Edinburgh Rugby 30-34 Wasps: Challenge Cup heartache for Mike Blair’s side as visitors power into semi-finals

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Mark Bennett tries to find a way through for Edinburgh against Wasps. (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group)

The visitors won 34-30, leaving Mike Blair’s side to focus solely on the United Rugby Championship for the remainder of the season.

Edinburgh gave it everything and tried manfully to breach the Wasps defense in the final minutes but the visitors held on to win the quarter-final.

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The Premiership team notched four tries to Edinburgh’s three, with Alfie Barbeary securing the match-winning score with four minutes remaining after the ever impressive Emiliano Boffelli had edged Edinburgh ahead with a late 40-metre penalty.

Wasps’ other tries came from Jimmy Gopperth – who also kicked 14 points – Bi Alo and Tom West. Edinburgh countered through scores from Ben Vellacott, Adam McBurney and Magnus Bradbury, with Boffelli landing three penalties and three conversions.

Injuries have begun to bite for the home side who went into the game without hookers Stuart McInally and Dave Cherry, and with first-choice loosehead Pierre Schoeman on the bench.

With two relative newcomers in the front row this was always going to be a test for Edinburgh’s scrum and they conceded an early penalty at the set-piece. Gopperth, the veteran Wasps playmaker, punished them by slotting it over to give the visitors an early lead.

Boffelli leveled things with a penalty of his own when Wasps went offside and then Edinburgh cut loose three minutes later with the game’s opening try.

Edinburgh’s Magnus Bradbury drives through to score a second half try in the Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat by Wasps. (Photo by Paul Devlin/SNS Group)

Damien Hoyland started things deep in his own half and then Luke Crosbie and McBurney took the ball on before Boffelli and Vellacott combined beautifully for the scrum-half to score. The Argentine converted.

Wasps’ response was instant and they were back on terms after 16 minutes. Edinburgh had initially managed to hold them up on the line but the Premiership side recycled and Gopperth found the gap to squeeze through, then converted his own try.

Edinburgh soon had their noses in front again. Grant Gilchrist did well to charge down a Wasps clearance and the hosts scored from the subsequent lineout. Jamie Hodgson rose highest to claim the ball and the rolling maul yielded a try for McBurney.

Boffelli’s successful conversion put Edinburgh 17-10 ahead but the home side found themselves under a torrent of pressure as the first half ebbed away. They were toiling notably at the scrum where Schoeman’s absence was keenly felt.

Wasps’ Alfie Barbeary scored the match-winning try and was named player of the match. (Photo by Paul Devlin/SNS Group)

Harrison Courtney had been given the unenviable task of replacing the popular loosehead but Mike Blair decided to make a change on the 36th minute, taking off the New Zealand-born prop and bringing on Schoeman to steady the ship.

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Edinburgh held on until the interval and went 20-10 ahead with an early second-half penalty from Boffelli but a botched restart allowed Wasps back into the game.

Jamie Hodgson collided with a team-mate and the visitors swarmed into the Edinburgh 22. A quick tap penalty from Dan Robson opened the door and Wasps prop Alo powered over.

Gopperth converted to bring the English side to within three points and then landed a penalty to level it at 20-20.

The momentum was with the visitors and they pushed home their advantage on 57 minutes when they took the lead for the first time since the early penalty. The Wasps pack had been forcing Edinburgh further and further back and West made the pressure count when he forced his way over from close range, Gopperth converting.

It was turning into a test of Edinburgh’s mettle and they responded impressively, marching Wasps back down the other end. Pierce Phillips, the replacement lock, charged down a Wasps clearance and once again Edinburgh scored from the lineout.

Luke Crosbie won the ball and as it was played out, Chris Dean fed Bradbury who charged in under the posts. Boffelli’s conversion tied things up at 27-27 with 14 minutes remaining.

The Argentine winger had been immaculate from the tee all afternoon but he took it up a notch with seven minutes remaining, landing a monster penalty to nudge Edinburgh ahead.

Wasps dug deep and regained the lead with four minutes left. Edinburgh had been defending desperately and Connor Boyle paid the price, sent to the sin-bin for one transgression too many. Wasps won a lineout and blood replacement James Gaskell secured good ball, allowing the visitors to maul their way to the Edinburgh line where No 8 Alfie Barbeary forced his way over for the match-winning try. Gopperth converted.

Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Vellacott, McBurney, Bradbury. Cons: Boffelli 3. Thoughts: Boffelli 3.

Wasps: Tries: Gopperth, Alo, West, Barbery. Cons: Gopperth 4. Thoughts: Gopperth 2.

Edinburgh: J van der Walt; D Hoyland (J Blain 75), M Bennett, C Dean, E Boffelli; B Kinghorn, B Vellacott (H Pyrgos 61); H Courtney (P Schoeman 36), A McBurney (P Harrison 77), WP Nel (LR Atalifo 59), J Hodgson (P Phillips 59), G Gilchrist, L Crosbie, C Boyle, M Bradbury (M Kunapula 77).

Wasps: Z Kibirige (J Umaga 50); F Hougaard (P Odogwu 78), S Spink, J Gopperth, J Bassett; C Atkinson, D Robson (W Porter 74); T West, G Oghre (D Frost 74), B Alo (E Millar-Mills 65), J Launchbury (J Gaskell 75-76), E Stooke, B Shields, J Willis, A Barbeary.

Replacements: B Harris, T Willis.

Referee: Pierre Brousset (France)

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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