Edinburgh’s victory over Saracens, who are currently atop the English Premiership, was insufficient to guarantee a home match in the round of 16.
In the first half, Dave Cherry scored before the front-row forwards for Saracens. Marco Riccioni and Jamie George were given warnings.
With three penalties, Alex Goode kept the visitors in the game.
Edinburgh had control after Pierre Schoeman’s touchdown, but Ben Earl’s late try gave Saracens a point and fourth place.
In the subsequent round of the Champions Cup, Saracens will host the Ospreys while Edinburgh, who came in fifth, will travel to Leicester.
This match was chaotic from the get-go, with Edinburgh’s early goal energizing the boisterous home fans. The Dam Health Stadium, which is in the shadow of Murrayfield, was extremely active and loud the entire evening.
Although Edinburgh’s victory wasn’t great enough to earn them a home match in the round of 16, defeating the superb Saracens was a tremendous improvement.
That attempt by Cherry, supported by Edinburgh’s fierce aggression and lightning-quick attack, was the kind of start Mike Blair would have wished for. A Bill Mata blast, several quick pick-and-gos, and the hooker was over. Kinghorn completed the work, and Edinburgh was operational.
Edinburgh fails to capitalize on its two-man advantage.
Saracens, who were unbeatable in the Premiership, were shaken by Edinburgh’s determination, which was exemplified by Luke Crosbie’s attritional carries. Edinburgh should have established an advantage that was unassailable even against the power of the visitors by the second quarter of the first half. They failed to.
Both the drama and the Saracens’ defense were relentless. Chances for Edinburgh kept coming in waves. Five meters away, they had an attacking lineout, but they dropped it. George was sent off for an aggressive tackle that caused a clash with Crosbie in the head, and Kinghorn missed a clear-cut opportunity to score as a result.
They failed to capitalize when they saw Riccioni benched for another head-on-head, this one against Grant Gilchrist. Kinghorn kicked the ball dead after going for touch with a penalty against 13 men. Jamie Ritchie drove over the try-line while scuffling with a side that was fighting for its life (bravely, it must be noted). However, he dropped it as he was crossing.
The Saracens’ line was under siege for what felt like an eternity. Edinburgh struggled mightily to breach a white wall but was unsuccessful. The fact that Saracens completed the entire 15 vs 13 minute period without giving up a point was a remarkable testament to both their tenacity and Edinburgh’s lack of ruthlessness.
The final nail in the coffin was when Saracens drove downfield, triumphed in an aerial duel, earned a penalty, and smacked over a penalty to cut the deficit to four points. The home supporters stared at one another in shock, doubtless wondering what in the world was happening.
When George returned to the action in the midst of all of that, there was confusion as well. The hooker climbed to his feet when his head hit Crosbie’s, and for a brief moment, he appeared unstable. Despite receiving a yellow card, nobody anticipated seeing him again. He failed to return for the restart after making a reappearance and subsequent disappearance. For the Saracens, there are questions to be answered.
Edinburgh is ranked fourth as the clock winds down.
Edinburgh had to figure out a way to get through the Saracens’ defense. Early in the second half, a penalty by Kinghorn helped widen the gap to seven; shortly after, a penalty by Goode reduced it to four. All of Edinburgh’s offense and all of Saracens’ defense continued.
Maro Itoje was forced to leave for cynical infringement while under the influence at the hour mark due to an increasing penalty count. This season, Edinburgh has demonstrated a pattern of flinching in certain circumstances, but they were motivated by Mata, Cherry, and their front-row pals.
Edinburgh succeeded against 14 what they failed to do against 13. Schoeman was forced out of a lineout maul during another attempt to breach the Saracens defense. Both forward and backward pressure was needed to push the visitors back. Kinghorn made the convert, giving Edinburgh an 11-point lead.
The Dam Health, albeit young, had never experienced a crowd quite like this one. The volume only increased as Saracens, with Itoje back in the lineup, pressed for the victory in the last minutes.
Sam Skinner’s absence at that point—the big lock had received a warning with eight minutes remaining—helped them. Three minutes later, Earl scored by racing up the left wing and causing major local havoc.
The difference was six, Goode missed the conversion, and there was a cacophony of calculations going on as it was determined who would play where and who would play who.
Edinburgh was close to securing a home tie in the round of 16, but fell just short. Saracens were given that position instead. On a dramatic evening, consolation.
Immelman, Blain, Bennett, Lang, Kinghorn, Savala, and Vellacott are all from Edinburgh, as are Schoeman, Cherry, Nel, Skinner, Gilchrist, Ritchie, Crosbie, and Mata.
McBurney, Venter, Atalifo, Hodgson, Haining, Pyrgos, Hutchison, Goosen are the replacements.
Daly, Malins, Lozowski, Tompkins, Maitland, Goode, and van Zyl for the Saracens; Hislop, George, Riccioni, Itoje, Tizard, Christie, Earl, and B Vunipola for the England team.
Pifeleti, Mawi, Judge, Isiekwe, Dan, Davies, Vunipola, and Lewington are the replacements.