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Edinburgh hold off Exiles

Published 05/04/2015

Fraser McKenzie, left, goes over for the crucial try
Fraser McKenzie, left, goes over for the crucial try

Edinburgh booked their place in the Challenge Cup semi-finals with a thrilling 23-18 victory against London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.

The Scots will face Newport Gwent Dragons, who defeated Cardiff Blues 25-21 in their quarter-final clash on Saturday, at home in two weeks' time.

Edinburgh came firing out of the blocks establishing a 16-0 after 20 minutes thanks to an early WP Nel try and a trio of penalties from scrum half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.

The Exiles staged a superb comeback, however, as Conor Gilsenan and Scott Steele crossed for tries with fly half Shane Geraghty adding eight points from the boot to make it 18-16.

Fraser McKenzie's try on the hour mark looked to have settled the contest in Edinburgh's favour and that score proved crucial as Alan Solomans' side held on for the win.

London Irish skipper George Skivington's clumsy high tackle on Tom Heathcote allowed Hidalgo-Clyne to fire over a long-range penalty in the opening minute.

The Edinburgh pack was causing their opponents all kinds of problems early on with their driving maul looking particularly potent. The Exiles did well to repel a few early drives but failed to halt a rampaging Nel who crashed over from a surging maul in the 11th minute. Hidalgo-Clyne added the extras to give his side a 10-0 lead.

London Irish's poor start continued as Geraghty sent a routine penalty effort wide of the posts. Hidalgo-Clyne made no such mistake minutes later as he knocked over his second successive penalty effort to further extend the Scots' lead.

Things went from bad to worse for the home side when Skivington was penalised for pushing at the lineout with Hidalgo-Clyne ruthlessly adding another three-pointer.

Trailing 16-0, the likes of Tom Guest, Eamonn Sheridan and Topsy Ojo took the game to the visitors, but costly handling errors put paid to a series of enterprising attacks.

Geraghty belatedly posted his side's first points of the evening with a 32nd minute penalty when blindside flanker Gilsenan's powerful break forced Edinburgh offside.

Geraghty's goal-kicking yips returned as the former Northampton playmaker missed a 39th-minute penalty effort.

That miss mattered little, however, as the Exiles scored a crucial try just before the break. Full back Andrew Fenby, who looked threatening throughout the contest, ran a superb line off Sheridan before feeding Gilsenan who raced home from 20 metres out. Geraghty fired over the extras to give his side a huge boost heading onto the half-time break.

Geraghty cut Edinburgh's lead to just three points five minutes into the second-half as the Exiles fightback showed no sign of abating.

It was all one-way traffic and the Reading-based outfit were duly rewarded with their second try when scrum half Steele crashed over in the left corner following great work from replacement Tom Fowlie in the build-up. Geraghty missed the difficult touchline conversion as the Exiles took the lead for the first time in the game.

Edinburgh responded with a try of the highest quality as replacement lock McKenzie forced his way over with Hidalgo-Clyne converting to make it 23-18 setting up a grandstand finish heading into the final quarter.

The Exiles threw everything at Edinburgh and looked to have made the breakthrough when David Paice drove over in the final minute but the television match official ruled that the Exiles hooker was held up over the line handing Edinburgh the victory.

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