Edinburgh make history by downing Toulouse

by RUGBY.com.au staff

Edinburgh became the first Scottish club to reach the European Cup semi-finals on Saturday with a stunning 19-14 upset of four-time winners Toulouse while defending champions Leinster cruised past Cardiff 34-3.

Edinburgh did it the hard way having at one point been reduced to 13 men in the first-half but 14 points from Greig Laidlaw inspired them to a memorable victory against a surprisingly under-par French outfit.

Edinburgh's victory at Murrayfield will come as a great antidote to the disappointment of the national side ending with the Six Nations wooden spoon.

Edinburgh, who in their only previous quarter-final against Toulouse in 2004 were thrashed 36-10, will play the winners of Munster and Ulster, who play on Sunday, in Dublin on April 28.

"Hopefully it's the big pick me up that we all need," said Laidlaw. "It just shows that with the crowd as well there is the support for us.

"It will be a tough shift that semi-final against Irish opposition in Dublin."

Edinburgh got off to a terrific start and rewarded the almost 40,000 crowd with a try inside the first two minutes as Mike Blair squeezed over after Laidlaw's high ball had not been gathered by Timoci Matanavotu.

Referee Nigel Owens called for the video referee and he gave the nod for the scrum-half's fourth European Cup try - Laidlaw converted for 7-0.

Two penalties from France fly-half Lionel Beauxis reduced the deficit to 7-6 after 20 minutes before the hosts threatened to implode when they were reduced to 13 men.

First veteran prop Allan Jacobsen, one of the few survivors from the 2004 quarter-final, and then backrow forward Ross Rennie were yellow-carded in the 25th and 26th minutes.

Beauxis rubbed salt into the wound by slotting over a penalty to give the visitors a 9-7 lead.

Toulouse added to their lead with a wonderful solo try from Fijian flier Matanavotu, who ran the ball back from the halfway line, brushing aside three tackles, for his eighth try of this year's tournament and taking him to within one of the record.

Beauxis missed the conversion and Edinburgh reduced the deficit when Laidlaw dropped a superb drop goal from long range two minutes from the break to send them in only 14-10 down.

Toulouse made the worst possible start to the second-half with experienced former France hooker William Servat, playing in his eighth quarter-final for his club, yellow-carded.

Laidlaw converted the resulting penalty and added two more.

In Dublin, Leinster ran in four tries to crush Cardiff and set-up a last-four showdown with either Saracens or Clermont who meet on Sunday.

Welsh international Leigh Halfpenny kicked a third-minute penalty for the injury-hit Blues, but that was the visitors' only highlight.

Fly-half Jonathan Sexton kicked a penalty five minutes later to level the scores before the Irish unleashed a champagne performance of running rugby.

A Sexton dummy allowed Rob Kearney to feed Kiwi winger Isa Nacewa for the first try after 12 minutes before Kearney added the first of his brace on the half-hour mark.

Sexton was key to the third try four minutes later when a lovely inside-pass freed winger Luke Fitzgerald who in turn found veteran centre Brian O'Driscoll who crossed for his 31st try in the European Cup.

Kearney added the fourth try early in the second period.

"We are in the last four, which is where we wanted to be," said O'Driscoll.

"But it was not an over-elated dressing room - we conceded too much territory and possession to be pleased - but we are in the semi-finals."

Cardiff's build-up to the tie had been overshadowed by the sacking of Gavin Henson and the knee injury suffered by star centre Jamie Roberts.

"We couldn't get any rhythm into our game in the first half. They put us under a lot of pressure and we couldn't put much back on to them," admitted Blues skipper Xavier Rush.