

By Jamie Lyall
@JLyall93

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